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Reply #111: James Fallows: Obama Is Wrong About Congress and Libya [View All]

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pampango Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jun-18-11 06:21 AM
Response to Reply #105
111. James Fallows: Obama Is Wrong About Congress and Libya

Let's move past the technicalities: that this is not "really" a war, since we have not sent troops into battle and are supporting the air campaign via NATO; that the War Powers act might not exactly fit these circumstances; that many of the Republicans now saying the War Powers act must be observed|were against it] in other times; and so on. For purposes of argument, let's grant every one of those points. Let's assume that you could make a courtroom case that Obama has violated neither the Constitution nor the War Powers act in what is now a three-month-old military campaign in a foreign country. (For a strong and detailed contrary argument, see this.)

None of those remove the problem, which is not about technicalities. The central concern, and the major threat to our politics, is that once again we are going to war essentially on one person's say-so. Yes, that person is the Commander in Chief; yes, he is committing force for what he considers to be good and prudent reasons; and yes, there are modern circumstances in which a President must be free to act first and consult later.

But after three months of combat, and after several decades of drift toward unilateral Executive Branch action on matters of war and peace, Obama is doing a disservice to the nation, history, and himself by insisting that the decision should be left strictly to him. If the Libyan campaign ultimately "goes well," he will not in any way lessen his own political and historic credit by having involved the Congress. If it goes poorly, he will be politically safer if this is not just his own judgment-call war. More important, in either case he will have helped the country if his conduct restores rather than further weakens the concept that a multi-branch Constitutional republic must share the responsibility to commit force. We can only imagine the eloquence with which a Candidate Obama would be making this exact case were he not in the White House now.

Obama and his lawyers can persist with their sophistic conceit that they don't "need" to involve the Congress. That may be smart, but it is not wise. Obama the historian and leader must understand that in the broadest political and moral sense he and the country need fuller involvement in decisions on war and peace.
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