Thursday, June 16, 2011

Libya Action not Covered by the War Power Act

How is it possible that people can still be disgusted with Bush and not with Obama? Whether one thinks that Iraq made sense or not - it was approved by Congress and it followed numerous UN resolutions. I would not have started the Iraq War but once started it needed to be finished. That said - does anybody think for one second that actions such as exist in Libya aren't covered by the War Powers Act?

According to the White House the “U.S. operations [in Libya] do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve U.S. ground troops", therefore this operation does not require the Obama Administration to ask for Congressional approval under the War Powers Act. I have not parsed the War Powers Act but if the sinking of the Lusitania, Pearl Harbor and 9/11 were considered acts of war by the US then isn't understood that launching missles are also acts of war?

And, if it can be argued that the Libyan actions do not contravene the War Powers Act as flying sorties does not equal introducing American forces into hostilities and that the examples of Pearl Harbor and 9/11 are irrelevant to the argument then at least, isn't it interesting that the whole argument comes down to original intent? Listen to what Mr. Harold Koh, the State Department legal advisor, said:

"We are not saying the president can take the country into war on his own,” said Mr. Koh, a former Yale Law School dean and outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s expansive theories of executive power. “We are not saying the War Powers Resolution is unconstitutional or should be scrapped or that we can refuse to consult Congress. We are saying the limited nature of this particular mission is not the kind of ‘hostilities’ envisioned by the War Powers Resolution.”

Sounds like an original intent argument to me. Isn't it delicious to hear Democrats and fellow-travellers arguing over original intent? My understanding of the "original intent" of the War Powers Act was that Presidents couldn't unilaterally take us into war; that such actions required Congressional approval. If this action in Libya is not covered by the War Powers Act then we must amend and update the act to include such actions.

The quotes come from a New York Times article: White House Defends Continuing U.S. Role in Libya Operation


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