Join 3,372 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


George W. Obama
June 20, 2011 8:28 AM   Subscribe

In a 32 page report to Congress [pdf] President Obama concludes:
...the current U.S. military operations in Libya are consistent with the War Powers Resolution and do not under that law require further congressional authorization, because U.S. military operations are distinct from the kind of “hostilities” contemplated by the Resolution’s 60 day termination provision.
Now, the New York Times reports that this legal opinion was reached by rejecting the views of top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department. It is instructive to compare President Obama's actions with those of his predecessor, George W. Bush.

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release June 15, 2011
PRESS BRIEFING
BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS
ON LIBYA
Via Conference Call 2:10 P.M. EDT

Q Thank you, gentlemen, for taking the time to do the call and thank you for your service. My question is a simple one. Does the President believe that the War Powers resolution is constitutional or not? Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We are in no way putting into question the constitutionality of the War Powers resolution. As you know, we filed the initial report in this matter before the character of the mission changed. We are operating now in this reconfigured mission consistent with the War Powers resolution, and as you know, we've also sought from Congress continuing authorization.

Q But if you don't have that authorization, the War Powers resolution requires you to withdraw all military forces. Do you intend to do this?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The authorization -- and this has certainly been true of at least some Presidents before this one -- the authorization reflects a belief that in the broader cert of the resolution, which is consistent with relations between the branches, we should have the authorization. But our view also is that even in the absence of authorization, we are operating consistent with the resolution.

Q Could you explain that a little bit more?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Certainly. As I mentioned, as my colleague was going through the nature of the mission and how it changed, we're now in a position where we're operating in a support role. We're not engaged in any of the activities that typically over the years in war powers analysis is considered to constitute hostilities within the meaning of the statute. We're not engaged in sustained fighting. There's been no exchange of fire with hostile forces. We don't have troops on the ground. We don't risk casualties to those troops. None of the factors, frankly, speaking more broadly, has risked the sort of escalation that Congress was concerned would impinge on its war-making power.

So within the precedence of a war powers analysis, all of which typically are very fact-dependent, we are confident that we're operating consistent with the resolution. That doesn't mean that we don't want the full, ongoing consultation with Congress or authorization as we move forward, but that doesn't go to our legal position under the statute itself, and we're confident of that.

Q But aren't U.S. planes occasionally flying sorties and are engaging in offensive action against enemy forces?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sorties obviously -- sorties, of course, include defensive action. But if you take a look at the precedence over a number of years under the War Powers Act, you will see that that does not end the analysis in any way. There have been numerous instances where the United States has supported or been engaged in some form of military activity, which has not been viewed as rising to the level of hostilities that would have either required an initial report in some cases, or alternatively, would have caused or required the United States to withdraw after the close of the 60-day period.
posted by ennui.bz (240 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Obama better pray that the GOP nominates a bat shit crazy conservative like bachman, or he's going to lose.
posted by empath at 8:29 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not sure about that empath, Obama doesn't inspire a ton of fervor like he did in his first campaign but none of the Republicans are exactly winning over the electorate either. The most electable one (Romney) is pretty much anathema to the base and most of the other contenders have made gaffe after gaffe.

I think if Obama loses it will be a referendum on the state of the economy (still pretty crap for most Americans) more than it will be about his embrace of pretty Authoritarian policies.
posted by vuron at 8:34 AM on June 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


So if drone attacks aren't "hostilities", what if someone used a drone to drop bombs on New York? Would that also not be hostile? Why?

What about (drone) ICBMs? Are they not covered under "hostilities"?
posted by dunkadunc at 8:35 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Obama better pray that the GOP nominates a bat shit crazy conservative like bachman, or he's going to lose.

Because why? Alienating the part of the liberal base who really cares about this? There aren't that many of them, and most will hold their nose and vote for him anyway. The swing voters largely care not a whit about this as well.

This election will be about the economy. Pure and simple.
posted by mightygodking at 8:35 AM on June 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


if congress really feels that obama has broken the law, they have a remedy - impeachment and conviction

don't hold your breath - and to be clear, i think it would be stupid, hopeless and in many cases, utterly hypocritical for congress to do so
posted by pyramid termite at 8:36 AM on June 20, 2011


Because why? Alienating the part of the liberal base who really cares about this?

Don't kid yourself. The anti-war vote was a big part of the energy in the youth vote. They absolutely will stay home.
posted by empath at 8:37 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


mightygodking: "Because why? Alienating the part of the liberal base who really cares about this? There aren't that many of them, and most will hold their nose and vote for him anyway. The swing voters largely care not a whit about this as well."

So basically, Most Americans are Horrible People?
posted by dunkadunc at 8:37 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Obama better pray that the GOP nominates a bat shit crazy conservative like bachman, or he's going to lose.

I'm no fan of the Libyan thing, but christ, worse than Bush? Bush randomly invaded Iraq for no reason. Obama was trying to help people struggling to gain democracy from a tyrant shooting them in the streets.

Seriously, I don't get why the left continues to shoot themselves in the foot and do everything in their power to put insane people into the presidency.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:38 AM on June 20, 2011 [17 favorites]


I've been wondering about this.

What's in it for Congress to ignore this?
I mean, it would seem that getting a bill passed to stop this would be pretty simple:

"Hey, Congressman X, Obama thinks you're a total chump, you know that right? Sign this bill and show him he actually does need to listen to Congress"
Seriously, if I were in Congress, this sort of thing would really piss me off, and I'm probably not as egotistical as your average Senator.

Is it simply that they don't want to challenge presidential overstepping because one day, their guy might need it?
posted by madajb at 8:40 AM on June 20, 2011


So if drone attacks aren't "hostilities", what if someone used a drone to drop bombs on New York? Would that also not be hostile? Why?

We haven't dropped a bomb or fired a shot since April. We are mid-air refueling and providing AWACS assets.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:41 AM on June 20, 2011


Obama was trying to help people struggling to gain democracy from a tyrant shooting them in the streets.

I'm sorry, how was that different than Bush?
posted by empath at 8:41 AM on June 20, 2011 [16 favorites]


U.S. Presidents have consistently taken the position that the War Powers Resolution is an unconstitutional infringement upon the power of the executive branch. As a result, the Resolution has been the subject of controversy since its enactment, and is a recurring issue due to the ongoing worldwide commitment of U.S. armed forces. Presidents have submitted a total of over 120 reports to Congress pursuant to the Resolution.
posted by chavenet at 8:41 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


In a nearby parallel universe...

President John McCain recently summoned his Attorney General, his Chief of the Office of Legal Counsel, and Department of Defense General Counsel to a private meeting. He asked them whether it would be OK, in the now 90-day long absence of Congressional authorization, to indefinitely continue his controversial drone bombing campaign against suspected Iranian nuclear facilities.

The Attorney General and the General Counsel agreed that it would be a clear violation of the War Powers Act. Neither felt it necessary to add that, as such, it would be an impeachable offense. But they pointed out that the OLC Chief had always been the “Supreme Court” in such decisions. His was the only opinion that counted.

OLC concurred. There was just no wiggle room on this.

McCain curtly dismissed them. He sat alone in the Oval Office for several minutes. Then he called the private cell number of the man who had been general counsel of his successful election campaign. After a few pleasantries, the President explained what he needed.

After some thought, his old friend suggested a bold plan. Why not claim that drone bombing doesn’t rise to the level of hostilities as defined by the WPA? Think of the benefits. Under this theory, the President is able to bomb whoever he wants, for however long he wants – without even having to ask Congress to pay for it.

“So our position is that it doesn’t count as a war unless there are ground troops?” McCain asked nervously. “Will people really swallow that?”
posted by Trurl at 8:43 AM on June 20, 2011 [13 favorites]


Because why? Alienating the part of the liberal base who really cares about this?

Don't kid yourself. The anti-war vote was a big part of the energy in the youth vote. They absolutely will stay home.


Why the fuck would you put the GOP in there? They invaded iraq. Makes no sense. Mitt "Double Gitmo" Romney?
posted by Ironmouth at 8:43 AM on June 20, 2011



We haven't dropped a bomb or fired a shot since April. We are mid-air refueling and providing AWACS assets.


Except in Yemen.
posted by ghharr at 8:43 AM on June 20, 2011


>Obama was trying to help people struggling to gain democracy from a tyrant shooting them in the streets.

I'm sorry, how was that different than Bush?


Oh, is that this week's reason we were in Iraq?
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 8:44 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


This election will be about the economy. Pure and simple.

This election will be about voter turn-out and whether Obama can make up for losing the old-person white vote.

We haven't dropped a bomb or fired a shot since April. We are mid-air refueling and providing AWACS assets.

The president's report contradicts you:
The overwhelming majority of strike sorties are now being
flown by our European allies while American strikes are
limited to the suppression of enemy air defense and
occasional strikes by unmanned Predator UAVs against a
specific set of targets, all within the UN authorization,
in order to minimize collateral damage in urban areas.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:46 AM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Why the fuck would you put the GOP in there? They invaded iraq. Makes no sense. Mitt "Double Gitmo" Romney?

Uh, if you haven't noticed the anti-war part of the GOP, you're not paying attention.
posted by Jahaza at 8:46 AM on June 20, 2011


Why the fuck would you put the GOP in there? They invaded iraq. Makes no sense. Mitt "Double Gitmo" Romney?

Did Obama close gitmo? Prosecute anyone for torture? End the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan? End the drug war? No, no, no. I hate the people that say there is no difference, but goddamn, on the things that matter, there is no difference.

If Romney is the nominee, I'm staying home. Not one penny for Obama this time.
posted by empath at 8:46 AM on June 20, 2011 [13 favorites]


Candidate Obama: Need political solutions, not military solutions. Will begin withdrawing troops on first day in office.

Peace Prize winner President Obama: More troops deployed abroad under Obama than under Bush.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 8:46 AM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


> Obama better pray that the GOP nominates a bat shit crazy conservative like bachman, or he's going to lose.

Do you think this is somehow deep and insightful?
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:47 AM on June 20, 2011


Legal scholars, I have a hypothetical question for you.

If, in fact, Obama is wrong, and continuing whatever it is we're doing in Libya is a violation of the War Powers Act (which, for the sake of this question, we'll assume to be constitutional): what remedy is there? Does anyone have the standing to sue over this, and if so, in what court? Or would congress have to impeach, as pyramid termite suggests?
posted by Dr. Eigenvariable at 8:47 AM on June 20, 2011


Oh, is that this week's reason we were in Iraq?

That was among the many reasons we claimed for going to war in Iraq. They had others. Apparently that was all they needed, though.
posted by empath at 8:48 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Second link botched. Should be: More troops deployed abroad under Obama than under Bush.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 8:48 AM on June 20, 2011



Quick question...

Does our involvement utilize my tax dollars?

Ok, then. Please check with my representatives to make sure we're cool with it. Otherwise, I think we can argue until we're blue in the mouth about the legality, but ultimately, it's just a dick move, bordering on ogliarchy.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 8:48 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jahaza: "Uh, if you haven't noticed the anti-war part of the GOP, you're not paying attention."

The anti-war part of the GOP only exists when it's politically expedient for it to do so*, and is always a straw-man minority (ie. the same reason why the GOP-dominated House has stopped voting unanimously on issues that are guaranteed passage. Unanimous votes can kill a party if the legislation backfires, as the Medicare cuts recently did.)

*Just like the anti-war Democrats.
posted by schmod at 8:50 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


The odd thing to me about what Obama is doing in Libya is that it seems like it would be good for him to ask congress to authorize "kinetic military action" in Libya. Everyone knows since Reagan that Quadaffi is a member of the axis of evil, the president would look good attacking "anti-war Republicans" from the right: what's the downside?
posted by ennui.bz at 8:52 AM on June 20, 2011


That George Bush would knowingly order an eavesdropping program to continue which his own top lawyers were telling him was illegal was, of course, a major controversy, at least in many progressive circles. Now we have Barack Obama not merely eavesdropping in a way that his own top lawyers are telling him is illegal, but waging war in that manner...

There's another significant and telling parallel between Obama's illegal war and the Bush eavesdropping scandal. One of the questions frequently asked about the NSA scandal was why Bush and Cheney decided to eavesdrop in violation of the law rather than having Congress approve their program; in the wake of 9/11, both parties in Congress were as subservient as could be, and would have offered zero resistance to requests by the administration for increased eavesdropping powers (the same question was asked of Bush's refusal to seek Congressional approval for the detention and military commissions regime at Guantanamo). The answer to that question ultimately became clear: they did not want to seek Congressional approval, even though they easily could have obtained it, because they wanted to establish the "principle" that the President is omnipotent in these areas and needs nobody's permission (neither from Congress nor the courts) to do what the President wants.
posted by Trurl at 8:53 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Glenn Greenwald looks at another parallel to Bush: the NSA eavesdropping program.
posted by homunculus at 8:53 AM on June 20, 2011


Ha!
posted by homunculus at 8:53 AM on June 20, 2011


The anti-war part of the GOP only exists when it's politically expedient for it to do so ... *Just like the anti-war Democrats

Well, of course. Fundamentally, political expediency in a democratic system means "what the voters want" so when the voters want an anti-war element then it exsists. Which is exactly my point. There's a GOP party element that is anti-war, because there is a GOP voter element that is anti-war right now.
posted by Jahaza at 8:54 AM on June 20, 2011


If Romney is the nominee, I'm staying home. Not one penny for Obama this time.

