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In her response to the four Americans killed in Libya, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton exclaimed, ‘‘This is not easy. Today, many Americans are asking, indeed I asked myself, how could this happen? How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction? This question reflects just how complicated and, at times, just how confounding, the world can be.’’
Yes, the disdain, murder and destruction in the Middle East and North Africa “reflects just how complicated … just how confounding, the world can be.” Which is precisely the reason our Founders vested the power to declare war with our Congress. No single person should make a momentous decision as declaring war on another country. President Obama unilaterally made the decision to bomb Libya, and America and other cultures throughout the world have been greatly damaged by his decision. In March 2011, I blogged on how the President violated our Constitution – when only Congress is allowed to declare war.
In 1995, Doug Bandow wrote an excellent paper on the Constitution and the necessity of a Congressional and national debate before “declaring war.” Bandow recalls the consensus among Founders that a president is not entrusted to start a war. As Bandow wrote in The Future of Freedom Foundation:
… Virginia's George Mason, the president "is not safely to be entrusted with" the power to decide on war. Mason therefore favored "clogging rather than facilitating war." James Wilson, though an advocate of a strong presidency, approvingly observed that the new constitutional system "will not hurry us into war." Instead, "it is calculated to guard against it. It will not be in the power of a single man, or a single body of men, to involve us in such distress.
In 2007, then-Senator Obama agreed the president did not have the power to unilaterally declare war against Iran.
“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,” Obama responded.
Deceitfully, after bombing Libya, President Obama wrote to Congress stating the bombing was non-kinetic activity. Therefore saying anything to claim his bombing was not an act of war.
“Since April 4,” the president wrote, “U.S. participation has consisted of: (1) non-kinetic support to the NATO-led operation, including intelligence, logistical support, and search and rescue assistance; (2) aircraft that have assisted in the suppression and destruction of air defenses in support of the no-fly zone; and (3) since April 23, precision strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles against a limited set of clearly defined targets in support of the NATO-led coalition's efforts.”
Defenders of the President will quickly note that Congress has not declared war since World War II. Worse, all Congresses and Presidents – Republicans and Democrats - have persistently ignored the Constitution.
Of course, this is the problem. Our governing bodies have intentionally and harmfully violated our Constitution. America and humanity would be better off if Congress had honored and respected our Constitution by debating and voting on an act of war. A debate and vote would have caused a complete appraisal of the mission; an investigation of the human and material costs, the objectives, and potential repercussions between the combatants and the impacted individuals and societies. America would have thoroughly debated Secretary of State Clinton's question:
How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction? This question reflects just how complicated and, at times, just how confounding, the world can be.
Engaging in war is a momentous decisions, which was wisely vested with Congress, forcing Congress and Americans to debate the issue. Recalling the many acts of war since World War II, e.g., Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Bosnia, Haiti and many more. America and the rest of the world would have been better served if Congress had been able to perform its legal and moral duty and been able to investigate, debate and vote on war.
Please read two previous post warning against President Obama's unilateral commencement of war: