Foreign Policy

"Under our Constitution, war is not a first-person affair"

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Writing at The Washington Examiner, the Cato Institute's Gene Healy notes that while President Barack Obama didn't mention the Constitution once in his big speech on the Libyan war last night, the president did employ the first-person singular again and again, from "I refused to let that happen" to "I authorized military action" to "I refused to wait." Yet as Healy explains:

It's not just that this hits the ear as self-referential and presumptuous–it's that this particular construction shows that other constitutional bodies have no role to play in the president's world view.

Under our Constitution, war is not a first-person affair.

Read the whole post here. Read Healy on the cult of the presidency here.

NEXT: Reason.tv: Obama's War That Isn't a War

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  1. Nicely said, Mr. Healy.

    1. However, it would be more accurate to say that it’s not a first-person singular affair.

      1. Good point. It’s probably a pretty first-person affair to the people who have to go fight.

  2. Obama is a gross incompetent.

    1. I used to think so. I now think his apparent “incompetence” is a cover. I think there is a deliberate pattern. Why did he speak out in support of the Libyan Rebels but not the Iranian ones? Why are we siding with AL QUIDA for Al Quida! You may be consistantly anti-war and that is fine (I am) but, if you had to choose between two wars, one where you would side with the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Quida, and the other in any number of other countries that are trying to overthrow their leaders like Syria, Iran and Yemen just to name a few – which one would you pick?

      Hmmm? There must be something more nefarious going on here. It cannot be mere incompetence.

      1. Wait, has Glenn Beck been right all along?

        Too much?

        1. I am starting to think he may well be – at least about this. No, I do not agree with him on everything. But on this, he may well be correct.

          1. We’re going to need a complete psychological history on every future presidential candidate at the rate things are going.

            Not that it’s going to do any good, other than give some indications about what kind of BS is in store once they become POTUS.

      2. It cannot be mere incompetence.

        Never ascribe conspiracy when incompetence can explain.

        But yeah i think it has been well established that the left (Obama included) do not see Al Quida as a threat. They were saying global warming was a greater threat then terrorism as far back as 2004.

        It can’t be a conspiracy when they have said it on TV.

        Obama’s actions can easily be explained with a combination of incompetence and differently misappropriated perceptions of overly exaggerated threats.

        1. I think you misunderstand my point. I am not calling this a Conspiracy, I am calling it deliberate. There is a difference.

          What I think is going on is that Obama has a chip on his shoulder in much the same way King Bush II did. But instead of resenting Saddam Hussein’s attempted murder of his father, Obama resents what he views as “Western Imperialism”. But he does not mean Imperialism in the way Murray Rothbard or Pat Buchannan use the term. His definition of “imperialism” includes commerce and some undefined “cultural dominance”. Both King Bush II and Barack Obama started wars because they resented actions taken against their fathers.

          1. Huh? Participating in the bombing of Libya somehow reflects Obama’s resentment of commerce and the West’s “cultural dominance”? How?

            1. Because of the side he chose. He chose to fight on the side of Islamist radicals who oppose the West.

        2. Never ascribe to incompetence what can be explained by a plain and simple insecurity complex.

      3. At the height of the war in Iraq, before the Sunni Awakening in Anbar Province (when al-Qaeda-linked groups were at their most powerful), a young Senator named Barack Obama called for our unconditional retreat from Iraq. Who would that have benefitted?

        We sided against Mubarak in Egypt — and have handed the country over to the most disciplined and organized group within the opposition: the Muslim Brotherhood.

        We have sided againt Qaddafi in Lybia, and now we are finding that the core of the rebellion we are supporting is comprised of Islamist radicals, some of whom are allied with al-Qaeda and fought against the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq.

        Once is incompetence; twice could be a mistake; three times spells a pattern.

        Do the math.

  3. President Chickenhawk apparently relishes running errands for Sarkozy and the chauvinists of the Arab League.

    No War For Chinese and European Oil!

