Michael Kinsley—Presidents can’t declare war? Just watch them

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It really couldn't be clearer. "The Congress shall have power … to declare war." Yet these are probably the most egregiously ignored words in the Constitution. You would think that Republicans, especially, with their showy fondness for "originalism" and "plain meaning" in interpreting the Constitution, would have no problem interpreting the meaning of these words: If a president wants to go to war, he must get the approval of Congress.

Presidents of both parties traditionally ignore the congressional war power when they feel like it. Or they wait until the troops are poised for battle — putting Congress in an impossible position — before asking permission.


Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryAfricaLibya

54 Comments
Posted March 31, 2011 at 3:45 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Br. Michael wrote:

I agree.  The silence of the Congress speaks volumes.  I expect no sound from the Democrats when a Republican starts the the next war.  As for the Republican silence:  Shame Shame Shame!!!  For the Democrats: I expected the hypocrisy.

March 31, 6:44 pm | [comment link]
2. carl wrote:

The only solution is for Congress to set limits on the Commander in Chief by impeachment.  This presents some practical difficulties, however.

1.  Impeachment is hard to accomplish.  It requires a 2/3’s majority in the Senate.  It is exceedingly rare for one party to dominate the Senate to that level.  This means that some members of the President’s own party would have to agree to impeach the President.  The damage inflicted on the President’s party by impeachment would be immense in terms of leadership, unity, and reputation, so it would require a vote of public conscience against personal interest.

2.  Presidents typically surge in popularity at the start of a war.  Just when impeachment becomes necessary, it becomes politically untenable.  In addition, impeachment at the beginning of the war will be seen as giving aid to the enemy.  The US must present a united front for the sake of the armed forces who are fighting.

3.  It’s really too late to impeach after the war is concluded.  If the war goes well, then there is no political will to impeach.  Congress will be too busy trying to bask in the President’s reflected glow.  If the war goes poorly, then impeachment looks like political punishment for defeat, and the lesson is lost.  The executive branch would learn the lesson “Don’t lose.”

4.  Presidents have not overreached in using their power as CinC since Vietnam.  In fact they have been judicious in using American military power.  They have not sent American forces here and there and hither and yon at whim.  The Gulf Wars & Afghanistan were all firmly fixed in the national interest and had public backing.  (it was only political opportunism that motivated retro-active Democratic opposition to GW II.)  There was the useless intervention in Bosnia, but it could be argued that Congress bludgeoned the White House into that operation.  There were the operations in Panama and Grenada which were more like police raids, and raised few hackles.  Now there is Libya but with very limited objectives and commitments - for now.  This means that there will not be a settled consensus in Congress that the President should be impeached even if it was politically possible to proceed with impeachment.

It’s a tough problem because a Declaration of War is an intangible entity, while command is a tangible power.  What does it really mean to declare war?  What does it allow that is otherwise disallowed?  There aren’t any answers to these questions.  Congress could require a declaration of war for certain commands to be legal.  But Congress isn’t going to do that for fear of preventing the President from responding to an emergency.  So we have the situation we have.  It isn’t likely to change any time soon.

carl

March 31, 7:56 pm | [comment link]
3. Ad Orientem wrote:

The Republic has all but ceased to exist.

March 31, 8:14 pm | [comment link]
4. Cennydd13 wrote:

It has been that way for many years, and remember:  we have never really been a true republic.

March 31, 8:28 pm | [comment link]
5. Pageantmaster ن [Repent Justin Welby] wrote:

One can see the effects of this carping in the US and Europe in the shambles that Eastern Libya has become this week.

Last week with the US command and control in charge, Gaddaffi was on the back foot, the Eastern towns and cities were freed, and the bombing of Misurata had been stopped and the Gaddaffi forces retreated in disarray.  It seemed likely that the regime’s days were very limited indeed.

Then the US President under pressure from writers such as this one, pulled the US out of command and control at a critical point and insisted it go to Nato, pandering to Germany and Turkey [which is batting for both sides]. 

Then it appears, the Nato targetting of Gaddaffi forces threatening the Eastern towns was cut back and then ceased, and some of the US ships sailed off.  Where is the West was the cry from Benghazi, as the coalition planes dissappeared from the skies?    Now Nato is in charge - Gaddaffi recovered to seize the opportunity given to him to test the resolve of a Nato controlled command and found it lacking both in Nato, and tranparently in the US.  In consequence of what appear to be more limited terms of engagement, there is a rout going on.  Gaddaffi has seized his chance and brought back forces close to the civilian enclaves which are outgunning the civilian defenders in the East, and running amok in Misurata.  It seems highly likely that Benghazi will again be under threat and all the wonderful work of that first action will be wasted.

It is getting worse not better, but no doubt the destructive backseat driving and carping in the midst of action will continue, against the interests of both the coalition military forces and the threatened civilians who were saved last week, only to be abandoned this week along with the prospects of a quick result in Libya and with the likelyhood of more, not less of a mess resulting there and probably instability which will threaten the world in the future.  But all this will pass straight over the heads of those whose only interest is in talking of impeaching their President and Commander in Chief.

One is struck that the indiscipline and lack of cohesiveness of the civilian defenders in Libya rather matches that of the politicians’ and commenters’ debate in the US and the West.  Thank goodness the military are more single-minded, notwithstanding their shambolic political masters.  Lions led by donkeys as we used to say.

March 31, 8:38 pm | [comment link]
6. carl wrote:

5. Pageantmaster

One can see the effects of this carping in the US and Europe in the shambles that Eastern Libya has become this week.

Yep, it’s all the fault of the opponents of the war.  It couldn’t possibly be true that this whole operation was stillborn from the beginning.  It couldn’t possibly be the case that all these problems were predictable two weeks ago.  Oh, wait.  I did predict all these problems as far back as two weeks ago. 

carl

March 31, 8:50 pm | [comment link]
7. Pageantmaster ن [Repent Justin Welby] wrote:

#6 carl
There is a basic principle that whatever you think of the decision to go into action, you then shut up and back those engaged in action and risking their lives, rather than pull the rug from under their feet, as from what I remember happened in Vietnam.  Not much changes.

