When the House of Representatives adjourned on March 17 for a week-long recess, few expected it was doing so on the eve of a major war. But indeed, within hours the UN had approved military strikes against Libya, and by March 19, the US was at war.
Only it’s a war that President Obama started without even a cursory congressional vote. The previous two major wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, may never have been formally declared as the Constitution requires, but there were at least flimsy pretexts stemming from other congressional measures.
Libya, however, has no such pretext. It isn’t even nominally part of the “global war on terror,” Congress didn’t vote on anything Libya-related, and the president appears to be using the UN Security Council vote as a substitute for a congressional one.
Which isn’t sitting well with Congress, as a number of Republicans and Democrats slammed the attacks as expensive, unwise, and lacking a real plan. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D – OH) even suggested that launching the attack as Obama did was an impeachable offense.
President Obama insisted that the attack was vital because “the writ of the international community must be enforced.” But with even the Arab League, which was an advocate of the UN resolution, bashing the US for its heavy-handed strikes, his claims of international support for his actions are shaky. They are also, in the question of accountability to Congress, very much beside the point.
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