    1. As long as the ones making money aren’t white guys with cowboy hats, the Left doesn’t really care who profits off the deaths of brown people.

      1. who else doesnt the left care if killed?

        1. Re: OO,

          who else doesnt the left care if killed?

          Santa Claus.

      2. Well, that’s one of the puzzlers. The Left are (mostly) hot for a policy dreamed up by and pushed by men of the Right in their respective countries (Sarkozy and Cameron).

        And just to preempt (ha!) a possible reply: yes I already know that “right wing” in France and Britain would be considered moderately Left in the USA.
        (I disagree, but I know the argument.)

        Fartriloquist

        1. Nothing puzzling about it. White men are okay as long as they’re not free market capitalists, and not in favor of Western Civilization as it is commonly known.

          That pretty much describes Western European White Man (and Woman) leaders.

  4. George W. Bush’s war for oil was evil and wrong but my war for oil is very much justified.

    1. And Obama’s war for oil is not even for oil the US purchases, but the EU. How’s that for irony?

      1. So, does that mean I can come back to the White House?

      2. Don’t you know how great Western Europe is? Why, the liberals have learned everything they think-feel-know from Western Europe.

        1. Modern liberals don’t “think”.

          They “feel”, ergo they “know”. No thought need be employed in the rationalization process by which they justify bullshit like this war.

  5. “””I refused to wait.”””

    He waited long enough to get the support of the dictators who run the Arab League but he did not have time to get the support of the US public or Congress.

  6. At the risk of sounding like Orange Line Special:

    Why hasn’t someone read that 2007 quote to Obama and made him explain how he isn’t a hypocrite?

    1. when would anyone have had an opportunity to ask? he doesn’t do interviews with people who might ask that kind of question. He didn’t even give his speech in front of congress. Not that they would be able to ask a question, but maybe the cameras could have panned over to Kucinich or Paul and we could see there faces scrunch up when Obama was spinning his yarns.

    2. Because the White House controls who is allowed in their press room and who is allowed in their press pool.

      1. And who is allowed in their press closet.

  7. Can’t wait to hear the President (this or the next, doesn’t matter, they’re interchangeable) beat the war drum for Iran. That should be entertaining in a fucking surreal kind of way.

  8. It’s not a war for oil, it’s about independence! And oil.

    / TEAM BLUE douchebag mode off

  9. President Barack Obama didn’t mention the Constitution once in his big speech on the Libyan war last night, the president did employ the first-person singular again and again, from “I refused to let that happen” to “I authorized military action” to “I refused to wait.”

    Yes, well, start to really worry when he starts referring to himself in the first person plural….

    1. Or the third person Bob Dole Syndrome: Barack Obama refused to let that happen.

  10. and George W. Bush. Barack Obama is now the indisputable worst President of the modern era. By far.

    Not. Even. Close.

    1. Yeah, but can they shoot hoops like Obama?

      1. I have never seen him make a basket. Have you?

      2. Bush threw a way better fast ball.

      3. GWB cannot compete in the “perfectly chiseled pectorals” category.

  11. “War is not a first person affair”

    …but… but… Call of Duty… hooah?

  12. You guys act like war isn’t part of the cost of petroleum-based energy in this world. Want the wars for oil to stop, how about you guys stop prostituting for oil so much?

    1. “Prostituting for oil”? I assure you that there was not quid pro quo when he gave me that jar of vaseline.

    2. how about you guys stop prostituting for oil so much?

      So if we support a war for oil in Libya, like you do, will we then be reformed as anti-oil like you?

    3. Re: Tony,

      You guys act like war isn’t part of the cost of petroleum-based energy in this world.

      Your non sequiturs are exquisitely surreal, Tony. Truly.

      Want the wars for oil to stop, how about you guys stop prostituting for oil so much?

      You say this as if war was as inevitable as the sun dying one day.