March 31, 8:54 pm | [comment link]
8. Pageantmaster ن [Repent Justin Welby] wrote:

Moreover, it is the effects of those opponents of the action which has influenced decision-making, and is now undermining what looked like being a successful action with good prospects of being over fairly quickly.  But of course the opponents will not understand that it is they who are birthing not a stillborn operation, but an aborted one.

March 31, 8:56 pm | [comment link]
9. carl wrote:

7. Pageantmaster

you then shut up and back those engaged in action and risking their lives, rather than pull the rug from under their feet, as from what I remember happened in Vietnam.

Ironically enough, one of the major determinants in the outcome of the Vietnam War was the refusal of the Johnson Administration to request a declaration of war in 1964.  President Johnson could have gotten a declaration of war, but feared it would interfere with his domestic agenda.  As a result, the Congress was able to separate itself from its commitment to the war.  A declaration would have prevented that.  So it’s not only Presidents who have an interest in avoiding declarations.

In addition, the military chose to fight the Vietnam war as a war of attrition from a position strategic defense.  This was a replay of the war in Korea except that Vietnam was not an isolated peninsula.  The American public was not prepared to accept a prolonged war of attrition with NVN.  The strategy was ultimately successful.  By 1972, NV was exhausted, but by that time the US had already lost the public will to fight.  The public was used to wars of maneuver where progress towards victory could be objectively measured.  Vietnam was not fought that way.  The war involved fixing enemy units with no other objective but to destroy them.  We weren’t trying to take land.  We were trying to kill the enemy.  My own brother was wounded near Hamburger Hill.  That fight was all about killing the enemy soldiers on the hill.  It had nothing to do with taking the hill.  The American public did not understand this difference.  It saw a bloody fight for a hill, and then couldn’t comprehend why the hill was immediately abandoned.  Once again, a declaration of war might have fixed the will of the American public at a different level. 

I could also introduce at this point a non-linear rant about the duplicitous useful-idiot lackeys of communist revolution ... I mean of course the American press ... but I will restrain myself to saying only that by GWI the military had learned how to put the press on a leash.  It was a great pleasure to see soldiers and marines taking their reporter out for his daily walk so he could relief himself.

You should be impressed, Pageantmaster.  That’s the calmest post I have ever written about the VN war.  Oh, yes.  Jane Fonda should have been shot for treason.  Repeatedly.  Until she was dead.  Not being able to do so was another unfortunate side-effect of not declaring war.

carl

March 31, 9:27 pm | [comment link]
10. Pageantmaster ن [Repent Justin Welby] wrote:

#9 carl
Thanks for explaining and for the personal testimony.  I was only 4 when the Vietnam war was started; I was starting to take note of what was going on by about 1967/8, and my parents and I were incredulous at how savage the battle at home in the US seemed to be as was that in Vietnam, and how undermining.

There are strange parallels today: the student protests of ‘68 in France, the US and other countries and the protests taking place from Morrocco to Iran; and the propaganda war being carried on by a ruthless opponent; the larger issues of Communism then and now Islam in the background.  It shows in many ways that the battle for hearts and minds is the only way of ensuring success, and that is ultimately what Gaddaffi has lost in spite of his ruthlessness and some skillful PR going on.  The defection of a third of his army and now it looks like a third of his government is testimony to this as even those close to him have been sickened at the scale of the slaughter of Libyan civilians by him and fear of being tarred with complicity in that slaughter in a situation which they know is ultimately untenable as the finances and resources of the regime are choked off by the embargos, blockade, and sanctions.

And thanks for your thoughtful post on the Vietnam War, I know how raw this can be even now.

March 31, 9:55 pm | [comment link]
11. carl wrote:

10. Pageantmaster

my parents and I were incredulous at how savage the battle at home in the US seemed to be as was that in Vietnam, and how undermining.

Well, understand a couple of things. 

The draft laws during Vietnam were specifically constructed to protect the children of the middle class.  The men who actually fought the war were the children of blue-collar white, black, and Hispanic families.  If you had some measure of money, you had options that would keep your sons out of the jungle.  Mostly that meant getting a college deferment. 

I had two brothers drafted during the VN war.  The older one entered college and received a deferment.  When he graduated, he immediately enlisted, but because he had a college degree, he could get into the Air Force.  He became an officer and never got closer to VN than Alaska.  My other brother reacted to being drafted by enlisting in the Army, and requesting assignment to Armor.  One of my earliest memories is of my father (himself a combat vet from WWII) trying to talk my brother out of this decision.  By design my family should have been untouched by the VN war.  Had it not been for my brother’s decision, we would have been.  One of the ironies of President Clinton’s draft-dodging is that he would never have been assigned to VN.  He was too educated.  The military couldn’t waste educated soldiers in the infantry. 

Of course, this filled the colleges with people whose principle motivation for being there was to stay out of the Army.  They knew others went in their place.  They knew the noble reasons they told themselves were a lie.  It was raw naked self-interest (as in “I don’t want to get shot.”) that lead them to avoid the VN war.  So they had to face the question “Why am I not a coward?”  They answered it by saying “Because all the guys who went were murderers.  I am not like them.”  They knew the answer they told themselves was a lie, but they couldn’t live with the truth.  Now they feel pangs of guilt, and try to make amends to the VN vets.  Too little too late.  But that accounts for the ferocity.  The protests died away when Nixon ended the draft.

In addition, the 60s saw the birth of all the social catastrophes that afflict Western Civilization today.  The children of WWII decided they were entitled to permanent affluence, and could throw off the moral restraints of the past.  They were the best and the brightest, and they were going to remake the world.  Everything seemed possible in the afterglow of American power from WWII.  It was the beginning of the culture war.  VN was supposed to be the lever to usher in the revolution.  It didn’t happen the way they expected, but it did eventually happen.  That also explains some of the ferocity. 

carl

March 31, 10:26 pm | [comment link]
12. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) wrote:

“It is getting worse not better, but no doubt the destructive backseat driving and carping in the midst of action will continue, against the interests of both the coalition military forces and the threatened civilians who were saved last week…”

Well, George W. Bush and co. were not perfect, but they LED despite whatever they were hearing. 

As we see above and have seen before, whether or not we should have gotten into this is highly debatable.  I do not have access to all the intell that President Obama has access to.  But I do know that there is largely no such thing as a half-baked war; if you try to make it such, you probably won’t win it, and will have lost a lot of lives and wasted a lot of time and resources in the process. 

