- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 20, 2011

President Obama said the death of longtime Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi on Thursday shows “the rule of an iron fist inevitably comes to an end.”

“The dark shadow of tyranny has been lifted,” Mr. Obama said from the White House Rose Garden, hours after the news that Col. Gadhafi had been killed in fighting near his hometown of Sirte. “One of the world’s longest-serving dictators is no more.”

The killing of Col. Gadhafi is the culmination of Mr. Obama’s unauthorized seven-month military operation, an intervention that continues to raise questions about the limits of presidential power and the wisdom of U.S. participation in the multilateral mission to oust the Libyan leader.

Mr. Obama credited the Libyan people, the U.S. and its allies for toppling Col. Gadhafi’s regime.

“This is a momentous day in the history of Libya,” said Mr. Obama, addressing its citizens. “You have won your revolution.”

The initial reaction in Congress, where many lawmakers had questioned whether Mr. Obama’s policy violated the 1973 War Powers Act, overwhelmingly was positive. But some in Congress noted that America’s obligation for rebuilding in Libya has only begun.

“The mad dog of the Middle East is dead, and the Libyan people can breathe a sigh of relief,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican. “Libya is trying to build a democracy out of the ashes of a dictatorship, and the United States should be a helpful partner in that endeavor. The decisions made in the coming days about Libya will affect our own national security, and the security of the region, for decades to come.”

Some foreign-policy analysts said Mr. Obama’s decision to go to war without explicit congressional authorization won’t hold up as a model for future U.S. action, in spite of the president’s claim that he has set a useful precedent for intervening in foreign-policy crises on humanitarian grounds.

Leslie H. Gelb, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said there is no “clear-headed policy thinking” evident in the administration’s decision, noting that Mr. Obama is not likely to replicate his action against dictatorships in Saudi Arabia or Bahrain, which are friendly to the U.S.

“It’s very dangerous to get into the business of humanitarian intervention” unless the action is limited and precise, Mr. Gelb said. He also said that, in spite of Col. Gadhafi’s dictatorial ways, he had been aiding the U.S. in rooting out al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists among tribes in eastern Libya.

“I’m worried about terrorists having more of a free rein there,” said Mr. Gelb, citing reports that terrorists are helping themselves to the stockpile of weapons from the Gadhafi regime.

Mr. Obama never asked for congressional approval when he launched the military action in March, and his legal team later came up with justification for not seeking lawmakers’ approval.

But the decision precipitated a constitutional clash, with House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, and other lawmakers in both parties arguing that the president was violating the War Powers Resolution.

The act sets limits on how long a president can commit combat troops without obtaining congressional approval.

On Thursday, a federal judge dismissed a bipartisan case brought by 10 members of Congress challenging the president’s authority to commit the nation to war without congressional approval. The court said it didn’t have jurisdiction, declining to rule on the constitutional merits of the complaint.

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