      100 Tonys would not make even a halfwit.

    4. what a dumb fucking comment

    5. Tony, Do you think that without bombs it is impossible to purchase a commodity?

      1. Some seem to think they are necessary in order to maintain the illusion that oil is cheap.

        1. Could you name this “some”?

          In Europe petroleum is more expensive because of taxes.

        2. Re: Tony,

          Some seem to think they are necessary in order to maintain the illusion that oil is cheap.

          Which would make those “some” you alude to the very worst of the worst of economic ignoramuses that ever lived on the planet. The only thing that makes oil cheap is its availability. Wars are fought to aggrandize the State – that’s it.

          1. =9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999

            1. meant to be a + the shift key !!! did not do its job.

          2. It’s availability… in Middle Eastern autocracies?

            1. Again, I ask you. Do you believe that it is impossible to purchase a commodity without bombs?

              I have a second question for you. Wouldn’t bullets and bombs make it more DIFFICULT to extract petroleum from a place that has it?

              1. Yes. But it’s politically easy to throw billions upon billions of dollars into our war machine, while we can’t seem to get a simple clean energy infrastructure started.

                So we spend money bombing enemy oil-rich countries, turn a blind-eye to abuses in friendly oil-rich countries, and neglect to deal with the environmental damage oil causes at all, presto, oil seems cheap. Its fake cheapness, of course, being the excuse libertarians offer for why it’s the best energy alternative.

                1. That’s because there’s no such thing as a “simple clean energy infrastructure”. You can’t generate baseline power with wind or solar, and you can’t make a battery with hydrocarbon energy densities. (In the case of the latter, if you could, you’d already be able to make a fortune selling such batteries to the tech industry.)

                  Now, if the environmental movement could somehow be shoved out of the way, there’s a quite easy-to-build alternative to foreign oil available. You build a whole bunch of modern nuclear reactors, and use the power generated to combine coal and water into gasoline and diesel.

                  The result of such an action is that you turn America’s massive coal reserves into the equivalent of $50/bbl oil reserves, putting a cap on the price of oil.

                  Now, granted, it would be a big TVA-like project which cost billions in operating subsidies to keep the conversion plants open, because oil can be extracted in the Middle East and shipped to the US for significantly less than $50/bbl. But it would make the Middle East a place that we can afford to ignore.

                  Now, just try to get a practical plan that depends on coal and nuclear past the dreamers who don’t realize a “simple clean energy infrastructure” is as realistic as proposals to mine the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

                  1. You can’t generate baseline power with wind or solar, and you can’t make a battery with hydrocarbon energy densities.

                    Is your faith in human innovation always so lacking? Don’t start being pessimistic now… we don’t really have a choice here. Wars over a limited resource can’t be policy forever. The technology will get there. There’s no reason to think it won’t. And it wouldn’t hurt to have some massive government funding, because the industry level seems to like the status quo just fine.

                    Energy is not cheap now if you factor in any costs besides what you pay at the gas station, and that’s hardly cheap these days either. Those costs include wars.

                    1. “Those costs include wars.”

                      Tony, how many wars have been fought over the iPod (not including computer games, I mean real wars where real people die)?

                    2. Are you saying that Wrath of the Lich King and Warcraft: Orcs & Humans aren’t real wars? ARE YOU?

                    3. Tony|3.29.11 @ 7:20PM|#
                      “Is your faith in human innovation always so lacking?”

                      No, you idiot. The laws of physics still hold precedence.
                      Are you waiting for a time machine?

                2. You are arguing about things in the political realm. What you are describing is mercantalism, not capitalism. Mercantalism depends upon a large and powerfull government, would you stand with us and support reducing its size?

                  1. To my mind, the problem isn’t government that’s too weak, it’s government that isn’t strong enough to counter the power of the global oil industry. How will weakening government make this arrangement less likely? This is doubletalk.

                    1. too strong*

                    2. Tony|3.29.11 @ 8:48PM|#
                      “To my mind, the problem isn’t government that’s too weak, it’s government that isn’t strong enough to counter the power of the global oil industry.”

                      Admission that you’re an ignoramus doesn’t help your ‘argument’.