I will say that, were I President Obama, I probably would have avoided getting into this unless it warranted ground troops and I was willing to deploy them.  My spouse is fond of saying, “If you break it, you buy it” and if you have to fix it by breaking it, the same applies. 

And, is this something necessary, and can we afford it? 

A president needs to lead, and he should lead for what is right; not for poll numbers, personal gain, image, or credit. 

Bear in mind that US European Command is an American admiral; he’s a smart one, but he still takes orders from CiC. 

All this ultimately illustrates, in addition, that the US and Europe need to seriously rethink dependence on Middle Eastern oil. And, while the humanitarian concerns are immense, “halfway-in” ultimately may not help those, either. 

I may not like it, but this is boiling down to a question of, “Is there ever a third feasible, ultimately successful option”?  One is “leave it alone”, the other is “conquer it, then occupy and rebuild it”.  Possibly not on the third option, but I’ll leave that answer up to those who are better historians than me.  In the current scheme of things, only time will tell.

March 31, 11:17 pm | [comment link]
13. Cennydd13 wrote:

You don’t suddenly pull the rug out from under the people that you’re trying to protect from Qadaffi’s thugs, but it looks to me like NATO’s not doing a very good job of protecting anyone, and I’m starting to rethink my attitude about my country pulling foot and getting out of Libya.

March 31, 11:59 pm | [comment link]
14. Caedmon wrote:

Carl at 6.

Amen.

April 1, 1:25 am | [comment link]
15. Pageantmaster ن [Repent Justin Welby] wrote:

Interestingly, not one of the 30 countries participating in the coalition meeting in support of UNSCR 1973 last weekend has believed it necessary to declare war on Libya either.

April 1, 4:52 am | [comment link]
16. Br. Michael wrote:

15, you don’t back your leader when he has started an illegal war.  Like Carl I grew up during Vietnam.  Johnson’s failure to secure a declaration of war meant that the country was never fully united behind him.  And ultimately we cut and ran.

This it the practical dimension behind my insistence of a declaration of war which you so cavalierly dismissed.  It legitimizes the effort and it helps insure that the country will support the leader is seeing the thing through.  It also means that the leader can mobilize the resources of the country.  Obama did neither.  The people of the United States are not obligated to support a war entered into illegally.

My fervent hope is that the House will impeach Obama regardless of weather he can be convicted.  They owe it to the Constitution.

The issue is not Libya or Gaddafi.  The issue is the legality of the thing.

April 1, 6:21 am | [comment link]
17. Br. Michael wrote:

I will add, I am doubly not required to support an “enforcement action” or “kinetic military actions”.  If you want popular support get a declaration of war.  You can’t have it both ways.

April 1, 7:05 am | [comment link]
18. Pageantmaster ن [Repent Justin Welby] wrote:

#16/17 Br. Michael
Please see my response here about the usage of the term “war”. 

Accurate use of language is important.  Enforcement of UN resolutions is not a declaration of war.  There is certainly military action, but ‘war’ is a defined word, although it is certainly capable of other colloquial usage.  It seems to me that part of the attempt in the US to replace the definition with a colloquial usage is driven by political considerations: define what is going on as WAR without a declaration, in order to attack your President for not getting a Congressional approval of a declaration of war.

That is of course a matter for you, but it does not mean your usage of the term war is either accurate, or followed by anybody else in the world, as evinced by the fact that nobody else has ‘declared war’ either, when contributing to the coalition effort.  Turkey, Britain, Qatar, Denmark, Norway, Spain, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, and so on are not at war, and none of them have or will declare war, because that is not what is going on as war is defined in international law.  But then I suppose the same people saying that the US is at war will also claim that international law and the United Nations do not exist.

So I don’t cavalierly dismiss your insistence of a declaration of war in this instance, but just point out that it is not necessary to declare war in order to engage in the coalition enforcement action.  No one declared war before supporting the UN with action in Bosnia, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, East Timor, Cyprus, Lebanon and so on.

Please note that I am not saying that your President should not have previously consulted Congress, or complied with particular US legislation.  I don’t know enough to say although this week he does seem to have spoken to explain what he is doing to the US and to Congress.  I am doubtful this will have satisfied you as nothing short of impeachment by any means seems to be your aim, but I don’t know what Congress and other people make of it.

I would say that in other countries including Britain, our legislatures have been kept informed all along and where possible a vote secured to endorse our involvement.  In our case our Parliament was kept informed by the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary almost daily and a vote passed unanimously as soon as it was possible to have a debate.  I think it is a mistake not to carry the legislature with one when engaged such an important matter, but beyond that I can’t comment on what President Obama did, nor on his reasons.

Btw I have added the word kinetic to my growing list of jargon the US military in particular seems addicted to, along with a love of acronyms.

I don’t know enough to say whether Vietnam was a war.  As far as I remember the intervention was at the request of the original Vietnamese government to help with a Chinese backed insurgency.  There was a similar position in Malaya around the same time with a Chinese backed insurgency which we termed an ‘Emergency’.  We had no one to declare war on as we were defending our own territory, and if we had invited any other country in they would not have been declaring war either.  Ditto Kuwait and the Iraqi invasion, and the Falklands campaign.  Although we for example were defending our territory, we never declared war on Argentina, nor were we at war with the mainland country of Argentina.

April 1, 7:43 am | [comment link]
19. Br. Michael wrote:

Sophistry.  It’s not a war if we don’t declare it.  We didn’t declare it so it’s not war.

Call it what you want, it’s blowing things up and killing people.  That’s what war is.  I know.  I was an armor officer and that is what I was trained to do.  Blow the turret off a T62 tank at 1500 meters.  As far as the crew is concerned it’s war.

April 1, 7:55 am | [comment link]
20. Pageantmaster ن [Repent Justin Welby] wrote:

War is a declared state between two sovereign countries.  Support of a UN Security Council resolution by contributing forces does not fall within this definition.  If it was for anyone to ‘declare war’ in this situation, it would be for the United Nations to do so.  But that would be to misunderstand what the United Nations is, and how it works.  But none of this gets through for the US-centric, who think this is all about them, rather than an international UN-led coalition.

