Obama: "It has always been my view that I should ask for proper authorization after the period specified by law"


How's the military action—kinetic, wasn't it?—in Libya working out? It seems to have dropped out of the news lately, what with DSK and the lack of movement on a FY20112012 budget plan from the Senate and pizza magnate Herman Cain's razzmatazz and all that rilly important stuff.

And oh yeah, under the War Powers Act, Obama should have already asked for and either received or not legal authorization to keep American forces pelting foreign countries. Under that controversial Nixon-era relic, the prez gets 60 days to commit forces before needing some sort of explicit OK from Congress; absent that authorization, he gets 30 days to yank forces home. Additionally, the act stipulates he can only act if a threat against the U.S. is imminent or has already happened, or there's been a prior declaration of war or statutory authorization. It's not fully clear if the act is constitutional though it's Calgonite-clear that presidents (and Congress) choose to ignore it when it can. Here's the LA Times lede on the current episode:

Facing criticism from Congress that authority for U.S. military action in Libya is about to expire under the War Powers Act, President Obama asked congressional leaders late Friday for a resolution of support for continuing the military involvement.

"It has always been my view that it is better to take military action, even in limited actions such as this, with congressional engagement, consultation and support," Obama wrote in a letter to the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate. "Congressional action in support of the mission would underline the U.S. commitment to this remarkable international effort."

The War Powers Act requires the White House to seek approval of Congress within 60 days of notification of military activity, a law put in place during the political fallout of the Vietnam War. Friday marked the 60th day since the administration announced the U.S. role in Libya.

The president's letter mentions a "resolution of support" that is supposedly being drafted by a bipartisan crew of senators though House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) says no such resolution has been received. And in any case, isn't it a little bit late for that?

More here.

On May 10, Foreign Policy reported "Senate has no plans to invoke War Powers Act over Libya," so if I were Speaker Boehner, I'd just go ahead and hit the links for the 1,000th time this spring. Sen. John "Reportin' for Duty" Kerry (R-Mass.) is the head of the Senate's Foreign Relations committee and he told FP that the War Powers Act wasn't in play because the U.S. is "deferring to NATO." (Side note: WTF? A decision to commit forces to NATO doesn't count as a deployment?) And Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) doesn't seem all bent out of shape either, though he's sad that all this other shit the government has failed to address has made it impossible to really think about anything at all:

"The War Powers Act has been argued through several administrations as to whether the president feels bound by it or not."

Overall, he and many others in the Senate lament that the budget debate and other issues have pushed the Libya discussion to the back burner.

"There has never has been the correct focus on Libya with regard to congressional hearings or congressional debate," Lugar said.

FP account here.

Libertarians are known for stressing the inherent inefficiencies of governmental actions, because the sorts of feedback loops and information gathering that works in more distributed forms of decisionmaking (such as but not limited to markets) are either missing or heavily muted. That's important but it's something different.

What we're witnessing these days—and have been for at least a decade, especially when it comes to foreign policy—is something very different. It's extremely troubling incompetence fortified by institutional indifference and abdication of responsibility. Remember when U.S. (or "allied") troops toppled Saddam Hussein's governmnt in Iraq, exposing the absolute lack of post-invasion strategerizing on the part of George W. Bush's crack team of Ford administration retreads? That wasn't ineluctable inefficiency at work; that was brutal and destructive incompetency. And it proceeds apace in a new Hope-and-Change regime that can't pass budgets on time or seemingly do much of anything other than hit its mark for White House Easter Egg Hunts. When did Obama, who by his own word really digs getting congressional engagement, consultation, and support even for milk runs like bombing the bejeezus out of Libya, tell Congress that he was, you know, maybe thinking about doing something to Qaddafi? Two days after he started doing it. But it would all be fine, because, Obama said, our military commitment would be a matter of "days, not weeks."

What we've been dealing with for this goddamned 21st century so far is not a best-try, good-faith effort at waging war. It's incompetence, first on the part of Bush and more recently on the part of Obama (finding Osama bin Laden was a neat trick, for sure; we simply don't have enough information to evaluate fully the actual operation that led to his death). And there is something really wrong with a Congress that is so spineless that it doesn't even bother to protect its own constitutinal role because, well, you know, then they may be held accountable when a foreign adventure goes wrong.

Kudos, then, to the rag-tag band of wingnuts and moonbats such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) for at least calling attention to the idea that Congress has some role to play in deciding when the U.S. military is put into play.

Monday, May 23 Update: on Obama's war that isn't a war