The ol' cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face strategy.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 8:54 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


but ultimately, it's just a dick move, bordering on oligarchy.

The U.S. is at least an oligarchy. Citibank analysts thinks its a plutonomy/plutocracy.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 8:54 AM on June 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


Looking Back, Gates Says He’s Grown Wary of ‘Wars of Choice’
posted by homunculus at 8:55 AM on June 20, 2011


Cool, just came in to check and see if there was literally nothing a certain handful of people wouldn't defend Obama on.

Back to the job search.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:56 AM on June 20, 2011 [13 favorites]


Obama better pray that the GOP nominates a bat shit crazy conservative like bachman, or he's going to lose.

If he does lose, it won't be because of this. No Republican would ever get caught dead looking weak on "foreign policy", and Obama could easily start investigations into what the right were doing under Bush, if things get too hairy. This is just the Repubs trolling, like they always do.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:58 AM on June 20, 2011


The ol' cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face strategy.

In the case of Romney, I would expect much difference in terms of policy, to be honest.
posted by empath at 8:58 AM on June 20, 2011


Days, not weeks.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:58 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]




Looking Back, Gates Says He’s Grown Wary of ‘Wars of Choice’


How one does not start off wary of 'wars of choice' rather than growing wary of them is beyond me.
posted by spicynuts at 8:59 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Though I have little regard for our Congress of late, I still believe that any military actions--any--should seek Congressional approval after 30 (60?) days, for otherwise, a single individual, the president, can on his own send our nation into a war. Ok. Bush got approval from Congress for the Iraq invasion. But then we can hold Congress responsible and not just a man many of us distrusted or disliked.
posted by Postroad at 9:00 AM on June 20, 2011


Obama wars more illegal than Bush.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 9:00 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


for otherwise, a single individual, the president, can on his own send our nation into a war.
Another reason we should bring back the draft and even consider conscription.
posted by spicynuts at 9:01 AM on June 20, 2011


Let's not forget the bombing campaigns in Pakistan and Yemen, btw.
posted by empath at 9:01 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


There are not more troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan than under Bush. Let's looks true figures:
-January 2009--177,000
-July 2010--169,000
-today about 150k are deployed with 2/3 in Afghanistan. Iraq is now below 50k and we expect to be out of Iraq by December of this year, despite reservations from various generals. Obama is also pressuring the military to begin to draw down out of Afghanistan.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/facts-and-figures-drawdown-iraq
.
posted by humanfont at 9:11 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


This election will be about voter turn-out and whether Obama can make up for losing the old-person white vote.

Voter turnout is much more likely to hang on the economy than on Libya at the moment. And given the lack of blowback from anywhere but the fringe Left on matters like the drone attacks in Pakistan and other similar high-handedness, I doubt Obama will catch much real flak from this.

And Obama never had the old-person white vote - didn't hurt him last round.
posted by AdamCSnider at 9:12 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Like others have said, Presidents on both sides of the aisle have been hostile to the War Powers Resolution since day one, citing constitutional concerns about the resolution and it's restriction on Presidential powers.

In many cases it seems like Obama is coming down on the side of the fence that it's Unconstitutional. He's not explicitly looking for a fight over it but in the face of the current composition of Supreme Court it seems unlikely that he'd lose anyway.

I'm not a big fan of war as "good citizenship" but I also understand that for many Democrats as well as Republicans they feel that sometimes there is a just war and that our superpower status should be used to extend human rights across the globe (assuming that doesn't conflict with out national interest). I can actually understand the logic but feel like all to often we go with military force rather than diplomatic solutions.
posted by vuron at 9:13 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's nice that we're really focusing on the important part of this Constitutionally-questionable and potentially impeachable offense regarding the indiscriminate bombing of the fifth country the president has chosen to launch an assault on after only two years in office: how many white people we still think will vote for him.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:15 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry, how was that different than Bush?

Obama is providing air strikes and support to an active rebellion against a ruler that actually does support fundie terrorism. Bush invaded and conquered a country whose ruler hated and feared fundie terrorists just about as much as we do, did it with our own troops at a time of his own choosing for reasons he made up. You can disagree on the importance of the differences but they exist.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:15 AM on June 20, 2011 [25 favorites]


It isn't just this type of behavior that's going to throw the election. There is enough indifference to key voting blocs to go around.
posted by winna at 9:18 AM on June 20, 2011


Obama is providing air strikes and support to an active rebellion against a ruler that actually does support fundie terrorism.

Actually, Qaddafi stopped funding terrorists and paid off the victims of lockerbie, etc..
posted by empath at 9:20 AM on June 20, 2011


I think it is worth posting this again: -
Welcome to Post-Legal America
posted by adamvasco at 9:22 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm sorry, how was that different than Bush?

Isn't this action in support of a broad international coalition supported by the U.N. Security Council? It seems a lot like the opposite of the Iraq invasion or did I miss something?
posted by VTX at 9:22 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


And, btw, we're heading to war with Syria, too. If you support the intervention in Libya, I don't see how you can't also support bombing Syria.
posted by empath at 9:22 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


This election will be about voter turn-out and whether Obama can make up for losing the old-person white vote.

It's not at all about the old white person vote, those people hate Obama and always have. Death panels, Kenyan imperialist worldview, blahblahblah.

This election will be about voter turnout, but it'll be about turnout by the various groups that Obama has left down or alienated since they voted for him in 2008, in no particular order:

-Latinos (DREAM Act)
- Gays (DOMA, DADT, general disdain)
- progressives (various things, health care public option first among many, general disappointment that they voted for FDR and got new-wave Hoover)
- Young people/students (Wars, torture, economy, student loans, Wall St. favoritism, bailouts)
- Wall St. (hurt thier widdle fweelwings with a couple lines about excessive bonuses; they'll flip to the GOP just becuase they can and because there can never be too little taxes and regualtions)
- Non-racist or less-racist working class white guys (economy, economy, bailouts, economy)

Obama hasn't lived up to any of his promises to any of the above groups, and has gone actively out of his way to kick more than one right in the face. Basically everyone in the country (that isn't a banker or CEO) has reason to say, "Well what did you really do for me in the last 4 years?" The election will turn on how many answer, "Well not a whole hell of a lot, actually" and stay the fuck home.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:23 AM on June 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


Isn't this action in support of a broad international coalition supported by the U.N. Security Council? It seems a lot like the opposite of the Iraq invasion or did I miss something?

The Security Council resolution didn't authorize support for the rebellion in overthrowing Gaddafi. It only authorized protection of civilians.

And Iraq was in violation of a ton of Security Council resolutions.
posted by empath at 9:23 AM on June 20, 2011


Does anyone have the standing to sue over this, and if so, in what court?

A bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers - including Kucinich, Conyers, and Capuano - have already done so.
posted by Trurl at 9:24 AM on June 20, 2011


I'm sorry, how was that different than Bush?

Here's a couple of significant differences between Iraq and Libya:

* We didn't initiate hostilities in Libya.
* We were asked to help, both by people involved in the conflict, some of Libya's neighbors, and with the support of the UN. Nobody asked us to go to Iraq; despite overwhelming post 9-11 international support, we had to wheedle and strongarm allies into joining us while other allies tried to talk us out of it.
* We didn't precede it by months of saber rattling and propaganda against Qaddafi; in fact, we were in the uncomfortable position of measured support of the status quo when the people of the country decided to move forward without us.
* The focus of our mission there has been pretty clearly as an intervention on behalf of the civil uprising. Yes, ostensible concern for the oppression of the Iraqi people was among the whirlwind of justifications trotted out for invading Iraq, but those were secondary at best to noise about WMDs, smoking guns in the form of mushroom clouds, and attempts to link Iraq to 9/11.

Now, whether that means it's a good idea for the executive to be able to conduct a war in Libya without congressional authorization is a different question. If you're concerned about that as a meta/governance issue, I think that's a worthwhile concern.

But Iraq and Libya are notably different situations, as are the actions of the Obama and Bush administrations.
posted by weston at 9:26 AM on June 20, 2011 [27 favorites]


empath, I am right there with you, and I worked for the Obama campaign: hours canvassing, etc. He has done not one thing that I personally worked so hard to get him elected to do. The only real difference between he and Bush that I can see is the reaction of liberals and conservatives to him. Give up here, dude. There is too much liberal white guilt built in to this for anyone to admit he is wrong and a failure. It simply will not be heard or acknowledged by a great deal of people. Obama is merely Bush's third term. I will not be working or canvassing this time around, I can assure you. At least not for the same guy. Fool me once...
posted by umberto at 9:26 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


The focus of our mission there has been pretty clearly as an intervention on behalf of the civil uprising.

It's funny how our humanitarian instincts are most readily excited by the plight of people in oil-exporting countries.

Yet even before armed conflict drove the U.S. companies out of Libya this year, their relations with Gaddafi had soured. ... By November 2007, a State Department cable noted "growing evidence of Libyan resource nationalism." It noted that in his 2006 speech marking the founding of his regime, Gaddafi said: "Oil companies are controlled by foreigners who have made millions from them. Now, Libyans must take their place to profit from this money." ... when representatives of the rebel coalition in Benghazi spoke to the U.S.-Libya Business Council in Washington four weeks ago, representatives from ConocoPhillips and other oil firms attended...
posted by Trurl at 9:34 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I also understand that for many Democrats as well as Republicans they feel that sometimes there is a just war and that our superpower status should be used to extend human rights across the globe (assuming that doesn't conflict with out national interest). I can actually understand the logic but feel like all to often we go with military force rather than diplomatic solutions.

I'm one of those Democrats. Look, here are the differences between Iraq and Libya:

1) Gaddafi was in the act of slaughtering civilians with deliberate and sustained use of military vehicles against civilians.
2) The armed resistance was 24-48 hours from collapse before we began bombing - the tanks were at the door of the last rebel stronghold of any significance.
3) No US boots on the ground for direct action months after people on Metafilter repeatedly told me that there definitely would be.
4) Cost. 1, maybe 2 billion total vs. 1 billion a day for SEVEN YEARS.
5) Risk to American soldiers: 4500 dead vs. 2 shot down and recovered.
6) A chance to support a rebellion against an actual, honest-to-God state sponsor of terrorism as opposed to just someone our leaders had a grudge against.
7) A genuine international coalition now leading the effort with participation from Western and Arab countries alike.

I could go on, but I think you've got the point. There were good reasons for doing what we did when we did. I don't really agree with Obama not seeking authorization, but I'm not privy to the political calculus of his situation - I suspect the Republicans would try to extract more concessions on their insane social agenda for a war that his base is at best ambivalent on.

Regardless, I strongly feel that we are doing the right thing in Libya, and that we are doing it in the right way: preventing atrocities and giving those who desire democracy a fair chance to stand up and secure it should be the only purpose of our military outside of genuine national defense.
posted by Ryvar at 9:34 AM on June 20, 2011 [18 favorites]


Isn't this action in support of a broad international coalition supported by the U.N. Security Council? It seems a lot like the opposite of the Iraq invasion or did I miss something?

1. No. The UN Security Council voted to protect civilians, not, umm, go to war with the country and launch missiles at it from drones.

2. The "broad international coalition" is comprised of less than half the number of countries in Bush's so-called "Coalition of the Willing" in Iraq which we all rightfully pointed out was bullshit.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:34 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is too much liberal white guilt built in to this for anyone to admit he is wrong and a failure. It simply will not be heard or acknowledged by a great deal of people.

You're hanging out with the wrong white liberals.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:35 AM on June 20, 2011


If you support the intervention in Libya, I don't see how you can't also support bombing Syria.

Very, very easily: Israel.
posted by Ryvar at 9:40 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is instructive to compare President Obama's actions with those of his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Because they're starting to look like the same guy?
posted by doctor_negative at 9:41 AM on June 20, 2011


here are the differences between Iraq and Libya

In Iraq, the President had Congressional authorization for the use of military force.

In Libya, the President does not.

Anything else is special pleading.
posted by Trurl at 9:42 AM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Will we retroactively declare all of the US's previous "unauthorized" military operations illegal as well? We've had a lot of them. I imagine the court system would be pretty heavily strained in the process of rectifying all these historical and present-day injustices.

