American military action in foreign wars shouldn’t be taken cavalierly. But President Obama took it that way when he thrust American troops aimlessly into an undefined war in Libya.
Not only did the President fail to address Congress for approval; he gave the American people little information about his goals for the endeavor. After three months of conflict, Congress is carefully assessing the situation in Libya and forcing the President to confront the issue head on.
Last night, House Republican leadership postponed a vote on a measure to withdraw troops from Libya within 15 days. While many agree that entering the war was unwise, they are also fearful of making another rash move that could harm our national interest or leave our allies stranded. Relying on the War Powers Resolution as a means for withdrawal, however, is not the correct approach. As Heritage’s James Carafano writes:
The withdrawal provisions of the War Powers Resolution (often referred to as the War Powers Act) are unconstitutional and undermine the authority of the President as commander in chief. Relying on this legislation is the wrong way to act.
House Speaker John Boehner (R–OH) said that leadership postponed the vote to “allow a process for the American people’s will to be heard on the House floor.”
That’s a good start. Now, Congress has an opportunity to regroup and think seriously about what America’s next moves in Libya should be. Communication with President Obama in coming weeks will be a critical facet in the outcome.
Foreign Policy reports that our participation in Libya has already cost three-quarters of a billion dollars, which was taken directly out of the $600 billion appropriated for the Department of Defense. While the President as commander in chief has the authority to do this, the move to rally international support before the support of his own Congress or constituents was unwise.
As Heritage’s James Carafano writes:
The hope that a quick Western intervention through imposing a no-fly zone would ensure the toppling of the regime, reassert American leadership in the “fight for freedom,” and eliminate the potential for serious humanitarian crisis was not realistic. Colonel Muammar Qadhafi had clearly mustered sufficient military force to make a stand. It was unlikely that a mere show of force by Western powers would precipitate the collapse of his entrenched regime.
Moving forth, Congress has some tough decisions to make, but holding strong to familiar principles—including constitutional awareness and support of our NATO allies—is key. Despite the flubs of America’s entrance into the war, Congress is responsible now for omitting any more of them. Carafano writes of four next steps for Congress in addressing the President:
- Rebuke the President for failing to adequately consult Congress on the Libyan intervention;
- Demand that the President clarify the intent and scope of U.S. operations and propose a suitable, feasible, and acceptable path forward;
- Consider withholding funds for operations in the future if, after careful consideration, a majority of Congress concludes that ongoing operations are not in U.S. interests; and
- Weigh carefully any actions for how they may impact on the safety of allied forces.
House Republican leaders have scheduled a special conference today to discuss the issue, and the Administration will hold a classified briefing for lawmakers as well. Perhaps after lawmakers have had a chance to thoughtfully consider the situation, they can settle on a deliberate next step to take in Libya—one that will maintain vital national interests and also respect our loyalty to allies fighting in harm’s way.