Saturday, May 14, 2011

war powers and the Libya operation

I tend to tune out when lawyers start arguing war powers. Nobody listens to them other than other lawyers. Going to war is a political decision by the two political branches of government, and it should be treated as a serious policy question.

I was skeptical about the wisdom and likely success of the Libyan air strikes, but not about their legality. The UN Security Council had approved action; the North Atlantic Council had approved, and even the Senate had passed a nonbinding "go get 'em" resolution. It would have been nice if the President had asked for congressional endorsement either before or after he ordered the strikes, but I wasn't surprised when Congress failed to assert its Constitutional prerogatives since their assertiveness has been pretty spotty in recent decades.

Now the administration is acknowledging that the war powers act does exist and maybe should do something, even though no President has ever said that it was binding. That law does allow military action for 60 days without congressional approval, and that deadline is approaching. I hope U.S. officials will at least review what has been accomplished and what is feasible if U.S. participation continues. If the moribund law can accomplish that, it will be useful service.

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