April 1, 8:02 am | [comment link]
21. carl wrote:

18. Pageantmaster

then I suppose the same people saying that the US is at war will also claim that international law and the United Nations do not exist.

Now be fair.  I never claimed that the UN doesn’t exist.  It exists in much the same way the G8 exists.  What I said was the UN has no authority.  It is not a supra-sovereign body over the nations.  It is true that I said “International Law” doesn’t exist ... because it doesn’t.  You might notice that Chinese leaders do not travel the world in fear of being arrested for violations of International Law.  I wonder why?  Which should also answer the question about the definition of ‘war.’  What relevance does an operating definition of ‘war’ based upon some collection of international customs have to do with this discussion?  We are not bound to accept that definition in any way, shape, or form.  There may be a tactical advantage for your argument if I should accept that definition, but that is not sufficient reason for me to accept it.

carl

April 1, 8:11 am | [comment link]
22. carl wrote:

18. Pageantmaster

I don’t know enough to say whether Vietnam was a war.

The Vietnam War ... curious title, don’t you think ... was not a war according to Pageantmaster’s definiton because the US never declared war on NVN.  Perhaps we should call it the ‘Vietnam Police Action’ or the ‘Vietnam Intervention’ or the ‘Vietnam Attempted Re-integration in the Global Economic & Political Order.’

carl

April 1, 8:19 am | [comment link]
23. Br. Michael wrote:

I see.  More sophistry.  War is between sovereigns.  The UN is not sovereign therefor the UN authorization of member states to use force against another is not war.  And I guess it is not war on the part of the member states because the UN authorized it.  Clever.

And let’s get one thing perfectly clear, the UN is not sovereign over the United States not does it supersede our Constitution.  No treaty can do that.

It’s still blowing things up and killing.  Justify as you will.  It wasn’t a Crucifixion it was the application of kinetic state rehabilitative anti-social methodology.  Anyway the Jewish leaders couldn’t do it and Pilate washed his hands of it.  So it wasn’t a Crucifixion.

April 1, 8:20 am | [comment link]
24. Pageantmaster ن [Repent Justin Welby] wrote:

#21 carl
Well we could refight the thread about the UN and International Law which argument you accepted that I won, but it would be more interesting to find something else to argue about.

Chinese leaders do not travel the world in fear of being arrested for violations of International Law

That is because of they have the benefit of Sovereign and Diplomatic Immunity under…......International Law.

The only way that they would lose that would be if they either ceases to lead or represent their countries, or if the United Nations were to refer them to the ICC, International Criminal Court [as has happened to Karadic and now Gaddafi], but then probably you don’t much believe in the jurisdiction or perhaps existence of the UN, much less the ICC, let alone the international law concept of crimes against humanity, so they will probably get off scot-free in carl-world in any event.

April 1, 8:21 am | [comment link]
25. carl wrote:

20. Pageantmaster

Oh, I can’t resist.  Did you notice this? 

War is a declared state between two sovereign countries.

So ‘war’ is formally tied to the sovereignty of two nations.  Only sovereign nations can be at war.  Except that ... 

If it was for anyone to ‘declare war’ in this situation, it would be for the United Nations to do so.

So either 1) the UN has now become a ‘sovereign nation’ or 2) the UN now has the authority to declare that a state of war exists between two sovereign nations.  Boy, this ‘International Law’ stuff is cool.  The UN won’t make Canada declare war on the US just because we stole all their NHL teams, will it?

carl

April 1, 8:28 am | [comment link]
26. Pageantmaster ن [Repent Justin Welby] wrote:

#22 carl

Perhaps we should call it the ‘Vietnam Police Action’ or the ‘Vietnam Intervention’ or the ‘Vietnam Attempted Re-integration in the Global Economic & Political Order.’

People call Vietnam many things.  In Malaya we called the insurgency the “Malayan Emergency” for example.  It is important to recognise that armed conflict and UN peace-keeping takes place in many contexts other than a straight black and white peace/declared war context.  Usually there is a situation which may escalate or remain at the same level.

April 1, 8:29 am | [comment link]
27. Pageantmaster ن [Repent Justin Welby] wrote:

#25 carl - you miss out what I went on to say, which is that to say that the UN would declare war is to misunderstand both what the UN is, and what its role is.

#23 Br. Michael - the Crucifixion was not a declaration of war, it was a judicial execution…and a rebellion against God.

No one has suggested that the UN is a sovereign nation, although it has some of its attributes, including diplomatic status, and a special status for its building in New York as far as I understand it.  The UN does not have jurisdiction over the US as a sovereign nation, although though its accession to the UN Charter, the US has agreed to be bound by those terms.

April 1, 8:34 am | [comment link]
28. Br. Michael wrote:

Accept where it conflicts with our constitution.

Look, if Obama had gone to the US Congress and gotten a declaration of war, or if that offends your sensibilities, a joint resolution authorizing military action against Libya, then I might agree with you.  And, in order to keep the international community, a UN authorization would be nice.

But under US law and the US Constitution a UN authorization doesn’t authorize the President to do squat.  And that is the point.

If the UN, without more, can authorize the PM to go to war/initiate military action, without the approval of the Parliament or Cabinet, than that is fine and dandy.  More power to you.

April 1, 9:30 am | [comment link]
29. carl wrote:

27. Pageantmaster

you miss out what I went on to say

Aaaaah, you are correct.  I was blinded by my desire to get to the punch line.  See, I should never try to make a post just before I leave the house, because I rush and half-read things. Curiously, however, this is really all your fault for making a post while I was writing.  Try to be more careful.  I trust this lack of judgment on your part will not be repeated in the future.

carl wink

April 1, 9:33 am | [comment link]
30. Isaac wrote:

Br. Michael, under your reading of the Constitution, you’ve made criminals of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison, all of whom engaged in foreign and internal armed conflict without a declaration of war, and who, presumably, had some intimate understanding of constitutional law, given they wrote the thing.  Not to mention R. Reagan and GHW Bush, both of whom sent troops into combat in Grenada, Panama and Lebanon without congressional approval.  Congress has the power to delegate its authority; this principle is long standing in constitutional law.  It delegated some of its authority to the President in the War Powers Act.  Having UN authorization means that the international community is on board, nothing more, nothing less, but the fact that it’s there does give international legitimacy to the use of force.

April 1, 9:41 am | [comment link]
31. Sarah wrote:

RE: “One can see the effects of this carping in the US and Europe in the shambles that Eastern Libya has become this week.”

This is rich.  Wise people [analysts from all angles] point out the utter shambles that the effort is and the horrendous consequences to follow—and Pageantmaster blames the predictable utter shambles that has followed on “carping” in the US and Europe.

Incredible cheeky—but I guess that is all that is left for those who predicted bizarrely rosy outcomes and were blind to reality.

April 1, 9:44 am | [comment link]
32. Isaac wrote:

You might notice that Chinese leaders do not travel the world in fear of being arrested for violations of International Law.  I wonder why?

Because they’re not signatories to the ICC, and the ICC only has jurisdiction in places where the Rome Statute has been ratified and where the normal legal system is unequipped to process those types of crimes.

April 1, 9:48 am | [comment link]
33. Pageantmaster ن [Repent Justin Welby] wrote:

#29 carl

Aaaaah, you are correct.  I was blinded by my desire to get to the punch line.  See, I should never try to make a post just before I leave the house, because I rush and half-read things. Curiously, however, this is really all your fault for making a post while I was writing.  Try to be more careful.  I trust this lack of judgment on your part will not be repeated in the future.

Please explain why you have been absent without leave from your computer post and not reading my mind while typing?  Whatever next - will we next hear that you have been whisked off to London in a private jet?

#28 Br. Michael

Look, if Obama had gone to the US Congress and gotten a declaration of war, or if that offends your sensibilities, a joint resolution authorizing military action against Libya, then I might agree with you.  And, in order to keep the international community, a UN authorization would be nice.

But under US law and the US Constitution a UN authorization doesn’t authorize the President to do squat.  And that is the point.

It is a fair point that it is a matter for the US and its President whether to contribute to UN forces in accordance with its own laws, but that does not entitle one to redefine what “war” is.  And that is the point.

As I mentioned the UK Parliament is not instructed by the UN, but backed by vote, the involvement of UK forces in the coalition, in the same way as the Swedish Parliament has today - all without “declaring war”.

#31 Hi Sarah

Incredible cheeky—but I guess that is all that is left for those who predicted bizarrely rosy outcomes and were blind to reality.

Do you have some reasoned arguments to help me get a handle on that comment please?

April 1, 10:02 am | [comment link]
34. Pageantmaster ن [Repent Justin Welby] wrote:

By the way, for anyone who thinks this is all about academic arguments over international law, this report from Reuters today shows why the coalition has come together and why it is so important:

A man called Sami from Misurata tells Reuters by telephone:

“We no longer recognise the place. The destruction cannot be described. The pro-Gaddafi soldiers who made it inside the city through Tripoli Street are pillaging the place, the shops, even homes, and destroying everything in the process.

They are targeting everyone, including civilians’ homes. I don’t know what to say..”

April 1, 10:22 am | [comment link]
35. Br. Michael wrote:

From the article:

But he used to. As John Dickerson points out in Slate, President Obama has flip-flopped on this issue just as egregiously as Newt Gingrich (although not as quickly). He said in 2007, “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.” As Bruce Ackerman points out in Foreign Policy, Obama’s flouting of the war power is arguably more egregious than George W. Bush’s because Bush did in the end get authorization (claiming all along that he didn’t need to).

I am just so glad that so many are happy as clams to render the power of Congress to declare war as a nullity and hand that power to the President.  Maybe the President should have the power to levy and raise war taxes to fund his wars.  You could justify this as a necessary requirement to fulfill his obligations as commander in chief.  That way we don’t need a Congress or a Constitution at all.

War is blowing things up and killing people.  It’s that simple.  All else is justification and sophistry.

April 1, 10:38 am | [comment link]
36. Br. Michael wrote:

How about this:

WAR

A contention by force; or the art of paralysing the forces of an enemy.

It is either public or private. It is not intended here to speak of the latter.

Public war is either civil or national. Civil war is that which is waged between two parties, citizens or members of the same state or nation. National war is a contest between two or more independent nations) carried on by authority of their respective governments.War is not only an act, but a state or condition, for nations are said to be at war not only when their armies are engaged, so as to be in the very act of contention, but also when, they have any matter of controversy or dispute subsisting between them which they are determined to decide by the use of force, and have declared publicly, or by their acts, their determination so to decide it.

National wars are said to be offensive or defensive. War is offensive on the part of that government which commits the first act of violence; it is defensive on the part of that government which receives such act; but it is very difficult to say what is the first act of violence. If a nation sees itself menaced with an attack, its first act of violence to prevent such attack, will be considered as defensive. To legalize a war it must be declared by that branch of the government entrusted by the Constitution with this power. And it seems it need not be declared by both the belligerent powers. By the Constitution of the United States, Art. I, Congress is invested with power “to declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water; and they have also the power to raise and support armies, and to provide and maintain a navy.”

http://www.lectlaw.com/def2/w038.htm

April 1, 10:46 am | [comment link]
37. Sarah wrote:

RE: “It seemed likely that the regime’s days were very limited indeed.”

Well of course it didn’t—as was pointed out very realistically.  “Air support” was never going to end the regime and that was ceaselessly pointed out from the beginning.

RE: “Then the US President under pressure from writers such as this one, pulled the US out of command and control at a critical point and insisted it go to Nato, pandering to Germany and Turkey [which is batting for both sides].”

All the US President promised was some air support for the rebels.  They did that.  And the rosy predictors trumpeted that it would all be a matter of “days” not weeks. 

RE: “. . . and some of the US ships sailed off.  Where is the West was the cry from Benghazi, as the coalition planes dissappeared from the skies?”

Oh, “the West” is the UK, Pageantmaster, and all the other “western” countries who set up a ceaseless cry for their UN resolution.  They can jolly well go ahead and fulfill it.  That’s what you wanted, remember?  That’s *all* you claimed you wanted.  Well, you have the UN resolution—go out there and establish you “no-fly zone”—which was never going to get what “the West” actually wanted anyway.

RE: “In consequence of what appear to be more limited terms of engagement, there is a rout going on.”