We don't have any troops in Libya; we aren't flying our own combat missions there. So we're not engaged in combat in Libya, no matter how much that point gets twisted around in these accounts. We're supporting an international police operation, initiated in the UN. That's a win for international law and a huge setback for Qaddafi, not an abuse of commander-in-chief powers (which do apply with or without congressional approval, because the US is already lawfully a signatory to international agreements that require them to contribute materially to the prosecution of such police actions).

Actually, Qaddafi stopped funding terrorists and paid off the victims of lockerbie, etc..

Yeah, he paid a settlement--one that was negotiated and executed under a cloud of controversy and public outcry. With money that Qaddafi extorted from Western oil interests seeking to do business in Libya.
When Qaddafi aides demanded payment for the Lockerbie settlement from oil companies operating in Libya, a State Department cable in February 2009 reported, industry executives had indicated ''that smaller operators and service companies might relent and pay.''
posted by saulgoodman at 9:44 AM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Say what you want about Bush, we actually had a national debate about going to war in Iraq, followed by a vote in Congress, and most Americans supported it at the time. Obama just went on the spur of the moment, and has barely made an effort to get the public behind it.
posted by empath at 9:46 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anything else is special pleading.

Right, because human lives shouldn't be a consideration in our foreign policy. All that matters is that our process is followed to the letter during a time in which a certain political party dominated by our local madmen obstructs any and all attempts at repairing this country in the name of perpetuating an atavistic culture of human misery and shame.

Are you for real?
posted by Ryvar at 9:47 AM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


All that matters is that our process is followed to the letter

All democracy is, is a process. If we don't follow it, we have a dictatorship.
posted by empath at 9:48 AM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Right, because human lives shouldn't be a consideration in our foreign policy. All that matters is that our process is followed to the letter during a time in which a certain political party dominated by our local madmen obstructs any and all attempts at repairing this country in the name of perpetuating an atavistic culture of human misery and shame.

Cool, now pretend George W. Bush said that.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:49 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Obama just went on the spur of the moment

The tanks were at Benghazi's doorstep. Another 24 hours, 48 tops, it wouldn't have mattered. In case you're wondering what an actual 3AM phonecall looks like, Libya was it.
posted by Ryvar at 9:49 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


In Iraq, the President had Congressional authorization for the use of military force.

In Libya, the President does not.

Anything else is special pleading


Something tells me you wouldn't exactly be 'okay' with the operation even if he had Congressional authorization. What a cynical argument to make.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 9:50 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Cool, now pretend George W. Bush said that.

Doesn't hold the slightest bit of water. Bush had a majority in both houses. Bush pursued a war on a pretext composed of known, obvious lies that Metafilter was calling out weeks before the tanks rolled. Bush put thousands of American lives at risk and flushed our economy down the toilet. There was no immediacy to the situation Bush confronted.

...is that sufficient or do I need to continue?
posted by Ryvar at 9:51 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


No. I think you've done a fantastic job proving "that was then; this is now" is pretty much your argument.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:52 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm curious as to what possible argument for any real world situation, ever, doesn't invoke context. Enlighten me.
posted by Ryvar at 9:54 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Seems to me it is very different indeed, and shouldn't trigger the war powers issue. Shouldn't. It, however, DOES. And ignoring the law because you disagree with it is not a precedent... pun intended here... that I am comfortable with.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 9:55 AM on June 20, 2011


Something tells me you wouldn't exactly be 'okay' with the operation even if he had Congressional authorization. What a cynical argument to make.

I'm against invasions of foreign countries that aren't related to national defense, with or without congressional approval, but I'm especially against interventions engaged in without the support of congress or the american public.

The US is involved in military operations right now in five countries, and perhaps might be getting involved in more in the near future. It has to stop. We can't be responsible for every country on earth.
posted by empath at 9:55 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


The US is involved in military operations right now in five countries, and perhaps might be getting involved in more in the near future. It has to stop. We can't be responsible for every country on earth.

Might Washington, like Rome, fall victim to imperial overstretch? Could military force abroad eventually have to be withdrawn because of bankruptcy at home? Might the whole idea of America eventually be challenged and destroyed by some charismatic new faith: some fundamentalist variant on Christianity? Or will nature disrupt America's new world order?"
—Robert Harris, "Does Rome's fate await the US?," Sunday Mail, October 12, 2003
posted by jaduncan at 10:00 AM on June 20, 2011


if congress really feels that obama has broken the law, they have a remedy - impeachment and conviction

don't hold your breath - and to be clear, i think it would be stupid, hopeless and in many cases, utterly hypocritical for congress to do so


Yeah, well, a little hypocrisy has never held Congress back from anything. I have to think more than a few GOP leaders are secretly salivating over the possibility of gaining more seats in the House and possibly taking back the Senate, because that would definitely bring impeachment into play, over not just this but a whole laundry list of supposed "violations" in their minds.

Remember, they only have to prove the case to themselves. Not some objective third party.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:01 AM on June 20, 2011


I am okay with the United States pulling back from its Sheriff of the World status for the next few decades. If we're attacked on our own soil, sure. If the United Nations comes to the U.S. and says, "Okay, it's time for you guys to do what you do best, blow stuff up," okay. Even in those situations we are still not equipped to be police because our military is geared towards turning cities to rubble and making live people into dead people, not towards stabilizing governments and creating infrastructure.
posted by adipocere at 10:01 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm against invasions of foreign countries that aren't related to national defense, with or without congressional approval, but I'm especially against interventions engaged in without the support of congress or the american public.

No one has 'invaded' Libya, certainly not the United States. An invasion implies a large, occupying force (like the one say, in Iraq). There are no large, occupying forces (US or NATO) in Libya, nor are there any plans to put in place such forces. 'Intervention' is a much more accurate term, as the majority of US assets are providing ELINT and targeted strike support.

It has to stop. We can't be responsible for every country on earth.

Yeah, we're not. We're using our in-region assets to help prevent a narcissistic megalomaniac from using Sudanese mercenaries to murder anyone who doesn't pledge loyalty to his personality cult. Smart readers can see the difference.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 10:11 AM on June 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


No one has 'invaded' Libya, certainly not the United States. An invasion implies a large, occupying force (like the one say, in Iraq). There are no large, occupying forces (US or NATO) in Libya, nor are there any plans to put in place such forces.

And what happens in 6 months when Qaddaffi is still in power? Or a year from now? Or 10 years from now? What do we do when people in Tripoli are starving to death from being under siege, and having their economy and infrastructure destroyed?
posted by empath at 10:15 AM on June 20, 2011


empath: "Obama was trying to help people struggling to gain democracy from a tyrant shooting them in the streets.

I'm sorry, how was that different than Bush?
"

One name is followed by R and the other by D.
posted by symbioid at 10:16 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jahaza: "Why the fuck would you put the GOP in there? They invaded iraq. Makes no sense. Mitt "Double Gitmo" Romney?

Uh, if you haven't noticed the anti-war part of the GOP, you're not paying attention.
"

Oh, you mean the libertarian-style-wing of the Tea Party? LOL... Sure, all 3 of them who might consistently be considered anti-war. Or do you mean the ones who just don't like this war because, again, it's run by a man with a D after his name than an R. Which I think is most of the "anti-war" GOP.
posted by symbioid at 10:18 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Right, because human lives shouldn't be a consideration in our foreign policy.

Human lives that just happen to be located in a country with "some of the biggest and most proven oil reserves -- 43.6 billion barrels -- outside Saudi Arabia, and some of the best drilling prospects". [And what about these human lives?]

But Obama's motives are irrelevant. The War Powers Act - you know, the "rule of law" that we spent so much time hollering about during the Bush administration - was created for the sole purpose of stopping presidents from doing exactly what Obama is doing now. It prohibits it in absolutely clear and unambiguous language.

Obama's own OLC Chief says so. As does his Attorney General. As does his Department of Defense General Counsel.

If Obama were a Republican, you would be justifiably screaming for his impeachment right now.
posted by Trurl at 10:22 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


here are the differences between Iraq and Libya

In Iraq, the President had Congressional authorization for the use of military force.

In Libya, the President does not.

Anything else is special pleading.


That's right! Iraq was a just war!
posted by Ironmouth at 10:24 AM on June 20, 2011


Oh, you mean the libertarian-style-wing of the Tea Party? LOL... Sure, all 3 of them who might consistently be considered anti-war. Or do you mean the ones who just don't like this war because, again, it's run by a man with a D after his name than an R. Which I think is most of the "anti-war" GOP.

Neither Mitt Romney, nor Jon Huntsman are from the libertarian-style-wing of the Tea Party and the war that they've recently criticized (leading me to point out that there is increased anti-war feeling in the GOP) is the one in Afghanistan, not the one in Libya. There opposition has been signifigant enough to draw public criticism from McCain and Graham.
posted by Jahaza at 10:36 AM on June 20, 2011


I'm no fan of Barry hitting you, but christ, worse than your last boyfriend George? That guy was a dry drunk and a blithering moron who burned down your neighbor's house for no reason. Barry's done some bad things, but no one is perfect

Seriously, I don't get why you keep slagging on the guy, like you deserve better. I'm not trying to defend his behavior here, but I think you should keep him around at least another 5 years and then maybe date one of his friends. If you try to ditch him you'll just wind up with another asshole like George

I'm just trying to help you be realistic here. I'm your friend
posted by crayz at 10:36 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Iraq was a just war!

"Just" is a legally meaningless term in this context, as I'm sure you know.

I'm afraid that you have only two choices here:

1. Explain why the OLC Chief, the Attorney General, and the DoD General Counsel were wrong when they told Obama he was violating the War Powers Act.

2. Explain why Obama is justified in violating the War Powers Act.
posted by Trurl at 10:38 AM on June 20, 2011


And what happens in 6 months when Qaddaffi is still in power? Or a year from now? Or 10 years from now? What do we do when people in Tripoli are starving to death from being under siege, and having their economy and infrastructure destroyed?

What's your point? That we shouldn't even try? We should let the opposition forces get slaughtered in the street because we're concerned about a political quagmire maybe happening at some point down the road?
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 10:47 AM on June 20, 2011


saulgoodman: " I imagine the court system would be pretty heavily strained in the process of rectifying all these historical and present-day injustices.

Would it involve Henry Kissinger meeting a very sticky end? Because I could get behind that.

posted by dunkadunc at 10:48 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


We should let the opposition forces get slaughtered in the street because we're concerned about a political quagmire maybe happening at some point down the road?

All we are doing is delaying a slaughter, or perhaps making it so that different people will be slaughtered at some point in the future. The record of helping 'freedom fighters' militarily has not been good in this regard.
posted by empath at 10:49 AM on June 20, 2011


Did Obama close gitmo? Prosecute anyone for torture? End the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan? End the drug war? No, no, no. I hate the people that say there is no difference, but goddamn, on the things that matter, there is no difference.

I'm amazed at people who didn't pay attention.

End the War in Afghanistan? the man campaigned on sending more troops there.

Seriously, weren't you paying attention? Second, we have been pulling troops out of Iraq as fast as we can.

End the drug war? He never said he would do that.

Prosecute torturers? Well, turns out there's been a grand jury investigation for years.

And so many of these things are beyond his purview. He cannot unilaterally suspend the drug laws, just as he couldn't declare a public option by fiat. Nor could he ignore the laws making homosexual activity in the military illegal. People screamed and yelled because he wouldn't do that and ignore the law--now they want him to stick to the letter on it.

Let's be clear--there has not been a president who has been more upfront about what he was going to do and then done it. Said he was going to put more troops into Afghanistan. Did it. Said he was going to pull us out of Iraq. On schedule as agreed with the Iraqis, those troops have come home. Said he would pass a health plan. The final plan he passed and signed into law was that plan. Said he would pass Wall Street reform. He did that. Said that if he found Bin Laden in Pakistan, he'd go after him without notifying the Pakistanis. He did.

Where people are getting the idea that the President ever stood for these crazy things I will never know. Up is down.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:49 AM on June 20, 2011 [21 favorites]


So basically 9/11 wouldn't have been an "act of war" if the planes were empty?
posted by blue_beetle at 10:49 AM on June 20, 2011


All we are doing is delaying a slaughter, or perhaps making it so that different people will be slaughtered at some point in the future.

So in other words, we're tangibly saving people's lives.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 10:50 AM on June 20, 2011


As far as I can tell, 9/11 was only an intervention as they didn't have any (living) troops on the ground.
posted by empath at 10:51 AM on June 20, 2011


Whoops, and at 1:49 PM I owe myself a Coke.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:51 AM on June 20, 2011


If Obama were a Republican, you would be justifiably screaming for his impeachment right now.

Did Republicans or Democrats call for impeachment when Clinton bombed Iraq in 1998 without seeking congressional approval? Hell no. On the contrary: The bombing ended up being what some considered a too-welcome distraction from the ongoing efforts in congress to impeach Clinton on the basis of his sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky and the subsequent cover up.

