When the Obama Administration launched military operations against Libya, a number of Members of Congress griped about a usurpation of the congressional power to declare war.
Rather than denounce Obama – or Bush in Iraq or Reagan in Panama or Truman in Korea – they should in reality protest their own inaction.
For the fault, Dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in the lap of Congress.
Or as Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
President Obama announced March 18 that the United States was prepared to use military force to establish a “no fly” zone and strike against Muarmmar Qaddafi’s forces.
While the President’s action was backed by a U.N. Security Council resolution, he declined to ask for a congressional authorization.
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) all questioned the duration, cost and goals of the U.S. mission in Libya.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) went further to complain that “I think the extent to which Congress has been bypassed in this process has been breathtaking.” (CQ Today, March 30, 2011)
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee similarly complained that Congress had not authorized the military action. (CQ Today, March 30, 2011)
Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich (D), as his is wont, went off the deep end by charging that Obama’s action was an “impeachable offense.”
It is not the President who should be impeached; the ones who should be impeached are Members of Congress for dereliction of duty.
Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution says Congress shall have power to declare War. The last time Congress used that power and passed a formal declaration was in 1941 when the U.S. began to fight against Germany, Italy and Japan.
Congress can also authorize the use of force through legislation without a formal declaration.
But when President Harry S Truman committed U.S. troops in 1950 to turn back a North Korean invasion of the South, Congress did nothing.
Congress had three years until the 1953 armistice to take action, and still did nothing.
Almost 1.8 million Americans fought in Korea, with some 33,600 American deaths.
But there never was a congressional authorization, and Congress continued to appropriate funds to prosecute the war.
In response to the Vietnam War that President Lyndon Johnson controversially launched after securing congressional approval of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, Congress in 1973 adopted the War Powers Resolution to get Congress back in the game of declaring war.
(Note: yours truly was involved in passing the War Powers Resolution over the veto of President Richard Nixon by helping to convince liberal Members of Congress that the measure did not confer on the President more power than he already had.)
The concept behind the legislation was sound; if Congress had not authorized sending troops overseas within 60 – 90 days, the use of force must be terminated.
Except every President has deemed that core element of the law unconstitutional.
The executive branch submits reports on the military action in accordance with the law, but refuses to bring the troops home within 60 – 90 days.
And the Supreme Court will not intervene in such a high-stakes political conflict between the executive and legislative branches.
Congress has been deaf, dumb and blind to this lack of presidential compliance.
It does not want to be blamed if the actions turns sour, as in Somalia under President Bill Clinton.
So Presidents commit U.S. troops overseas; Members of Congress do a lot of speechifying; but Congress fails to utilize the power it has either to authorize force or cut off the use of funds to continue the war.
To paraphrase Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is Congress.”