Day: May 19, 2011

The War Powers Act Of 1973 And The Libyan Intervention

It is now 60 days since the Obama Administration decided to intervene in the Libyan Civil War against Moammar Gaddafi in unity with NATO, without using ground troops.

So far, the Libyan intervention has not succeeded, and it is exasperating to many that this nation is now, in some form, involved with three wars at the same time–Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, although the Iraqi intervention is not considered a war situation at this point.

Controversy is now arising over the Obama Administration being involved in Libya, and six extremely right wing senators, including some Tea Party favorites, are now demanding that the administration seek a joint resolution of Congress to measure whether the Congress is willing to back a continued involvement in that North African nation.

The list of six senators includes a “nightmare” list of the worst senators in that chamber–Rand Paul of Kentucky, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin (all Tea Party activists)– along with Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and John Cornyn of Texas.

They claim to understand the War Powers Act of 1973, which was vetoed by President Richard Nixon, and has been opposed in principle by every President since of both parties. But Senator John McCain, Obama’s opponent in the 2008 Presidential election, claims the law is unconstitutional, and that the President cannot be hamstrung by legislation limiting his Commander in Chief powers.

The legislation has never been considered by the Supreme Court, but the understanding of the author is that IF the Congress, by majority vote in both houses, demands a troop withdrawal from a military action begun by the President, that the President then would have a 60-90 day period to withdraw the troops. It is not clear that the President must gain a majority resolution in both houses to CONTINUE the war effort!

The War Powers Act has long been seen as a “paper tiger” that is a feeble attempt to control the President’s war powers. The reality is that in the modern world, the whole concept of interfering with a President’s military powers seems counterproductive, as the President and his advisers have more information about our defense posture and national security, and that senators or congressman who have a political motivation to interfere with smart policy making cannot be allowed to interfere in such a way as to undermine his ability to do his job.

Having said the above, it is clear to the author that the Libyan intervention is questionable as to its purpose, effectiveness, and its righteousness, but to allow a group of right wing senators who, in many cases, either backed, or if they had been in Congress, likely would have supported the Iraq War, to now be so “principled” on Libya, makes one want to laugh heartily, as it is obviously just a political ploy by men who have few principles in reality!