So, look at the recent past on this issue: Arguably, Clinton was saved from impeachment by launching an unauthorized military strike. And in that case, it was basically a unilateral American operation. I'm not saying you can cover up one sin with another here, but our presence in Libya really seems to me to be a fundamentally different kind of engagement than the kind of military adventurism embraced by the previous administration.

Even Juan Cole--the leftist middle-east scholar the Bush administration specifically targeted for political persecution due to his scathing criticisms of the Iraq War--has thrown his support behind America's position in Libya.

There's ample evidence for the argument that our current role in Libya isn't an active military engagement at all, but only, as claimed, an equipment and logistical support mission for our international allies operating in the country. All of the preceding makes this a unique situation, and to not take the unique circumstances that obtain in this case into consideration when discussing the legal questions seems woefully wrongheaded to me.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:52 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


So in other words, we're tangibly saving people's lives.

By ending others. Sure. And some day the people whose lives we are saving are probably going to kill a bunch of other people while we bring in air support.
posted by empath at 10:52 AM on June 20, 2011


It's funny, usually Ironmouth wants to stick strictly to the letter of the law instead of diverting away from it for deraily side arguments and justifications for the illegal actions. Huh.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:52 AM on June 20, 2011


All we are doing is delaying a slaughter

Please explain why this is bad. Frankly, I thought the Libyan intervention a mistake from the beginning, but man, you are doing your best to convince me it was the right thing to do.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:53 AM on June 20, 2011


By ending others. Sure. And some day the people whose lives we are saving are probably going to kill a bunch of other people while we bring in air support.

Under that logic we shouldn't have helped the Russians beat back the Nazis. Under that logic we shouldn't ever do anything.

As far as I can tell, 9/11 was only an intervention as they didn't have any (living) troops on the ground.

What a callous and disgusting statement.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 10:53 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


In Iraq, the President had Congressional authorization for the use of military force.

Obtained via fraud in violation of 18 USC 371.
posted by mikelieman at 10:56 AM on June 20, 2011


Under that logic we shouldn't ever do anything.

I don't think we should, barring an attack on Americans or one of our allies.
posted by empath at 10:57 AM on June 20, 2011


It's funny, usually Ironmouth wants to stick strictly to the letter of the law instead of diverting away from it for deraily side arguments and justifications for the illegal actions.

So, in your legal opinion, refueling tankers and AWACS constitute hostilities under the War Powers Act? Please exlpain how that is. Because I do not think the founders intended that every cannon shot required congressional authorization. How about shooting a pirate? Must the president also get congressional authorization?

These are real questions. I'm asking you what the definition of hostilties is in the War Powers Resolution. The definition within the law, not the book definition.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:58 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some people are against war. Yes, they know what WWII is already.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:58 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


, in your legal opinion, refueling tankers and AWACS constitute hostilities under the War Powers Act? Please exlpain how that is. Because I do not think the founders intended that every cannon shot required congressional authorization. How about shooting a pirate? Must the president also get congressional authorization?

These are real questions. I'm asking you what the definition of hostilties is in the War Powers Resolution. The definition within the law, not the book definition.


I'm no lawyer, dude, address your questions to Obama's own Attorney General who says our intervention counts as hostilities.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:59 AM on June 20, 2011


In Iraq, the President had Congressional authorization for the use of military force.

Obtained via fraud in violation of 18 USC 371.


Have to disagree there. It is an unjusticiable politcal question.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:00 AM on June 20, 2011


Even Juan Cole--the leftist middle-east scholar the Bush administration specifically targeted for political persecution due to his scathing criticisms of the Iraq War--has thrown his support behind America's position in Libya.

Juan Cole said on the front page of his website this morning that Obama needs to get Congressional approval for the war.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:02 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm no lawyer, dude, address your questions to Obama's own Attorney General who says our intervention counts as hostilities

So you're just picking sides based on who you like? I mean you're just shopping for someone who just agrees with you, at this point aren't you?
posted by Ironmouth at 11:02 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, in your legal opinion, refueling tankers and AWACS constitute hostilities under the War Powers Act?

In the legal opinion of - to repeat - Obama's own OLC Chief, his own Attorney General and his own DoD General Counsel.

I am still hoping you will explain why they were wrong - or why Obama is justified in disregarding their opinion.
posted by Trurl at 11:02 AM on June 20, 2011


Nobody told them it was just AWACS.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:03 AM on June 20, 2011


By "unjusticiable" you mean, "There isn't anyone at the DOJ with a set of balls."?

Because as I see them, the facts are clear and the question:

"Is there probable cause to believe that the Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Powell, et. al. used deceit, craft, trickery, dishonest means -- including lies, false pretenses, misrepresentations, deliberate omissions, half-truths, false promises, and statements made with reckless indifference to their truth -- to obstruct, impede, or interfere with Congress' lawful government function of overseeing foreign affairs, relating to the invasion of Iraq?"

is completely justiciable.
posted by mikelieman at 11:05 AM on June 20, 2011


So you're just picking sides based on who you like? I mean you're just shopping for someone who just agrees with you, at this point aren't you?

Yeah, it was lucky my random flailing for a supporter landed on the Attorney General of the United States.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:06 AM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


"I am still hoping you will explain why they were wrong - or why Obama is justified in disregarding their opinion."

Remember when Bush listened to those opinions and started torturing prisoners held in US custody?
posted by mikelieman at 11:06 AM on June 20, 2011


So, in your legal opinion, refueling tankers and AWACS constitute hostilities under the War Powers Act?

In the legal opinion of - to repeat - Obama's own OLC Chief, his own Attorney General and his own DoD General Counsel.

I am still hoping you will explain why they were wrong - or why Obama is justified in disregarding their opinion.


I tell you what. I will provide my argument if you'll tell me why OLC's argument is right, from a legal standpoint. In other words, why, under the language of the resolution, using the terms as defined in the resolution, and in related case law, this rises to the level of requiring notification.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:07 AM on June 20, 2011


I don't think we should, barring an attack on Americans or one of our allies.

Well, at least we've established you're isolationist leanings. Tell me, were you for or against NATO and UN participation in Kosovo? Should we have sat on our hands because the Serbs didn't attack us and let Milošević wholly slaughter Yugoslavia's ethnic Albanian population?
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 11:08 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


If Canada launched tomahawk missiles into the US and then followed it up with ongoing material support for british bombing runs on manhattan and washington, you best believe the US (and everyone else) would consider it hostilities.
posted by empath at 11:09 AM on June 20, 2011


I tell you what. I will provide my argument if you'll tell me why OLC's argument is right, from a legal standpoint. In other words, why, under the language of the resolution, using the terms as defined in the resolution, and in related case law, this rises to the level of requiring notification.

The Iron Law of Ironmouth: Show me your law degree.
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:11 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Tell me, were you for or against NATO and UN participation in Kosovo? Should we have sat on our hands because the Serbs didn't attack us and let Milošević wholly slaughter Yugoslavia's ethnic Albanian population?

To save you time, I've been against every single American military action since WWII. Feel free to count up the bodies we might have saved by some of our actions vs the millions we've killed in all the others, if you like.
posted by empath at 11:12 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


If Canada launched tomahawk missiles into the US and then followed it up with ongoing material support for british bombing runs on manhattan and washington, you best believe the US (and everyone else) would consider it hostilities.

But we're no longer doing that. Hence, its not required to be reported under the statute. If it is underneath the time of reporting requirement, he's not required to report it. Read the legislation.

I guess I thought you guys had read the statute or kept up with what we are doing now.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:13 AM on June 20, 2011


I guess I thought you guys had read the statute or kept up with what we are doing now.

Is this what happened with the Attorney General?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:14 AM on June 20, 2011


The Iron Law of Ironmouth: Show me your law degree.

You don't need a law degree to read the statute. You don't need a law degree to read up on the things we are actually doing there. The French are doing all the bombing. We are providing support.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:15 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess I thought you guys had read the statute or kept up with what we are doing now.

Is this what happened with the Attorney General?


That's just it, you're opinion-shopping. Kinda like George W. Bush did with Woo. Obama said he disagees with OLC.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:17 AM on June 20, 2011


Is the reach of history so short that we can only compare the actions of one president to the preceding one, or by dragging the Second World War out time and again?

I mean, Bush Sr. invaded Panama to capture Norieaga, and that was followed by strong internal support, although other nations were not happy. Now, we have a president who's skeptical of his ability to get internal support for an action that's not being widely criticized in the world and connects with a current wave of regional popular uprisings.
posted by mikeh at 11:18 AM on June 20, 2011


He's continuing the same shit Bush was, and expanding it.

The only reason people are defending him is because he's a smooth talker and can easily divert your attention and pull the wool over your eyes. In some cases, just lie.

Like a magician!

Or a Jedi.

"There is no war in Libya. You will go home and not rethink your life."
posted by Malice at 11:19 AM on June 20, 2011


I will provide my argument if you'll tell me why OLC's argument is right, from a legal standpoint.

You're the lawyer. And you're the one disagreeing with the judgment of - once again - not just the OLC, but Obama's own Attorney General and his own DoD General Counsel.

I believe that places the burden of proof on you, sir.
posted by Trurl at 11:21 AM on June 20, 2011


That's just it, you're opinion-shopping. Kinda like George W. Bush did with Woo. Obama said he disagees with OLC.

No, I am sticking with the top legal advisers to the President, instead of side stepping them to get an opinion from someone else because I don't like what they are saying.

Very Rovian use of projection there, IM.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:21 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Juan Cole said on the front page of his website this morning that Obama needs to get Congressional approval for the war.

Well, that's swell, but not that relevant. My point is that the mission in Libya is not an unreasonable one or necessarily an act of evil, as some seem to want to characterize it.

I agree it would be nice if the admin sought and got congressional approval for the operations in Libya, but it wouldn't even be close to unprecedented if they didn't. And considering the fact that the administration still can't even successfully get routine executive appointments through the obstructionist congress, I wouldn't hold my breath for congress to do the right thing.

FWLIW, I personally don't think the world would be better off if Libya's popular revolt failed, and I think the international community is in the right here in not wanting to see that happen either. So to me, the legal questions are really kind of academic, even if the criticisms are valid in principle. Why are we asking these questions so seriously now? Partly because we're tired of all the US military involvement around the world and they're fair questions we should have insisted on raising long ago; partly because some critics of the administration anticipate a potential political pay-day on these issues.

It's just not all so black and white in this case, to me. And I say that as someone fully aware that rhetorical appeals to ambiguity are sometimes used in bad faith to muddy issues like this. In this case, though, I think it's absolutely true the legal situation is not nearly as straightforward as the more simplistic critics of the current policy allow.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:21 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let's read the statute, Ironmouth.

33 U.S.C. § 1541(c): "The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces."

Which one did we have here?
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 11:21 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's funny how our humanitarian instincts are most readily excited by the plight of people in oil-exporting countries.

Sure, like the Balkans.

I don't think it's impossible that oil among other U.S. interests played some role in the decision making, but I don't think there's any evidence this is a primary motive behind our military action. Do you have any beyond the circumstantial? Qaddafi's pointing out that foreign control of Libya's oil supply was already the status quo (which, again, U.S. policy was actively supporting) doesn't really seem to be a strong case. If we'd invaded as a response to Qaddafi nationalizing the oil companies or something, I might have bought this. That isn't what seems to have happened.

1. No. The UN Security Council voted to protect civilians, not, umm, go to war with the country and launch missiles at it from drones.

It's my understanding that the resolution they passed authorized "all necessary measures" short of an occupying force to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat.

I guess we could just protect people from jets and ignore the rest of a Libyan state military apparatus that's at the command of a man who's clearly pursuing a scorched earth strategy. That's an option, and it would probably help us avoid situations like bombed Afghanistan weddings where we're killing innocent people ourselves and destroying goodwill, so I don't think it's one without merit.

But choosing to target the rest of the military loyal to Qaddafi might also save lives by (a) reducing the general ability of Qaddafi to kill Libyans and (b) ending the conflict more quickly.

2. The "broad international coalition" is comprised of less than half the number of countries in Bush's so-called "Coalition of the Willing" in Iraq which we all rightfully pointed out was bullshit.

If the number of participants is a key issue, then yes, I suppose I'd have to concede that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was twice as legitimate as its participation with the Libyan rebellion because this time Thailand didn't contribute 100 troops to an occupying force.

I don't think that is the key issue, though. We didn't start the war, both people inside Libya and number of their neighbors asked us to get involved, and the UN Security council had approved a resolution authorizing what we're doing at the moment.
posted by weston at 11:21 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


My point is that the mission in Libya is not an unreasonable one or necessarily an act of evil, as some seem to want to characterize it.

For the record, I don't think it's evil. I just think it's dumb and counterproductive.
posted by empath at 11:23 AM on June 20, 2011


To save you time, I've been against every single American military action since WWII. Feel free to count up the bodies we might have saved by some of our actions vs the millions we've killed in all the others, if you like

So the victims of genocide don't get to be saved because you're upset that the military, under a different administration with a different set of ideological goals, fought a war at some point in the past (or will at some point in the future) and people were killed?