Why how confusing—I thought the UN resolution was to establish the no-fly zone and to provide “air support.”  Of course that was “limited terms of engagement.” 

RE: “Gaddaffi has seized his chance and brought back forces close to the civilian enclaves which are outgunning the civilian defenders in the East, and running amok in Misurata.  It seems highly likely that Benghazi will again be under threat and all the wonderful work of that first action will be wasted.”

Yup—as was predicted ceaselessly from the beginning.  You’ve got your UN resolution, and your “air support” and your “no-fly zone”—and it’s not enough.

RE: “It is getting worse not better . . . “

Yup.

RE: ” . . . no doubt the destructive backseat driving and carping in the midst of action will continue” . . .

Hopefully, yes, the analysis and warnings will continue.

RE: ” . . . against the interests of both the coalition military forces . . . “

Heh—nope, not at all against the interests.  They—as we have all pointed out—will be able to accomplish whatever they are ordered to do.  We, over in the US, have their backs with regards to the Constitution and sending our troops into harm’s way in a *ridiculous* undeclared and highly shambolic war.

RE: ” . . .the threatened civilians who were saved last week, only to be abandoned this week along . . . “

Nope—they haven’t been “abandoned.” You’ve just realized that they needed more than the no-fly zone.

RE: “with the prospects of a quick result in Libya . . . “

Hah hah.  Never such a prospect—as, again, was ceaselessly pointed out.

RE: ” . . . and with the likelyhood of more, not less of a mess resulting there” . . .

That’s true—now that the UN and “the West” have interfered.  What a holy mess they have made of it.

RE: “One is struck that the indiscipline and lack of cohesiveness of the civilian defenders in Libya rather matches that of the politicians’ and commenters’ debate in the US and the West.”

Not really—one is struck by how cohesive and disciplined the conservative and Constitutional commenters are over here in the US.

April 1, 10:49 am | [comment link]
38. Sarah wrote:

RE: “Do you have some reasoned arguments to help me get a handle on that comment please?”

No need—you already *have* a handle on the comment.  ; > )

The comment asserted succinctly that you and others had bizarrely rosy predictions from two weeks ago, were blind to reality, and now that those predictions have been plunged into the ground and furrowed over and sown with salt, have only to scrabble about and blame the mean commenters for causing the disaster which was predicted from the outset.

Enjoy your UN resolution and “the West’s” efforts in fulfilling their “no-fly zone.”

April 1, 10:53 am | [comment link]
39. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) wrote:

Oh, I’d bet if one was interested in hanging out with British military types, one would see that they love acronyms, too.  And once one does hang out for a while, one learns the “language”.  grin 

I for one don’t care to be “US-centric”, even if I am American.  But, when the allies yell for Obama and co. to “take the lead”, and then control of the operation is booted to NATO(headed by an American), and there remain cries for America, basically, to “get/stay on board and fix this”, then there are good reasons why such things end up “US-centric”.

April 1, 11:28 am | [comment link]
40. Pageantmaster ن [Repent Justin Welby] wrote:

Just an update.  Admiral Mike Mullen has this explanation for the lack of coalition protection to the East in the last few days:

The biggest problem the last three or four days has been weather.

We have not been able to see through the weather or get through the weather to be able to do this kind of identification of targets ...

And that has more than anything else reduced the impact… reduced the effectiveness, and has allowed the regime forces to move back to the east.

That is certainly an alternative to the idea of chaos resulting from the breakneck transfer from US command and control to Nato in the first three days of this week.  Certainly airstrikes seem to have been restarted after three and a half days of complete absense.  Moreover, it looks as if the opposition forces are getting more organised.

#37 Sarah

Well of course it didn’t—as was pointed out very realistically.  “Air support” was never going to end the regime and that was ceaselessly pointed out from the beginning.

No one has suggested that it would.  Air support together with the embargo, blockade, and sanctions however were likely in the short term, and still may, notwithstanding the panicky moves from the US administration in this last week caused by the carping and backbiting of “US conservatives”, if that is what they are.

All the US President promised was some air support for the rebels.  They did that.  And the rosy predictors trumpeted that it would all be a matter of “days” not weeks.

 
Not just the air support, but the entire package might well have produced a result in days, and that is what it looked like last weekend before what looked like the US command and control being made to drop the ball, and hoping that someone would pick it up in time.

Oh, “the West” is the UK, Pageantmaster, and all the other “western” countries who set up a ceaseless cry for their UN resolution.  They can jolly well go ahead and fulfill it.  That’s what you wanted, remember?  That’s *all* you claimed you wanted.  Well, you have the UN resolution—go out there and establish you “no-fly zone”—which was never going to get what “the West” actually wanted anyway.

The coalition will do so Sarah - but no thanks to the panicked ball-dropping this week, and of course Gaddaffi has taken advantage of the disarray to claw things back so he is now threatening the main Eastern population centers and Misurata again.

It was always the intention that the coalition would put in place another command and control capability, but to have it ‘dropped on them’ by a US decision at short notice to drop the ball, is the worst possible way to do it.  But then people who do not recognise this are probably the same as those who called the panicked dropping of the Vietnam support at the fall of Saigon as “peace with honor”, and completely unrelated to the collapse of South Vietnam which followed.

one is struck by how cohesive and disciplined the conservative and Constitutional commenters are over here in the US

Yup, as cohesive and disciplined as a herd of cats.

#38 Sarah again

The comment asserted succinctly that you and others had bizarrely rosy predictions from two weeks ago, were blind to reality, and now that those predictions have been plunged into the ground and furrowed over and sown with salt, have only to scrabble about and blame the mean commenters for causing the disaster which was predicted from the outset.

Actually the results were in fact remarkably good when measured in hundreds of lives saved, and massacres avoided, against all the ‘predictions’.  What no one could plan for or predict was the wobbly thrown by the US administration this week with the prompting of all those “conservative” US commentators, back-biters and carpers.

Enjoy your UN resolution and “the West’s” efforts in fulfilling their “no-fly zone.”

The UN and coalition will do their best Sarah.

April 1, 11:38 am | [comment link]
41. Br. Michael wrote:

Note in 40 the quote form Adm. Mullen.  The transfer from one US command to another.  For Obama to claim that the US is no longer involved because it has been handed off to NATO is an outright lie.