                    3. “How will weakening government make this arrangement less likely? This is doubletalk”

                      It is government that gives industry the power it wields. Microsoft cannot throw you in jail for “pirating” its software – only government can. Mercantalism cannot occur without the power that govern’t has. Reduce governt’s power and large corporations are not as dangerous.

            2. Re: Tony,

              It’s availability… in Middle Eastern autocracies?

              Your non sequiturs are still exquisitely surreal, Tony.

    6. B-.

      Good Tony spoof, but it lacks something…apologism.

    7. So you’re saying that by opposing domestic drilling, the Obama Administration and many Democrats are causing more wars?

      Or will you admit you oversimplify?

      1. How would domestic drilling reduce our reliance on Middle Eastern oil? It all goes to the same place, and we really don’t have that much.

        1. Are you being serious? This is like asking “How would raising your own hens reduced one’s reliance on eggs from the grocery store.”

          We have plenty of petroleum in places that socialist progressives don’t want anyone to drill.

          1. It still all goes to the global oil market. We might be able to lower our costs by a few bucks a barrel, but that wouldn’t last forever.

            1. Yes, it goes to the world market. The price we pay is based upon the world price. I think you underestimate how much petroleum we have on land. We don’t even need to drill out at sea if we are allowed more places to drill on land.

        2. Using your logic nutbag maybe we could eliminate all domestic drilling and not increase our reliance on Middle Eastern oil.

          1. Ola, I like that idea and I am working on it. I also want to eliminate our coal production. And I also think we should stop our reliance on nuclear power. I also think we should stop using any source that produces CO2 – so this means we will need to stop using natural gas as well.

        3. Re: Tony,

          How would domestic drilling reduce our reliance on Middle Eastern oil?

          Not much, considering almost all of it comes from Canada and Mexico.

          It all goes to the same place, and we really don’t have that much.

          Curious worry from someone that hates oil.

  13. If Obama wants to stop Gaddaffi, let’s parachute him to Tripoli and let him duke it out.

  14. Obama said “we” were facing horrendous violence. I’m not a Libyan. Is he?

    1. Dude, he’s a citzen of the world. Get with the program.

  15. This is Obama’s war for altruism. Liberals love to think they are being altruistic so a war which has no benefit to the US is just the kind of war they like.

  16. How big is the carrier group off Ivory Coast? We’re addicted to chocolate, too, aren’t we?

  17. I made it clear that Gadhafi had lost the confidence of his people….
    I said that he needed to step down from power….
    I ordered warships….
    I refused to let that happen….
    I authorized military action….
    I refused to wait….
    The task that I assigned our forces….
    I will never hesitate….

    This is just the natural evolution of our Imperial Presidency. Geez, quit hyperventilating you liberty-minded people!

    Safety for freedom is a good trade.

  18. war is not a first-person affair

    It is if you’re in a foxhole.

    Yeah, I know what Healy meant, too.

  19. I’ll be more worried when he starts talking in the third-person.

    (“Barack’s bitches better be using jimmies!”)

  20. The Obama line about how he “made it clear” that Qaddafi “lost the confidence” of the Libyan people is the single most arrogant, imperious utterance I have ever heard from an American president.

  21. Anyone Saying that there is radiation in Japan is just ANTI-BUSINESS.

    Trust me, neither the Japanese or American Government will EVER ADMIT that there’s any danger. And, when people start dying of cancer, they’ll just simply blame the sushi.

    The $$$ is more important than human life…especially when those human lives are of a bunch of chinks…as any blue-blooded american would put it.

    Too much investment in the pacific rim to scare off investors and business.

    1. That was pretty awesome.

    2. That would be nips, you fucking hermit.

      Chinks are from china.

    3. Is there a way to put a stickee on this so it’s always available as an example of lefty trolling?

    4. I wouldn’t get a pacific rim from you with Tony’s a**hole

  22. Constitution once in his big speech on the Libyan war last night, the president did employ

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