For the record, I don't think it's evil. I just think it's dumb and counterproductive.

Counterproductive to what?
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 11:25 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


The French are doing all the bombing. We are providing support.

My partner is the one who shot the bank teller. I just drove the getaway car.
posted by Trurl at 11:26 AM on June 20, 2011


<>Let's read the statute, Ironmouth.

33 U.S.C. § 1541(c): "The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces."

Which one did we have here?

That's the statement of purpose, dude. It isn't the enforcement language. Let's turn to that, shall we?

33 USC 1543:

(a) Written report; time of submission; circumstances necessitating submission; information reported
In the absence of a declaration of war, in any case in which United States Armed Forces are introduced—
(1) into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances;
(2) into the territory, airspace or waters of a foreign nation, while equipped for combat, except for deployments which relate solely to supply, replacement, repair, or training of such forces; or
(3) in numbers which substantially enlarge United States Armed Forces equipped for combat already located in a foreign nation;

Supply and support, brother.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:28 AM on June 20, 2011


So how did the Attorney General miss that all we are doing is supply and support and that they aren't hostilities?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:30 AM on June 20, 2011


So the victims of genocide don't get to be saved because you're upset that the military, under a different administration with a different set of ideological goals, fought a war at some point in the past (or will at some point in the future) and people were killed?

Well, no, I think the record of military interventions (most of which are launched with good intentions) is a crapshoot, and maybe we got lucky in Serbia, but it didn't have to be that way. When you start dropping bombs, you are opening the doors to anything happening, and that, on balance, not getting involved is usually the better course of action for everyone.
posted by empath at 11:34 AM on June 20, 2011


It seems like the Democrats assailing Obama are the same people who say that Clinton's lack of action in Rwanda was his biggest failure.
posted by rosswald at 11:35 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a statement of Congress's understanding of the constitutional limits of the President's executive power. You're the one who asked us to look to the statute. Do you disagree with it, or are there other circumstances in which the President can introduce the armed forces into hostilities?

Because you keep arguing in this thread that all we're doing now is supply and support, yet even you admit that we were dropping bombs and firing shots in April. As in, we introduced the armed forces into hostilities. We entered into the territory or airspace of a foreign nation equipped for combat. This deployment was not initiated solely for supply, replacement, repair, or training, even if that is the role that is currently in operation.

Therefore, under 33 U.S.C. § 1543(a), which you just cited apparently to support your own argument, the President had a 48 hour period to submit a report. Did this take place? I'm honestly asking that question, I don't know off the top of my head.

Either way, it really doesn't matter what our role is today, since the statutory language refers entirely to the purpose at the time of introduction, which was hostile, so quit trying to change the subject.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 11:36 AM on June 20, 2011


(And yes, I think the Iraq War was launched with good intentions -- despite the fact that we had a lot of bad actors in the white house pushing for it, the war would not have happened without a lot of people with the best of intentions going along with it).
posted by empath at 11:36 AM on June 20, 2011


What about this?

Fourth, and most significantly, the narrow interpretation of hostilities may be beside the point in any event. It is conceded, I think, that other NATO forces are indeed engaged in “hostilities,” and the fact of the matter is that a U.S. officer in some sense commands those forces. This may implicate the WPR clock, then, even if there was no other form of US involvement. Section 8(c) of the WPR provides that:

For purposes of this joint resolution, the term "introduction of United States Armed Forces" includes the assignment of member of such armed forces to command, coordinate, participate in the movement of, or accompany the regular or irregular military forces of any foreign country or government when such military forces are engaged, or there exists an imminent threat that such forces will become engaged, in hostilities.

posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:38 AM on June 20, 2011


When you start dropping bombs, you are opening the doors to anything happening, and that, on balance, not getting involved is usually the better course of action for everyone.

Except those actually being killed by megalomaniacal despots.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 11:40 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is too much liberal white guilt built in to this for anyone to admit he is wrong and a failure. It simply will not be heard or acknowledged by a great deal of people.
posted by umberto


Seriously!? What the hell is this? Freerepublic?
posted by haveanicesummer at 11:43 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seriously!? What the hell is this? Freerepublic?

Well there does appear to be a shit ton of overly dramatic, rhetorically flourishing appeals to the might of American salvation vis-a-vis dropping bombs on brown people, so... oh wait the color's different.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:48 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Supply and support, brother.

"The United States is providing unique assets and capabilities that other NATO and coalition nations either do not possess or possess in very limited numbers -- such as suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD); unmanned aerial systems; aerial refueling; and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) support."

We're suppressing their air defense by dropping bombs on it.

(Or what you used to call "war" when it was a Republican doing it.)
posted by Trurl at 11:48 AM on June 20, 2011


Did this take place? I'm honestly asking that question, I don't know off the top of my head.

FYI, that's one of the things the Internet is good for: Finding out stuff you don't know off the top of your head. There's even this thing called a Search Engine that makes it kind of easy to do.

And the answer is yes.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:48 AM on June 20, 2011


The worst thing about this and other threads like this is that people think they are doing something by arguing.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:49 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


We're suppressing their air defense by dropping bombs on it.

That's usually how those sorts of things work...
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 11:51 AM on June 20, 2011


Except those actually being killed by megalomaniacal despots.

The US isn't responsible for what megalomaniacal despots do, unless we put them there, usually when they were calling themselves 'freedom fighters'.
posted by empath at 11:53 AM on June 20, 2011


I'm not going to support the war in Libya just because Obama is doing it. If GWB ordered strikes on Libya (or covert strikes in Yemen. Or overt strikes in Pakistan) and said that he didn't need congressional approval for those actions, I would protest loudly against that.

I'm not going to give Obama a free pass to do the same things that Bush would have done just because he's "our guy" in the White House or just because the alternative is worse.

Actually, this whole debate is really missing the point: We wouldn't need to argue about bombing other countries if we didn't have a massive world-wide economic empire. If we choose to dismantle our empire, these internal contradictions (Obama is a democrat! But he bombs brown people! WTF?) would resolve themselves.
posted by Avenger at 11:56 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ironmouth's point earlier, I think, is that while the War powers act requires notifying congress and congress signing off after a certain length of time, the specific kinds of military action that might potentially require ongoing congressional approval under the War Powers Act are no longer ongoing.

Yes, when the operation first began, the US was running some of the "suppression of enemy air defense" bombing campaigns. But that all happened within the original window of time provided for in the War Powers Act, during which the executive is authorized to act unilaterally. The US is no longer running those kinds of bombing ops; they're being carried out by French and other allied air support.

And since we stopped carrying out the specific kinds of combat operations (i.e., the anti-air defense bombing runs) that might require retroactive congressional approval under the act before the time limit expired, the approval is no longer required. If we were still carrying out those campaigns when the time window elapsed, the approval might be required under the act. Is that a fair/accurate characterization of the legal situation as you understand it, Ironmouth?
posted by saulgoodman at 11:56 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


saul, I didn't look up the answer because I honestly don't care. I've never argued that the problem was a failure to file the initial report, that's just the portion of the statute that Ironmouth quoted. My whole point was that his argument, "this is currently a supply and support mission so it's okay under this section of the statute," doesn't end the discussion because that section refers to things happening in the first 48 hours of military action, at which point we were dropping bombs whether or not we currently are now, more than 60 days later.

and I know you're getting touchy but gawker-level snark doesn't help in a conversation like this. Even if what you were saying had anything to do with my point.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 12:00 PM on June 20, 2011


Saulgoodman,

That's right. I didn't understand why we just unilaterally pulled back when we did. Now I understand.

Frankly, I've always thought it was a bad move to get in there because the rebels were not strong enough where our intervention on a minor scale could help. I was right. I understood that he did not want to stand by while a revolution was going to topple a series of strongmen previously supported by the US. But this wasn't a place where that action could do good.

Now that we're in, we must fix it and get out.

But to take a mendacious reading of the statute to mean he's gotta notify is plain wrong. Dude's a good lawyer. Just made a bad call on the viability of the rebels. Shouldn't have listened to Sam Power and Hillary.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:06 PM on June 20, 2011


My whole point was that his argument, "this is currently a supply and support mission so it's okay under this section of the statute," doesn't end the discussion because that section refers to things happening in the first 48 hours of military action, at which point we were dropping bombs whether or not we currently are now, more than 60 days later.

I believe some notification did occur then, but he extended under the statute. Now we're not involved in that way. So what is the problem? Are you opposed to refuelling and support? If so, why?
posted by Ironmouth at 12:09 PM on June 20, 2011


The act allows the president to carry on a military action for up to 60 days without any congressional pre- or post- authorization. It requires notification to congress within 48 hours if the president uses his power to engage in military operations without congressional pre-authorization (as that term is specifically defined under the act).

So if the specific combat operations requiring approval end before the 60 days is up under the act, there's no further authorization required. The authorization is to allow continuing military operations--even if congress didn't grant it, it wouldn't make the original military action "illegal" because the War Powers act specifically does grant the executive the power to unilaterally authorize the use of military force within the limits of the act, subject to continuing approval after 60 days.

The point is, if we aren't doing bombing runs with American personnel anymore, then we aren't participating in the international mission in a way that requires congressional authorization anymore, so it isn't needed. That's the argument, anyway, as far as I can parse it, and legally, it makes sense to me, assuming it's true that our own personnel are no longer actively engaged in combat in Libya. And that shouldn't be that hard to confirm.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:10 PM on June 20, 2011


Actually, this whole debate is really missing the point: We wouldn't need to argue about bombing other countries if we didn't have a massive world-wide economic empire. If we choose to dismantle our empire, these internal contradictions (Obama is a democrat! But he bombs brown people! WTF?) would resolve themselves.

How do you dismantle this? Do you propose barring US citizens from trading abroad?
posted by Ironmouth at 12:12 PM on June 20, 2011


I would support Obama getting authorization from congress for ongoing conflict with Libya; I am mildly disappointed that he hasn't.

But the level of rhetoric over this question is laughable, and gives evidence to the accusation of "echo chamber" that MeFi often gets.
posted by klangklangston at 12:18 PM on June 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


Sorry that last comment was meant for cobra_high_tigers

and I know you're getting touchy but gawker-level snark doesn't help in a conversation like this. Even if what you were saying had anything to do with my point.

You're right. I bristled a bit too much at you, and I apologize. It just seemed to me that anyone with a strong opinion on this topic ought to know a basic fact like that already. The notification to congress wasn't exactly a secret; it was widely reported.

posted by saulgoodman at 12:19 PM on June 20, 2011


Supply and support, brother.

"The United States is providing unique assets and capabilities that other NATO and coalition nations either do not possess or possess in very limited numbers -- such as suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD); unmanned aerial systems; aerial refueling; and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) support."

We're suppressing their air defense by dropping bombs on it.

(Or what you used to call "war" when it was a Republican doing it.)


We are giving those weapons to NATO. We are not dropping them. The French are. They are Wild Weasel munitions. They home in on radar equipment.

Under the War Powers Act we can supply those without activating the War Powers Act.

Why all this love for ole Muammar? I guess that if Chavez says he's a good guy the far left must agree.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:21 PM on June 20, 2011


In the absence of a declaration of war, in any case in which United States Armed Forces are introduced—
(1) into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances;
(2) into the territory, airspace or waters of a foreign nation, while equipped for combat, except for deployments which relate solely to supply, replacement, repair, or training of such forces; or
(3) in numbers which substantially enlarge United States Armed Forces equipped for combat already located in a foreign nation;


First, note the "or." Only one clause has to be satisfied. The best bet is clause two, particularly if "such forces" is replaced with its antecedent basis thusly:

"in any case in which United States Armed Forces are introduced into the territory, airspace or waters of a foreign nation, while equipped for combat, except for deployments which relate solely to supply, replacement, repair, or training of [the United States Armed Forces]"

In this case, US armed forces have been introduced in to the territory and airspace of foreign countries while equipped for combat. The exception in clause two is clearly meant to cover things like fuel stops at military bases in foreign countries and friendly training exercises. It emphatically does not cover something like refueling NATO planes since they are not part of the United States Armed Forces.

This is an open and shut case, in my opinion. Obama is refusing to go to Congress not because he honestly thinks he doesn't need the authorization but because he knows he won't get it. So he is shirking the law in order to advance his policy goals. This is antithetical to our system of government (specifically separation of powers and checks & balances), no matter who does it or what policy is being advanced.

Why all this love for ole Muammar?

I have no love for Gaddafi. This is about the rule of law.
posted by jedicus at 12:32 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ironmouth: Now we're not involved in that way. So what is the problem? Are you opposed to refuelling and support? If so, why?

I'm not opposed to refuelling and support as abstract concepts. It all depends on context. And in the context of massive ongoing deployments of troops in two different nations, in addition to drone campaigns and special ops missions in several others, against the backdrop of a Congress slashing domestic programs that I see as beneficial because of the current deficit, my tendencies are towards exercising caution before getting militarily involved. As you said in a previous comment, "Now that we're in, we must fix it and get out."

