Monday, April 4, 2011

Constitutionality of the Libyan Intervention

As of recent, there has been an ongoing battle over the constitutionality of the Libya intervention. While many are saying that President Obama, due to the War Powers Resolution, is able to wage war for 60 days without Congressional approval, this ignores circumstances listed in the War Powers Resolution for the President to deploy US military forces.

The War Powers Resolution does state that the President has 60 calendar days to deploy the US military, as well as that the “sixty-day period shall be extended for not more than an additional thirty days” [1] unless the President submits to the Congress in writing that “unavoidable military necessity” requires the US military to remain in place as to safely cover the withdrawal of US forces.

While those who cite the War Powers Resolution to defend the constitutionality of the Libyan intervention are correct in that sense, they fail to cite the specific circumstances in which the President can deploy American military forces without Congressional consent. The circumstances under which that may occur are:

  1. A declaration of war
  2. A specific statutory authorization
  3. A national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.[2] (Specific statutory authorization” in this case means Congressional approval, as the root word, statute, is defined as “a law enacted by the legislative branch of a government.”[3])

The situation in Libya was neither a declaration of war, nor was it a national emergency and since there was no Congressional approval, President Obama’s intervention in Libya violates the War Powers Resolution Act.

Bruce Ackerman of the Council of Foreign Relations argues this point, saying:

[The] provisions have little to do with the constitutionality of the Libyan intervention, since Libya did not attack our "armed forces." The president failed to mention this fundamental point in giving Congress notice of his decision on Monday, in compliance with another provision of the resolution. Without an armed "attack," there is no compelling reason for the president to cut Congress out of a crucial decision on war and peace. [4]

There may be those who argue that the Senate's recent passing of a resolution in regards to Libya which states that they "[urge] the United Nations Security Council to take such further action as may be necessary to protect civilians in Libya from attack, including the possible imposition of a no-fly zone over Libyan territory."[5] While this may be true, it is not an endorsement from the Senate for the Obama administration to continue its intervention in Libya because if it were, than there would be no need for talks between both parties as to whether or not they should authorize Obama's military action.[6] 

What needs to occur is that more Congressional Representatives such as Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul need to demand that President Obama be held accountable for violating the War Powers Resolution. They should go on every major news network, form alliances with antiwar groups and other groups who are against the Libyan intervention and make known to the entire nation that what President Obama is doing is unconstitutional, as only Congress as the power to declare war under the Constitution. It needs to be proven that President Obama needs to gain Congressional approval in order to continue the intervention in Libya because if not, then it will set a precedent for future administrations to engage in wars at their whim.


2: Ibid

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