- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 5, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President Obama dismissed criticism of his Libya policy last week, saying, “A lot of this fuss is politics.” Regardless of action on Senate Joint Resolution 20, the McCain-Kerry plan to authorize the limited use of force in Libya, the more important issue is Mr. Obama’s unwillingness to own up to his decisions in his role as commander in chief. Mr. Obama took the country to war in Libya, and he should admit it.

The fuss goes beyond politics, beyond whether Mr. Obama’s policies are in the U.S. national interest and even beyond whether American military action has been effective. The most important issue is Mr. Obama’s contempt for the intelligence of the American people. No one believes the self-serving White House argument that U.S. involvement in Libya’s civil war does not constitute “hostilities.” Mr. Obama’s legalistic attempt to duck his responsibilities under the War Powers Resolution has left his administration having to defend the biggest credibility gap since “the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The war over “hostilities” was launched on June 15 with a White House memo to Congress that argued that the “limited” American role in Libya did not rise to the level of action envisioned by framers of the War Powers Resolution. State Department legal adviser Harold Koh has been the point man defending the administration’s creative use of language, though he hasn’t been very effective. After his testimony last week before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, senators approved the McCain-Kerry resolution with a passage stating flatly that U.S. actions in Libya “constitute hostilities within the meaning of the War Powers Resolution.”

Common sense should be enough to define hostilities, but lacking that, there is official proof. On June 3, The Washington Times broke the story that on April 26 the Defense Department had designated troops operating in Libya, Tunisia and a portion of the Mediterranean Sea as eligible for “imminent danger pay” of $225 a month, retroactive to March 19, which was the onset of U.S. Operation Odyssey Dawn. According to the Pentagon, such a designation applies to “foreign areas where U.S. military personnel are subject to the threat of physical harm or imminent danger on the basis of civil insurrection, civil war, terrorism or wartime conditions.”

Last week, United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) reported that since March 31, the advent of NATO’s Operation Unified Protector, U.S. forces have flown 3,475 sorties, of which 801 were strike sorties and 132 dropped ordnance. The White House has admitted that U.S. strike forces are involved in “suppression and destruction of [Libyan] air defenses” but said such attacks still fall outside the definition of hostilities. Yet according to U.S. Air Force Doctrine Document AFDD 3-01, “Counterair Operations,” suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) is an offensive mission “designed to neutralize, destroy or degrade enemy surface-based air defenses by destructive or disruptive means.” If a foreign power or terrorist group did this to the United States, it would trigger a full-scale war.

Mr. Obama may soon be granted congressional authorization he doesn’t want to fight a war he says is not a war, with money he can’t afford, in pursuit of regime change that dare not speak its name. He isn’t fooling anyone but himself.

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