But that's just my opinion about whether or not it was a wise idea to get involved. My feelings on the legality of this conflict are: If we ARE still engaged in hostilities, I have a problem with still being there. I'm in favor of government officials being bound by the rule of law and the Bush administration's lawlessness was one of my biggest problems with it.

The White House position is that we are no longer engaged in hostilities, and your approval of the campaign appears to derive from this. However, this is not an issue free of dispute, as attested by the fact that the head of the OLC, the Attorney General, the DoD General Counsel all disagree. The White House report describes American air strikes to suppress enemy air defenses, and Predator strikes against "a specific set of targets." I'm not personally convinced that these actions don't fall under the definition of "hostilities," so I approach the report with a lot more skepticism.

saulgoodman: You're right, I should have looked it up or not said anything, it was pretty lazy otherwise. I'm just procrastinating from studying and somehow it made sense in my head that googling a side issue would be a bigger waste of time than just plain old commenting on MeFi in the first place, which is silly in retrospect
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 12:35 PM on June 20, 2011


Why all this love for ole Muammar? I guess that if Chavez says he's a good guy the far left must agree.

Nothing like Iraq.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:40 PM on June 20, 2011


the level of rhetoric over this question is laughable

Instead of telling us how amused you are, try telling us why drone strikes against a foreign power that poses no security threat to the United States do not constitute hostilities under the War Powers Act.

Obama is refusing to go to Congress not because he honestly thinks he doesn't need the authorization but because he knows he won't get it.

But of course he would get it. Maybe by not as wide a margin now that NATO is admitting to blowing up children. But with even Boehner running interference for him, how could he not get authorization?

No, I'm afraid the answer is even worse than that. The reason he's not going to Congress is because it would defeat the purpose of winning for the executive branch the unchecked power to wage drone warfare. [Which is The Future of war, apparently.]
posted by Trurl at 12:44 PM on June 20, 2011


The exception in clause two is clearly meant to cover things like fuel stops at military bases in foreign countries and friendly training exercises.

You know my old legal writing teacher said that when someone uses the word "clearly" it most certainly isn't clear.

If this was so clear, then why isn't that exact language in there. That's simply your own parsing of the language gussied up with the word "clearly." The statute does not say that at all.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:44 PM on June 20, 2011


Let's say Obama calls the Republicans' bluff, and asks for authority. They deny it because they don't want any successes on his record, and we abandon Libya. The rebellion is crushed within the week.

Boy, if you think whacking Bin Laden made Obama look better than the repubs, imagine what that would do to them. Even Fox will have a hard time spinning that one (though I wouldn't underestimate them).

It's playing chicken with the rebels' lives and that of their supporters; it'd be a slaughterhouse on the ground for rebels, partisans, suspected partisans and anyone who can be made to look like one by someone with a grudge -- and it's a horrible gamble to make, that the Republicans are smart enough not to shoot themselves in the foot. But he may have to make it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:44 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let's say Obama calls the Republicans' bluff, and asks for authority. They deny it because they don't want any successes on his record, and we abandon Libya. The rebellion is crushed within the week.

Boy, if you think whacking Bin Laden made Obama look better than the repubs, imagine what that would do to them. Even Fox will have a hard time spinning that one (though I wouldn't underestimate them).

It's playing chicken with the rebels' lives and that of their supporters; it'd be a slaughterhouse on the ground for rebels, partisans, suspected partisans and anyone who can be made to look like one by someone with a grudge -- and it's a horrible gamble to make, that the Republicans are smart enough not to shoot themselves in the foot. But he may have to make it.


The whole thing is designed to make liberals mad at the President. Appears to be working here, at least.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:47 PM on June 20, 2011


If designed then it is by defintion a conspiracy.
posted by clavdivs at 12:55 PM on June 20, 2011


Libya civilian deaths 'sap NATO credibility' .
Despite rhetoric of promise, Obama's policy in Libya is fuelled by insider politics and motives. Both Al Jazeera links the second from Andrew Bacevich. And from this side of the pond, Simon Jenkins considers that Eisenhower's worst fears came true. We invent enemies to buy the bombs.
posted by adamvasco at 1:01 PM on June 20, 2011


Let’s be crystal clear as to what happened here: The Attorney General, Head of the Office of Legal Counsel and the General Counsel for the Pentagon/DOD all listened to Obama’s plan to flat out ignore the War Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C. 1541-1548), and the Article I power it represents, and they unanimously said it was untenable and illegal in the face of the War Powers Resolution.

... the conduct we are discussing here is precisely the nature and type of which the Founders contemplated when adopting the separation of powers and impeachment provisions. Not to mention placing war making authority within the Article I scope of Congress.
posted by Trurl at 1:01 PM on June 20, 2011


Instead of telling us how amused you are, try telling us why drone strikes against a foreign power that poses no security threat to the United States do not constitute hostilities under the War Powers Act.

It doesn't matter if they constitute "hostilities" or not; the president is authorized under the act to order whatever combat actions he wants without pre-authorization as long as congress is notified within 48 hours (as it was). The second requirement is that retroactive congressional approval must be sought if those actions are still ongoing after 60 days. In this case, the claim is that US personnel are not in fact carrying out strikes against Libya anymore--there are no drone strikes or bombing campaigns in Libya currently being carried out by US personnel (meeting treaty obligations by supporting international allies who are carrying out their own lawful military operations, remember, doesn't run afoul of the act). Since the earlier actions that did amount to "hostilities" were carried out well before the 60 day time period elapsed and are reportedly not currently ongoing, the administration doesn't require congressional approval to continue them. The issue isn't what does and doesn't qualify as "hostilities"; it's are we still actively doing anything now that the grace period is elapsing that requires congressional approval. The administration's claim is, no, we aren't, so we don't need the approval now.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:02 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


We invent enemies to buy the bombs.

So you deny that Qadaffi was attacking the pro-democracy protestors?
posted by Ironmouth at 1:04 PM on June 20, 2011


Dude's a good lawyer

If you need to resort to dubious legal opinions to justify your actions, odds are pretty good what you are up to is not the right thing.
posted by madajb at 1:05 PM on June 20, 2011


there are no drone strikes or bombing campaigns in Libya currently being carried out by US personnel

Congress seems to believe otherwise.

"The White House says there are no hostilities taking place, yet we have got drone attacks under way, we're spending $10 million a day," said Speaker Boehner last week.

If the White House has denied this scandalous lie, I'm not aware of it.
posted by Trurl at 1:10 PM on June 20, 2011


It's important to note that the conclusion Obama did agree with comes from Harold Koh, Legal Advisor for the Dept. of State and who might realistically be called an "expert" on the War Powers Act and a human rights advocate. The way this is being discussed is as if Obama got advice from DoJ et al and merely ignored it, when in fact there were conflicting conclusions - which isn't unexpected in this context.
posted by schoolgirl report at 1:12 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


saulgoodman: In this case, the claim is that US personnel are not in fact carrying out strikes against Libya anymore--there are no drone strikes or bombing campaigns in Libya currently being carried out by US personnel

This seems to be the point of contention. The report says that there ARE drone and manned strikes being carried out by US personnel. From page 9 of the report, in the "Where We Are Now" section: "The overwhelming majority of strike sorties are now being flown by our European allies while American strikes are limited to the suppression of enemy air defense and occasional strikes by unmanned Predator UAVs against a specific set of targets, all within the UN authorization, in order to minimize collateral damage in urban areas."

The White House position is that, even though there are some number of American strikes underway, they don't qualify as "hostilities" under the meaning of the WPA. In the words of SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL in the [more inside] part of the post, "We're not engaged in any of the activities that typically over the years in war powers analysis is considered to constitute hostilities within the meaning of the statute. We're not engaged in sustained fighting. There's been no exchange of fire with hostile forces. We don't have troops on the ground. We don't risk casualties to those troops."

He concludes that, "within the precedence [possible sic (precedents?)] of a war powers analysis, all of which typically are very fact-dependent," the US isn't engaged in hostilities. Others disagree. I've read no cases about how courts define "hostilities" under the WPA though, so I can't say who has the more legally sound argument
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 1:12 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


No Ironmouth I don't; and instead of attacking everything from what you see in lawyer speak I suggest you try and gain a little bit of perspective. The world doesn't operate like a court room. Too many politicians try to hide behind the law. Your arguments frequently abet that situation rather than concede that there are viable alternative viewpoints. I frequently think that all you get off on is confrontation.
posted by adamvasco at 1:14 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


The world doesn't operate like a court room.

This is a question of the law. If you are going to say that you think the President is breaking the law then you have to support that. You can't make a series of legal arguments and then fall back on "the world doesn't operate like a court room."
posted by Ironmouth at 1:18 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Too many politicians try to hide behind the law."

Isn't that a good thing?
posted by rosswald at 1:19 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's important to note that the conclusion Obama did agree with comes from Harold Koh, Legal Advisor for the Dept. of State and who might realistically be called an "expert" on the War Powers Act and a human rights advocate.

I invite you to submit the credentials that make Mr. Koh a more authoritative judge of the president's war-making powers than the unanimous agreement of the OLC Chief, the Attorney General, and DoD General Counsel.
posted by Trurl at 1:20 PM on June 20, 2011


So you deny that Qadaffi was attacking the pro-democracy protestors?

So is Assad, so was Mubarak, so was Ben Ali, so is Bahrain, so is Yemen. Do you think we should attack all of them as well?
posted by empath at 1:20 PM on June 20, 2011


That's simply your own parsing of the language gussied up with the word "clearly." The statute does not say that at all.

It's not just my parsing of the language. Allow me to drop some legislative history for you: "Reports would not be required [under subsection 2] for routine port supply calls, emergency aid measures, normal training exercises, and other noncombat military activities." H.R. Rep. 93-287. Sounds a lot like "fuel stops at military bases in foreign countries and friendly training exercises" to me.

Allow me to drop another bombshell from the House Report: "A report would be required any time combat military forces were sent to another nation to alter or preserve the existing political status quo or to make the U.S. presence felt."

That sounds exactly like what the US is doing in Libya.
posted by jedicus at 1:21 PM on June 20, 2011


Too many politicians try to hide behind the law.

Yes, it's high time we stop allowing 'But I was following the law' to be a valid defense. Let's just hang anyone we don't like.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 1:22 PM on June 20, 2011


It's important to note that the conclusion Obama did agree with comes from Harold Koh, Legal Advisor for the Dept. of State and who might realistically be called an "expert" on the War Powers Act and a human rights advocate.

I invite you to submit the credentials that make Mr. Koh a more authoritative judge of the president's war-making powers than the unanimous agreement of the OLC Chief, the Attorney General, and DoD General Counsel.


Koh? Guy's an incredible lawyer. I have a few friends who work in DOJ, he is a heavyweight and they are often getting him to have to say yea or nay to what they are doing in trial. He's a pro, for sure.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:22 PM on June 20, 2011


The whole thing is designed to make liberals mad at the President. Appears to be working here, at least.


I was mad at the president as soon as we got involved.
posted by empath at 1:22 PM on June 20, 2011


So Ironmouth, you are saying that supply operations do not activate the war powers act, but a bombing operation would?
posted by formless at 1:27 PM on June 20, 2011


[[ I invite you to submit the credentials that make Mr. Koh a more authoritative judge of the president's war-making powers than the unanimous agreement of the OLC Chief, the Attorney General, and DoD General Counsel. ]]

Guy's an incredible lawyer.


I don't think you're going to get him accepted as an expert witness at the impeachment trial based just on that.
posted by Trurl at 1:28 PM on June 20, 2011


This is a question of the law. If you are going to say that you think the President is breaking the law then you have to support that. You can't make a series of legal arguments and then fall back on "the world doesn't operate like a court room.

Well, this got derailed into endless red herrings. The issue isn't whether the war in Libya is just and it's not an issue of the law, it's an issue of government: is what the executive branch considers to be the law going to be determined by the president fishing for an opinion from a "heavyweight" lawyer that agrees with what he wants to do or not? Let's quote the last link:
By bypassing a careful set of procedures designed to produce careful legal opinions, George W. Bush was able to say that he was following the OLC, or at least a rump of the OLC. But he was effectively undermining the OLC's function as an honest broker of executive branch opinions. Obama also bypassed this same careful set of procedures by canvassing various lawyers until he found opinions he liked better than the OLC's. If one is disturbed by Bush's misuse of the process for vetting legal questions, one should be equally disturbed by Obama's irregular procedures.

Lest I be misunderstood, let me make clear that there is no single way that the Executive Branch has to be organized. The Constitution does not speak to it. George Washington consulted various cabinet members about the constitutionality of the First Bank of the United States, finally settling on the views of his Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton. But this was early in the nation's history, and long before the creation of the Justice Department following the Civil War and the creation of the OLC itself in the twentieth century.

