I’m baffled by a conservatism that proudly proclaims the righteousness of Bush’s war of impulse, yet denounces the current Libya adventure as “illegal.” Granted, the Iraq War was duly authorized — albeit on knowingly incomplete information, recklessly relied on — but this is the conservative movement that trumpeted Congress’ 9/11 authorization of the use of military force (AUMF) as sufficient to cover (1) torture, (2) indefinite detention, (3) domestic wiretapping, (4) congressional blacksites, and even (5) the Iraq War itself, making the separate congressional vote essentially a box-checking exercise. Truly, if you’re not disgusted by the empty and ad hoc nature of modern Republicans — to wit, “we’re for what they’re against, and nothing else” — you’re not paying attention.
It is a separate question altogether of whether Obama should have sought broader consultation before committing American firepower, if not American troops, to depose a dictator; and whether he’s broken a campaign promise. Regardless of the same, left and right ought to be able to agree on the following, and apply it equally to a conflict entered into by either “side”:
This sort of exercise, committing American arms but not American lives, is exactly the sort of thing the Constitution’s drafters had in mind when they crafted the Presidency. The President can and must respond with “energy” to protect American interests. Democracy in an otherwise hostile region is one such interest, as our honourable friends opposite would surely tell you, were the man behind the Resolute Desk not a Democrat.
Neither established law, nor history are to the contrary. The War Powers Act specifically authorizes the executive to conduct limited war without Congress’ involvement. Granted, the Act’s constitutionality is not entirely clear. I for one rather expect that we meant what we said, when we committed the power to declare war specifically to the Congress. But nor is this a war as Jefferson would’ve understood it. There are no boots on the ground, nor will there be any. Instead, missiles and planes represent precisely the kind of quick-strike force that the President has always had at his disposal, except here, the risk of lost American lives is even smaller than the one that Jefferson unilaterally undertook when attacking Tripoli. And although the President has greatly increased the chance of a shooting war, this is a risk that we entrust to him and his cabinet on a daily basis. What else is foreign policy?
Reactions on left and right demonstrate two things, respectively: the right will never trust this President, and the left will never fully trust presidential power (even when exercised pursuant to a United Nations resolution, diplomacy’s get-out-of-jail-free card). Both need to get over it.
Update: the National Review, per knee-jerk Ramesh Ponnuru, joins the Washington Times in calling the firing of some missiles unconstitutional.