Since at least the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, American foreign policy has been drifting- comprising a series of ad hoc interventions absent a national consensus about when to use force and lacking an underlying set of reliable, core principles.
That drift continues with President Obama's speech about our war with Libya- and includes the simple fact that our commander in chief couldn't even acknowledge that we're in a war and that we've taken sides against someone he calls a "tyrant who murdered opponents at home and abroad, and terrorized innocent people around the world—including Americans who were killed by Libyan agents."
Dropping bombs, shooting missiles, deploying massive amounts of personnel and power—all of these are generally understood as acts of war. But Obama can't admit that we're waging war because then he would
have to acknowledge what his critics correctly underscore: Constitutionally, he doesn't have a right to do this sort of thing unilaterally when the country isn't facing a clear and present danger.
We know this because of Obama himself. In 2007, while a US senator and presidential candidate, he flatly told The Boston Globe, "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."
No president was worse at foreign policy than George W. Bush, who came to power amid promises of a "humble foreign policy" and then mired us in two intractable conflicts that even supporters grant were poorly executed under his command.
Yet even Bush pushed to get a fig leaf of authorization from Congress before the shooting began. Obama's Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, instead brandished unanimity among NATO leaders as proof we were doing the right thing: "All 28 allies have…now authorized military authorities to develop an operations plan for NATO to take on the broader civilian protection mission under Resolution 1973." As if NATO, a Cold War alliance conceived to protect the free nations of Europe from a threat that went missing 20 years ago, is a substitute for, say, the American people and their elected representatives.
Who knows how long will be in Libya—whether under US or NATO command. It might be a few months or it might be many years. But this much is certain: Our actions there won't have been authorized by the American people. And they provide no guide to where we'll end up next.
Approximately 2.30 minutes. Written by Nick Gillespie. Edited by Meredith Bragg.