At it’s most basic level, the War Powers Act of 1973 gives a president sixty days of latitude to start a war. At that point, he has thirty days to obtain Congressional permission to continue the war. For purposes of this post, I’m going to assume (correctly, I think) that the United States’ involvement in Libya, even though it’s part of a NATO action, triggers the War Powers Act.
Obama did not go into Libya with Congressional permission. The 60 days are up in a few days. In theory, Obama then has to petition Congress for the continued right to engage in military action in Libya. Interestingly, during the past 60 days, Obama has not made any moves to persuade Congress that the war in Libya is a good and necessary thing for America’s interests. He’s also not giving any sign that he intends to do so in the future.
Here’s my thinking: Obama knows that the Democrats will vote yes on this one, because Obama is the one asking. Obama also knows that the Republicans will vote yes, not necessarily because they support the Libyan action but because the Republican ethos since Vietnam has been that you don’t simply walk away from a war, you first try to win the war. Since Gaddafi is still gadding about, we haven’t won.
Under the above circumstances, you’d think that Obama would submit a vote to Congress to stay the course (whatever the Hell that course might be) in Libya. As I noted, though, that’s not the road Obama appears to be taking. Is it possible, do you think, that Obama is going to ignore the War Powers Act entirely, aggregating to himself the unilateral power to take America to war? It would be the ultimate war-mongering cowboy thing to do, but I’m willing to bet good money that, should he take that tack, the media will allow his unconstitutional, illegal behavior to pass by, unremarked.
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