Moreover, the practice of having the OLC serve as the canvasser of legal opinions from various parts of the executive branch, and the custom of treating the OLC's opinions-- reached after ample deliberation--as binding on the executive branch is not constitutionally required. The President may disregard the OLC without violating the Constitution.

However, there are good reasons why these practices and customs were implemented. They were designed to prevent Presidents from treating their lawyers like so many guests at a cocktail party that they can causally survey in order to pick out their friends. These procedures exist because there is almost always a prominent and skillful lawyer in the Administration who will tell the President pretty much what he wants to hear.

The OLC's procedures are designed to prevent precisely this sort of cherry picking. If the President can simply canvas the opinions of enough such lawyers he is not restrained very much by the law. Indeed, it is particularly relevant here that one of the lawyers who supported the President's position on Libya is the White House Counsel. The White House Counsel's office, as it has developed over time, is much closer to the political arm of the President's operations, and much much less likely ever to cross the President. White House Counsels who do not facilitate the President's political goals do not remain long as White House Counsels. Not surprisingly, the White House Counsel's office does not have the same academic or judicious traditions of the OLC. Whether or not one thinks that the OLC is likely to say yes to the President simply because it sits in the Justice Department, the White House Counsel's office is likely to be ten times more flexible.
It's a recipe for presidential lawlessness on national security issues. We already saw with Bush how that works out...
posted by ennui.bz at 1:41 PM on June 20, 2011


I think it also indicates that now and forever more, both parties are going to govern by Rove's rules. How's that going to work out?
posted by ennui.bz at 1:44 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I invite you to submit the credentials that make Mr. Koh a more authoritative judge of the president's war-making powers than the unanimous agreement of the OLC Chief, the Attorney General, and DoD General Counsel.

I'm not arguing that he's correct, I'm just pointing out that Obama didn't, as some seem to be saying, substitute solely his own judgment for that of those you've cited. He did seek the judgment of others at least as qualified as those people.

I would also suggest that many of you appear to be making the same mistake you think Obama made - that is, you've staked out your position on the subject and are choosing the conclusion you think best supports that position. And worse yet, you're doing so without the benefit of fully understanding the arguments being made in support of either position (I don't fully understand them either, so I don't have an opinion on the matter). It's understandable, we do the same thing in our discussions about Supreme Court decisions - we don't know art, but we know what we like.

Finally, I'd virtually guarantee that if you were presented with a memo outlining the analysis of OLC, DoJ and DoD GC, you'd think it was very persuasive indeed. And if you were then presented with a similar memo from Koh et al, you'd think it too was very persuasive indeed. Then you'd need to make your decision, Justice Trurl.
posted by schoolgirl report at 1:50 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's a recipe for presidential lawlessness on national security issues.

Or as Glenn Greenwald writes today:
Today, The New York Times describes the "growth market" for drones: ... "the Pentagon has asked Congress for nearly $5 billion for drones next year" -- that includes dramatic increases in the number, types and uses of those weapons. The NYT says this "explosion" is "transforming the way America fights and thinks about its wars": note how the notion that the U.S. fights multiple "wars" at all times is just a given. In particular, the NYT correctly notes that the proliferation of drones will also certainly make wars more likely, given the perception that they are cost-free (at least to Americans, but not, of course, to the increasing number of countries bombed by sky robots). That is another reason to care about the debate over Libya: if Obama succeeds in entrenching the notion that drone attacks are not "wars" or even "hostilities," he and future presidents will be able to bomb other countries with even fewer constraints than they have now.
I remind the supporters of the President's decision that a Congressional rubber-stamp for his war always was - and remains - his for the asking at any time. For him to accomplish whatever fine things you think he's accomplishing in Libya, he didn't need to get sued by members of his own party. All he had to do was go through the motion of asking for a force authorization.

So he must have a very powerful reason for not paying even that much lip service to the democratic process. I submit that the only conceivable reason is to claim for the executive branch the unchecked power to wage drone warfare.
posted by Trurl at 1:58 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


He did seek the judgment of others at least as qualified as those people.

I have invited you to present the credentials that establish that qualification. In their continuing absence, I will need to fall back on - not my own judgment - but the unanimous agreement of the OLC Chief, the Attorney General, and the DoD General Counsel.
posted by Trurl at 2:03 PM on June 20, 2011


I trust we can each concede that one doesn't reach the positions in question without reason. But hey, Trurl, you're welcome to view the Wikipedia entry on Koh I cited to earlier. I imagine you don't know squat about the credentials of the OLC Chief, the AG, or the DoD GC, and yet you're trusting their judgment. Why? Because they support your notion of what's right and wrong here, I expect. That's fine, but don't pretend it's not what's happening.
posted by schoolgirl report at 2:13 PM on June 20, 2011


I imagine you don't know squat about the credentials of the OLC Chief, the AG, or the DoD GC, and yet you're trusting their judgment. Why?

For the reason mentioned in the NYT scoop:

Presidents have the legal authority to override the legal conclusions of the Office of Legal Counsel and to act in a manner that is contrary to its advice, but it is extraordinarily rare for that to happen. Under normal circumstances, the office’s interpretation of the law is legally binding on the executive branch.

When a President does something extraordinarily rare to wage a war, that's a bad sign.
posted by Trurl at 2:18 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, you mean the libertarian-style-wing of the Tea Party? LOL... Sure, all 3 of them who might consistently be considered anti-war.
64% of Tea Party supporters think we should either reduce troop levels (37%) or leave Afghanistan (27%) while 28% support maintaining current troop levels.

Admittedly, they're less anti-war than conservatives as a whole, who in turn are less anti-war than Americans as a whole...

But they still look like the Pacifists' Convention compared to either the Democrats or the Republicans in federal office.
posted by roystgnr at 2:22 PM on June 20, 2011


There is too much liberal white guilt built in to this for anyone to admit he is wrong and a failure. It simply will not be heard or acknowledged by a great deal of people.

Seriously!? What the hell is this? Freerepublic?

Well there does appear to be a shit ton of overly dramatic, rhetorically flourishing appeals to the might of American salvation vis-a-vis dropping bombs on brown people, so... oh wait the color's different.


And...thank you for proving my point... I worked for the Big O last campaign, so no freerepublic here. Just massive disillusionment. But I do appreciate that --thanks to this mentality-- any doubts I have about the administration can be put down to wishing to drop bombs on brown people. I'm sure that's it. I went from a civil rights to the klan overnight. How did I not spot that myself? Do you even wait for the hammer to hit before your knee jerks?
posted by umberto at 2:30 PM on June 20, 2011


Meta
posted by empath at 2:35 PM on June 20, 2011


I'll say this for Bush/Cheney...at least they felt obligated to lie to Congress about Iraq.

I will not be voting for Obama in 2012. I am a liberal and will only vote for liberals. And all you people who will yell at me about it can just re-read your own comments from the past 3 years explaining how it's ridiculous to expect the President to effect any real change anyway.
posted by Legomancer at 2:50 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


As I understand it, the War Powers Resolution was passed in 1973 pretty much as a direct response to the extended conflicts in Korea and Vietnam (the latter did get congressional approval for extended military action, the former did not). Since then, all the big "conflicts" we fought did get congressional approval at some point with the exception of Bosnia under Clinton, and Liberia and Haiti under GW Bush.

Of course that didn't stop Angola, Zaire, Afghanistan (1979), El Salvador, Libya (1981), Egypt, Nicaragua, Grenada, Honduras, etc., etc...

Point is, objectively, the War Powers Resolution doesn't do the job it's intended to do. At all. They should scrap it and start one new with some real teeth if they're serious about limiting the executive.
posted by Tikirific at 2:55 PM on June 20, 2011


See, this kind of thing right here is the problem...

"I'm no lawyer, I'll admit, but I do know thing or two about shooting wars, having been in a few and having studied others, and the conflict in which we have intervened in Libya is most certainly a war. The reason why the Obama Administration's legalistic determination that it is not a war is ridiculous is not because we've gotten to the point where we care most about which lawyers were smarter than other lawyers but because it does not pass the "common sense test" or "laugh test" of most Americans." - Center for a New American Security

The proper question is whether the President is correct or not as a matter of law, not what "common sense" says is the politically wise decision. Frankly I'd rather my President be right on the merits even if he's wrong on the optics.

And it matters not whether "the conflict we have intervened in is a war." It may be, but that doesn't mean our actions necessarily qualify as hostilities for purposes of War Powers. They may or may not, but to pass uninformed judgment prefaced by "IANAL!" is crap.
posted by schoolgirl report at 2:55 PM on June 20, 2011


They may or may not, but to pass uninformed judgment prefaced by "IANAL!" is crap.

I don't think the correct answer is for anything political is to 'just leave it for the lawyers.'
posted by empath at 3:07 PM on June 20, 2011


But the entire dispute over this decision - the genesis of this post! - is about the question of legality.
posted by schoolgirl report at 3:21 PM on June 20, 2011


I think it is perfectly reasonable to be upset about the arbitrary and unilateral execrise of executive power here and elsewhere. The root cause would seem to be a lack of an effect check within our system
posted by humanfont at 3:24 PM on June 20, 2011


I think it is perfectly reasonable to be upset about the arbitrary and unilateral execrise of executive power here and elsewhere. The root cause would seem to be a lack of an effect check within our system

There's a huge check in the system. Congress can defund the war. It did it in Viet Nam. It overwhelmingly voted, preemptively, to ban the use of funds to fight in Viet Nam. That's why I don't like the Act at all. Its a mealy-mouthed way for Congress to not stand up for itself. The Act itself is unconstitutional because it pretends to limit the ability of the President to command the armed forces. Only the President may command the armed forces. What Congress can do is defund the war.

the reason Obama isn't taking this to congress is that he sees this as small, which it is, and he doesn't want to allow Boehner to use it as another excuse to try and cut funds for things.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:32 PM on June 20, 2011


Note that the Viet Nam defunding was after we pulled out, so we couldn't get back in.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:32 PM on June 20, 2011


I think this post should be deleted because not enough consideration was given to the possibility of titling it "Obama bin HITLER!"
posted by The Tensor at 3:48 PM on June 20, 2011


this isn't Iraq. This is helping the pro-democracy rebels. Why do you want Qadaffi around?

Ironmouth, I appreciate your perspective here in defense of the president's assertion that he's not in violation of the war powers act, in encouraging people to look more closely at the law rather than the platonic version of it that tends to live in most of our heads, and in rebutting (as I have) the idea that Libya == Iraq.

But just like I don't appreciate the implication that because I support our activity in Libya I must either be in favor of an unchecked executive, or must just be extending my support because Obama's "my guy," or must be some kind of imperialist who believes the world isn't safe until every last brown person has been baptized by an american bomb, I'll bet people don't appreciate the implication that because they're concerned about the rule of law, they must also be Qadaffi supporters.

I think you're on more solid ground trying to illuminate the legal position of the President, and for what it's worth, before this thread I would've tended to agree he's treading ground discouraged by the war powers act (even though I believe our actions in Libya are probably a good idea), but you and some others have convinced me it may not be that simple.

I remind the supporters of the President's decision that a Congressional rubber-stamp for his war always was - and remains - his for the asking at any time.

Trurl, given that the gestalt of the House over the last year seems to range from fundamentally contrary where the president is concerned to flat out insane, I don't know how you're arriving at this conclusion.
posted by weston at 3:49 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why do you want Qadaffi around?

This is vile sub-Rovian shit-flinging and beneath responding to, really.
posted by empath at 3:52 PM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Empath: "(And yes, I think the Iraq War was launched with good intentions -- despite the fact that we had a lot of bad actors in the white house pushing for it, the war would not have happened without a lot of people with the best of intentions going along with it)."

Good intentions don't mean shit to me if the at the basis of those intentions are a seriously flawed world view that does not stack up with reality.

EVERYTHING said about the Iraq War prior was utter complete bullshit. I knew it at the time, there was ZERO hindsight for me. I knew from the moment GW started even talking about it when my brain starting doing huge "WTF?!?!?!" loops trying to absorb the logic of such a decision. By the time "Shock and Awe" began I felt like I was living in some bizarre fucked up alternate reality, and that perhaps I was slowly going insane and hallucinating the entire goddamn thing.

I am so startled anyone could even accept the most basic premise of the Iraq War that I am not even capable of arguing it with you. It's like arguing the color of blue and you're telling me it's red. It's simply nonsensical and I don't even know how to begin mapping our realities onto a common framework on this....
posted by roboton666 at 3:52 PM on June 20, 2011


Uh. I think the Iraq War was also built on lies and was a mistake. I'm not arguing that it was good. I'm arguing that some people (many people) supported it with the best of intentions, just as many people are supporting the current Libyan war with the best of intentions.