If the Congress cared at all about the Constitution and its Constitutional prerogatives the House would impeach the President.

April 1, 11:50 am | [comment link]
42. Pageantmaster ن [Repent Justin Welby] wrote:

#39 Bookworm

Oh, I’d bet if one was interested in hanging out with British military types, one would see that they love acronyms, too.  And once one does hang out for a while, one learns the “language”

It has been catching.  Certainly the British Military like their acronyms and their jargon, and it helps to confuse the enemy, but is the US which is the acknowledged world leader in production of acronyms.

I don’t think anyone minded the transfer of operational command to Nato, which has the capability and experience to handle it, but it was the way it was done this week, at short notice, and at an absolutely critical point when the military and psychological pressure on Gaddaffi was strongest, which has been absolutely disasterous.

It is not all one sided of course - the Germans and the Turks have been doing and outstanding job on Gaddaffi’s behalf.

April 1, 11:51 am | [comment link]
43. Isaac wrote:

Br. Michael,

Would you also impeach Adams, Jefferson, and Madison for intervening in the Barbary without a declaration of war?  Or Reagan for intervening in Grenada and Lebanon without Congressional approval?  Or Bush I for invading Panama without Congress?  Or is it just this president you object to?

April 1, 12:10 pm | [comment link]
44. Br. Michael wrote:

It is my recollection that the Barbary coast declared war on us. 

In the other cases, Yes.  I object to all Presidents unilaterally starting a war.

April 1, 12:32 pm | [comment link]
45. carl wrote:

42. Pageantmaster

The Coalition has to establish coherent objectives.  This whole fiasco started with the stated goal of ‘protecting civilians.’  Except you can’t protect civilians from 20,000 ft.  It’s not possible.  It was an incoherent fig leaf intended to mask the (obvious) true objective - overthrowing Gadhaffi and his government.  Except it’s not possible to overthrow a gov’t from 20,000 ft, either.  So the objective becomes “Facilitate the victory of the rebellion by providing tactical air support to the rebellion.”  But TacAir can’t overcome the inherent weakness of the ground forces it is intended to support.  It can bomb tanks, but it cannot exploit tactical success on the ground and turn it into strategic victory.  During the Iran-Iraq war, the Iranians would routinely break through the Iraqi lines with massed human wave attacks.  But these attacks could never keep the momentum to exploit the breach.  That is the problem in Libya.  The tools employed are insufficient to the task.

Of course the problem is that the correct tool for the job is the infantry, and no one - least of all Europe - wants to send ground soldiers into Libya.  But that’s the only way to effectvely protect civilians - both those under threat from Gadhaffi, and those who would be under threat from a victorious rebellion.  You need to establish control, disarm the factions, set up police, and manage a transition of power to friendly hands.  There is no cheap, easy way to do it.  This current strategy of TacAir only is simply guaranteed to make things worse.  It will destroy the ability of the Gov’t to win without enabling the rebellion to win.  That is the worst possible outcome.  You aren’t going to like the eventual resolution of this war, and you won’t be able to blame people like me when you realize just how bad that outcome is going to be.

carl

April 1, 1:01 pm | [comment link]
46. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) wrote:

“...Air support together with the embargo, blockade, and sanctions however were likely in the short term, and still may, notwithstanding the panicky moves from the US administration in this last week caused by the carping and backbiting of “US conservatives”...

1.  I have never said I believed all the backbiting was productive; and I don’t believe it is;

2.  Obama dumped the control of it because he wants to prove to everyone, including himself, that he is not “like Bush”; but I think that, as his term continues, he is going to have to be more like Bush than he ever expected to be;

3.  I have also never said that I agreed with the decision to “dump command” to NATO; even though it’s interesting that NATO is headed by, once again, an AMERICAN;

4.  And Br. Michael is precisely right, that just because this has now allegedly gone over to NATO it doesn’t mean that Americans no longer have anything to do with it. 

5.  And it is not unusual for weather to impede operations. 

6.  Again I hope there are people out there who know things I don’t;

7.  I am younger than Carl but I agree with his assessments of Vietnam, and I would also agree that part of the problem with Vietnam was also the “lack of coherent objectives”;

8.  I said above that, were I Obama with the proper intell, I probably would have been unwilling to get involved in this unless I was willing to deploy ground troops;

9.  I hope the situation can be helped from a humanitarian standpoint as well, but Carl nails it in #45—can this be successful without a willingness to invade and/or occupy?  I would doubt it, just as I have doubted it above. 

10.  We probably use acronyms not to confuse others, but to keep ourselves from being confused.  grin 

And prayers for the whole messy situation.

April 1, 1:28 pm | [comment link]
47. Pageantmaster ن [Repent Justin Welby] wrote:

#45 Hi carl
I genuinely believe that the aim of the UN resolution, and myself for that matter in supporting it, was a short term aim of protecting civilians from the wholesale slaughter being inflicting on them.  It is less Iraq and more Rwanda we are talking about here.  There has been a recent parallel, which people seem to forget about and that is the no fly zone imposed on Northern Iraq to protect the Kurds from Saddam Hussain’s attacks.  It was remarkably successful, so it is by no means certain that this will not work in the same way. 

From a military standpoint, I agree the answer would have been infantry support, but for political reasons this is not possible without the invitation of the participants and moreover would have fractured not only the international coalition behind the UNSC resolution, but probably also the Libyan opposition as well.  There seems to be a gap between the protection on the ground which aircraft can give, and what the infantry can offer, although with IED’s we can see the problems in Afghanistan of ground troops.  What I don’t know is whether in bridging this gap in protecting civilians, there is a role for helicopters, and I note that Nato has ships in the area with helicopters on board and I think that the US has helicopter carriers on the way as well.  Perhaps this would be an option in places like Misurata on the coast for dealing with the armed flatbed trucks or ‘technicals’ now being used by the Gaddaffi troops in their latest change of tactics.  Somehow there needs to be a way of protecting the opposition civilians from attack.

As for the bigger picture, provided that in the conflict the good infrastructure of Libya is not destroyed and that includes its public service and police structure, then it is quite possible that a core would be available to any new structure that emerged, much as we have seen happen in Egypt and Tunisia.

It looks as if coalition actions are now back on, and there are signals the opposition is less disorganised than it was and has put professional troops who know what they are doing into the frontline, rather than the brave but hopeless civilians who have been doing what they could, but without much of a clue. 

In addition the structure of the regime appears to be collapsing, and if things can be held for the civilians in the meantime, the whole house of cards in Tripoli may come tumbling down.  If that happens, then I would not discount the Libyans themselves, led as they seem by some decent and educated people who say they aim for a democracy, human rights and the rule of law, to make a decent job, with assistance as the EU is already planning and the UN is beginning to address, at building a decent country again.

April 1, 1:33 pm | [comment link]
48. Isaac wrote:

Br. Michael,  I just want to make sure I understand your position before it’s consigned to the file “Other Crazy Things on the Net.”  It’s your opinion that Adams, Jefferson, Madison, the people who wrote the Constitution, knew they were violating the Constitution they wrote when they attacked other countries without Congressional declaration of war?  Am I getting that right?  That Jackson, Buchanan, McKinley, T. Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II were all violating their oaths of office by engaging in foreign military conflict outside of a congressional declaration of war?

April 1, 1:52 pm | [comment link]
49. carl wrote:

47. Pageantmaster

In addition the structure of the regime appears to be collapsing

That’s the other ‘worst possible outcome.’  If Gadhaffi’s gov’t collapses, you aren’t going to get peace.  You are going to get chaos, anarchy, and a horrendous civil war as the different factions of the rebellion start to compete for the spoils.  Then you will really start to see a threat to civilians.  And what are you going to do about it?

See, at this point you are trapped.  You want to protect the civilian population from Gadhaffi, but the only way at this point to accomplish that task is to bring down his goverment.  But there is nothing available to replace that government other than the military you are currently bombing.  So to protect the country from Gadhaffi, you are delivering it into the hands of chaos and anarchy.  At which point you will either 1) intervene to clean up the humanitarian catastrophe you have created or 2) look away from what you have done.  Here is the one thing that will never happen:

I would not discount the Libyans themselves, led as they seem by some decent and educated people who say they aim for a democracy, human rights and the rule of law, to make a decent job, with assistance as the EU is already planning and the UN is beginning to address, at building a decent country again.

People fight to obtain power in order to exercise power, and these rebels are neither Jeffersonian democrats nor Burkean conservatives.  You must grasp this, Pageantmaster.  These people are not who you hope them to be.

carl

April 1, 1:58 pm | [comment link]
50. Pageantmaster ن [Repent Justin Welby] wrote:

#49 carl
I understand where you are coming from but am not convinced you are right.  Why do I say that?  Well the evidence so far - contrary to your predictions, the opposition has coalesced into a preliminary structure with an interim council to represent it.  What is more there are some “decent and educated people” on it.  Today came news that they are also working with and assisting those in Misrata, and a representative from Misrata came to Benghazi to meet the UN representative of Ban Kee Moon.

Something like 70% of Libyans are under 30 and there is a high level of education, so no, I don’t discount them organising their own state along democratic lines.  What they have been saying all along is that it is democracy and a say in their lives and removal of oppression.

I hope they achieve that, but we won’t know until they are given the chance when Gaddaffi goes, and I think it is a matter of when, as things collapse around him, one way or another.

Gaddaffi however would like us to believe that a descent into tribal violence and infighting will be the result.

April 1, 3:23 pm | [comment link]
51. Br. Michael wrote:

Isaac, there have been five declared wars in the History of the United States.  Some involved the Presidents you named.  You are not interested in a realistic response and I decline to do so.

If you want to take the position that the President has carte blanche to go to war then fine.  At one time Obama disagreed with you.

April 1, 6:03 pm | [comment link]
52. Isaac wrote:

Br. Michael,  and there’s been 24 military foreign military interventions in US history.  I’m obviously not referring to declared wars, and all of the Presidents I named engaged in foreign conflict without declared wars.  I’m just interested in seeing this sort of blanket condemnation of Obama’s use of the War Powers Act be applied consistently.  IF it’s unconstitutional for Obama to commit US forces to combat without a declaration of war, then it’s unconstitutional for Madison to do it.  But we can’t say that, because it would be silly to say that the person who was most responsible for the drafting of the Constitution to not know what it meant or what the intention was.  WHat I think about presidential war powers isn’t relevant.  You made the claim, I simply want to know how you’re applying it.

April 1, 10:18 pm | [comment link]
53. carl wrote:

This is positively amazing.  The NY Times is reporting that NATO has threatened to bomb its erstwhile allies in Libya.  I can’t wait to see how Pageantmaster spins this insanity.  Think about this.  We are now threatening to bomb both sides impartially in a bid to overthrow Gadhaffi so that we can protect civilians from both sides without resorting to the necessity of inserting ground forces.  This is what passes for policy when you do not have two connected brain cells in your head.  Here is a clue.  The justification for overthrowing Gadhaffi was his mistreatment of his own population.  If you have to bomb the opposition to keep them from killing civilians as well, then perhaps .. JUST PERHAPS .. you might think about what the Hell you are doing in the mess in the first place

carl

April 2, 12:59 am | [comment link]
54. Br. Michael wrote:

I am applying it specifically in the following situation:

The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.

From the War Powers Act of 1973

Obama has stated:

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.
As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.

http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/candidate-obama-vs-president-obama-a-message-on-the-use-of-military-force/

Secretary of Defense Gates has stated:

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that Libya did not pose a threat to the United States before the U.S. began its military campaign against the North African country.
On “This Week,” ABC News’ Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper asked Gates, “Do you think Libya posed an actual or imminent threat to the United States?”
“No, no,” Gates said in a joint appearance with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, their first since the Libya operation began. “It was not — it was not a vital national interest to the United States, but it was an interest and it was an interest for all of the reasons Secretary Clinton talked about. The engagement of the Arabs, the engagement of the Europeans, the general humanitarian question that was at stake.”
http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/robert-gates-admits-libya-is-neither-a-threat-nor-a-vital-national-interest/

I will apply this standard to all past presidents regardless of party.

If this applies to any military action taken by Mr. Madison, then so be it.  He should have been impeached too as should any other President.

April 2, 7:55 am | [comment link]
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