That doesn't make either of them less of a mistake.
posted by empath at 3:56 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a huge check in the system. Congress can defund the war. It did it in Viet Nam. It overwhelmingly voted, preemptively, to ban the use of funds to fight in Viet Nam. That's why I don't like the Act at all. Its a mealy-mouthed way for Congress to not stand up for itself. The Act itself is unconstitutional because it pretends to limit the ability of the President to command the armed forces. Only the President may command the armed forces. What Congress can do is defund the war.

One of the articles of inpeachment against Nixon was for the bombing of Cambodia. The Constitution clearly invests the power to make war aka initiate hostilities into the hands of Congress. However as a practical matter Presidents have used their CNC power to dispatch troops and politically it is very difficult to cut off funds for soldiers in the field. Congress could impeach te President for this act and remove him from office, but again this is an impossibly high political barrier. The courts refuse to get involved. This as a practical matter POTUS is unchecked in their power to initiate conflicts with foreign governments. This unilateral power is seen by many people as a danger to the Republic.

I personally like Obama and support intervention in Libya. However Obama was wrong to get the United States involved without prior consent of Congress. Other Presidents have gotten away with it and I think that a constitutional amendment clarifying the limits of the CnC power and the role of Congress in consenting to the initiation of any long term action is in order.
posted by humanfont at 4:05 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


> The US isn't responsible for what megalomaniacal despots do, unless we put them there,

> on balance, not getting involved is usually the better course of action for everyone.

These come as close as any comments so far have come to the hard core of the issue, behind the legal and definitional wrangling. Is it true? Can it possibly be true? Being the world's policeman leads to all kinds of bad shit, I can't possible deny that. And yet... I Will Not Godwin The Thread... but is it any less culpable for a nation to say "we don't want to get involved" in a situation like, say, Srebrenica, than it was for Kitty Genovese's neighbors to say the same? If it is, I'm not clever enough to see how.
posted by jfuller at 4:18 PM on June 20, 2011


You know, there is nothing that guarantees the American Empire's existence into the future. These continuing military operations are unaffordable in the short-term (they have been for since day one) and in the long-term unsustainable on every level. Perhaps that's why no one in government is talking about long-term high unemployment rates, because with them, the military has no problem recruiting whoever they need for these foreign adventures. Thus, draft avoided forever, and no anti-war movement of substance (because no one is invested in these conflicts but a small minority of the citizenry). Meanwhile a few select industries continue to make massive profits off of blood and war; now they even have many Democrats (supposedly the anti-war party) ardently defending the expansion of military conflict involving the U.S.

Where's Dwight Eisenhower when you need him?

I was actually in the Army but anytime anyone asks me about it now I make sure I preface it with something like: "I would never tell you, or anyone else, that the joining military is a good option."
posted by IvoShandor at 4:27 PM on June 20, 2011


I can't possible deny that. And yet... I Will Not Godwin The Thread... but is it any less culpable for a nation to say "we don't want to get involved" in a situation like, say, Srebrenica, than it was for Kitty Genovese's neighbors to say the same? If it is, I'm not clever enough to see how.

Of course it is. The alternative viewpoint is untenable. If other nations are culpable when a country murders its own citizens, they are culpable for every action taken by others. It would make us responsible for the plight of women across the Middle East and morally require us to intervene by force. It would make us culpable for the suffering of the North Korean people and require an invasion which would taken uncountable numbers of lives. We would be responsible for the treatment of Chinese dissidents and citizens. And so on.

If sovereignty is to mean anything at all, it has to mean that we are responsible, in part, for the treatment of our own nation towards its citizens and not responsible for the treatment of the citizen's of other nations by their government except insofar as we install or prop up those governments.
posted by Justinian at 4:39 PM on June 20, 2011


I Will Not Godwin The Thread... but is it any less culpable for a nation to say "we don't want to get involved" in a situation like, say, Srebrenica, than it was for Kitty Genovese's neighbors to say the same?

I'm not sure that carpet bombing the apartment block would have helped.
posted by empath at 4:55 PM on June 20, 2011


Empath but it worked in Kosovo, why won't it work here?
posted by humanfont at 5:09 PM on June 20, 2011


Empath but it worked in Kosovo, why won't it work here?

Is it working? Have we stopped Gadaffi from killing people?
posted by empath at 6:49 PM on June 20, 2011


The NATO bombing certainly has slowed him down from the widespread reprisal killing he was doing before it started. It seems rather silly to imply that the NATO bombing has done no good in preventing casualties, especially civilian ones.

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
posted by klangklangston at 7:03 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ironmouth: "Why all this love for ole Muammar?"

People can have ulterior motives for arguing against intervening in Libya, but I'm reasonably sure being Gaddafi fans isn't one of them.

Stick to the legal wrangling and political calculus; rhetoric like this just makes you sound like an ass.

IvoShandor: "now they even have many Democrats (supposedly the anti-war party)"

Democrats were never "the anti-war party," but anti-specific wars. World War II, Bosnia, Afghanistan (to an extent) -- necessary. Vietnam, Iraq, the prospect of Iran? Unnecessary. Even Obama as a Senate candidate laid it out that way:
Let me begin by saying that although this has been billed as an anti-war rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances. [...] I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:14 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure we've done any good.

I mean why not lob a half a billion dollars of bombs in there, it can't hurt, right?

I'm not sure we've done any good. I mean, sure, stopping him from killing someone today is good today, but what are the long term consequences? He is still in power, and still killing people, and now we are killing innocent Libyans, too.

I assume that when the rebels eventually take Tripoli, that they are also going to have to kill a bunch of people to do it, with NATO air support.

You don't win wars without killing a whole bunch of people.

If the goal was to stop Gadaffi from killing his own people, and the means of doing it is by killing a bunch of people, and Gadaffi is still killing his own people, then I'm not sure what we've accomplished.
posted by empath at 7:18 PM on June 20, 2011


Is it working? Have we stopped Gadaffi from killing people

In some instances. Give it time.
posted by humanfont at 7:19 PM on June 20, 2011


In some instances. Give it time.

How do you think this ends?
posted by empath at 7:20 PM on June 20, 2011


It ends badly. Less badly than it might have otherwise, probably.
posted by humanfont at 7:49 PM on June 20, 2011


What gives you that confidence? I don't see any particular reason to believe that fewer lives will have been lost and less treasure expended than if we'd done nothing. Not even fewer innocent lives.
posted by Justinian at 9:26 PM on June 20, 2011


What gives you that confidence? I don't see any particular reason to believe that fewer lives will have been lost and less treasure expended than if we'd done nothing. Not even fewer innocent lives.

Is this really an information issue or have you simply excluded evidence or reasons that don't conform to your current views?
posted by humanfont at 4:05 AM on June 21, 2011


The world doesn't operate like a court room.

Does this little chestnut from the Cheney-era extend even to court rooms now? If even court rooms don't operate like court rooms anymore, we might have a problem. In this case, we're talking about law, as practiced in... court rooms. So this remark may not be particularly on point.

Just because you don't approve of US involvement in Libya doesn't mean our getting involved was/is illegal. It doesn't seem to be illegal under US law, unless we're actively continuing to use US troops to carry out combat missions or to conduct bombing attacks, which reportedly we are not. And if US involvement were illegal under international law, well, I'm guessing that would have come up when the UN was passing the resolution to start the Libyan mission with the US providing logistical support.

So what does that leave? I suppose it's conceivable there are municipal ordinances that would apply. But I'm pretty sure those would be trumped by federal authority.

I'm still hopeful the situation in Libya will reach a workable if imperfect end-state in the relatively near term. I might be mistaken, but that's still my most optimistic hope.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:15 AM on June 21, 2011


unless we're actively continuing to use US troops to carry out combat missions or to conduct bombing attacks, which reportedly we are not.

Do you think a drone attack constitutes hostilities or not?

What if there were thousands? What if we leveled a city with drones? Is there some point where UAV use becomes a war?
posted by empath at 7:22 AM on June 21, 2011


The question is whether those drone operations are still ongoing. The only reports I find on the subject indicate that NATO carried out some drone strikes in Libya in April. Have their been any reports of ongoing drone operations recently? And if so, are US personnel carrying out those drone strikes or are our NATO partners carrying them out (because it's not a violation for our allies to carry out those strikes themselves using our equipment and support)?
posted by saulgoodman at 7:32 AM on June 21, 2011


ugh. "have there been"
posted by saulgoodman at 7:33 AM on June 21, 2011


Since the United States handed control of the air war in Libya to NATO in early April, American warplanes have struck at Libyan air defenses about 60 times, and remotely operated drones have fired missiles at Libyan forces about 30 times, according to military officials.
Related

The most recent strike from a piloted United States aircraft was on Saturday, and the most recent strike from an American drone was on Wednesday, the officials said.
posted by empath at 7:35 AM on June 21, 2011


In fact, for that matter, a Google search on the topic (obviously, not proof of anything by itself) only seems to turn up one reported incidence of drone strikes in Libya, not a current, ongoing campaign of US supported drone attacks. Am I missing something?
posted by saulgoodman at 7:36 AM on June 21, 2011


Thanks for the cites. So there have been at least a couple of drone operations and defensive strikes using US equipment and personnel under NATO command. But it's still not clear to me from the reporting alone what level of ongoing US involvement there is.

the most recent strike from an American drone was on Wednesday, the officials said.

Yeah, as in, the physical drone used in the strike was an American one, in accordance with our support mission. But did NATO or the US command the operation?

As for the piloted strikes, the article notes: 'Under military doctrine, strikes aimed at suppressing air defenses are typically considered to be defensive actions, not offensive.' If that's true, then even if we do have our own pilots flying some limited air missions, those actions might be perfectly consistent with the act.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:46 AM on June 21, 2011


We are currently engaged in similar levels of low intensity conflict in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. Historically the US has bombed a number of countries without congressional approval or authorization.
posted by humanfont at 7:49 AM on June 21, 2011


Also, as an aside, Afghanistan might not be an endless conflict anymore after all:
Steeper pullout is raised as option for Afghanistan.
President Obama’s national security team is contemplating troop reductions in Afghanistan that would be steeper than those discussed even a few weeks ago, with some officials arguing that such a change is justified by the rising cost of the war and the death of Osama bin Laden, which they called new “strategic considerations.”
posted by saulgoodman at 7:52 AM on June 21, 2011


furiousxgeorge: "So how did the Attorney General miss that all we are doing is supply and support and that they aren't hostilities"

Too much FOX News, I suspect.

saulgoodman: "Steeper pullout is raised as option for Afghanistan."

Now that's excellent news.

Re: Libya, I had hoped that Qadaffi would see the futility of continued fighting, but since that's not happening, I'm glad we're helping to keep something of a lid on things without spending the ridiculous sums we have in Iraq and Afghanistan. My general position is that supporting UN-backed operations is a fine use of Chinese money. Operations which we have to take on ourselves, or strongarm others into providing token assistance, not so much.

And saying that it's about oil makes no sense whatsoever. We already had access to Libyan oil. All the hostilities managed to do in that respect was cut off the flow.
posted by wierdo at 11:17 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


If even court rooms don't operate like court rooms anymore
I apologize for my earlier remark which was "fuzzy".
What we seem to be seeing more and more of; is that POTUS whether Bush or Obama is deliberately sourcing legal opinion to try and go around established law. This cannot be a good thing especially when said established laws are there to stop these excesses in the first place. (when are you coming back empath?).
posted by adamvasco at 1:49 PM on June 21, 2011


What we seem to be seeing more and more of; is that POTUS whether Bush or Obama is deliberately sourcing legal opinion to try and go around established law.

This isn't just Obama or Bush though. Historically Presidents have been able to choose to make decisions after selecting advice that meets their political goals. As far as I know there is nothing constitutional that requires that the President heed the advice of a specific cabinet member or legal adviser. Neither is there any force of law behind that advice. There is nothing that prevents the House of Representatives from taking a completely opposite opinion and either acting to remove funds from the war, or taking the position that a High Crime or Misdemeanor has occurred. It is also possible that the court could take action and find otherwise using its judicial powers; though in cases such as Andrew Jackson the ability the court to enforce its decisions is not questionable.

I see no particular trend line here. It does seem that when Presidents take these actions unilaterally the nation suffers for it, and perhaps it would be wise to make changes to the constitution to limit unitary executive decision making.
posted by humanfont at 2:32 PM on June 21, 2011


In an attempt to explain away the powers invested in Congress, the Obama administrative has launched a war on words. - Jonathan Schell
posted by adamvasco at 12:40 AM on June 22, 2011


U.S. Expands Its Drone War Into Somalia
posted by homunculus at 12:29 PM on July 3, 2011


U.S. Ambassador Greeted With Roses by Syrian Protesters in Hama
posted by homunculus at 2:46 PM on July 8, 2011


Congress Whines, But Won’t Defund Libya War
posted by homunculus at 3:12 PM on July 8, 2011


« Older 'Jackass' star Ryan Dunn has died at age 34 from ...  |  Although much has been said ab... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments