- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 15, 2011

President Obama’s decision to involve U.S. military forces in an unconstitutional, unexplained mission in Libya has left many Americans seeking answers and action from Congress. Why has Mr. Obama ignored the public and congressional questions regarding his actions? Why did he thrust our American soldiers into this battle without the consent of Congress? While Senate Democratic leadership has so far not acted, these are questions that the House of Representatives is attempting to have answered.

On June 3, the House passed a resolution demanding that the president provide the American people with specific answers and rational reasoning. So far, Mr. Obama has failed to provide compelling and legitimate logic behind U.S involvement in the Libyan mission. The House is requesting that the president be held accountable for his actions and provide the American people with answers. The U.S. Senate should follow their lead.

America was flung into a war that lacks congressional approval and fiscal discipline. The administration’s complete disregard for the Constitution has bothered many Americans, for the Constitution clearly states that it is Congress that has the power to declare war, not the president. The War Powers Act also clearly states that U.S. armed forces are to engage in immediate hostilities only if the circumstances are “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.”

Absent these criteria, the president has no authority to declare war. Even if the president believes he has such authority, the War Powers Act goes on to require the president to seek congressional approval within 60 days of conflict. That deadline has come and gone, and only last night did Mr. Obama belatedly begin providing Congress and the American people with answers. The mission in Libya does not comply with the requirements outlined in the War Powers Act. Therefore, I demand an explanation.

Our Founding Fathers created a government with checks and balances to ensure collective judgment. By engaging our armed forces in the Libyan mission, the administration has gone against the founding principles on which our nation was built.

As an American citizen, I respect, honor and abide by our Constitution. Violating it is a major offense and a significant problem for this president. Not only is Mr. Obama’s lack of congressional authority for war unconstitutional, the war also is not in our best interest. Our country is in the midst of an economic crisis, and we do not have the funds to subsidize the rest of the world. Because of our ever-increasing deficit, our current expansive foreign policies are no longer fiscally possible to sustain. Protecting and rebuilding other nations should not be our priority - our first loyalty should belong to America.

Libya is a prime example of our problematic, overreaching and sometimes unnecessary foreign policy. We need to implement new policies that reflect conservative and constitutional values and ethics using our military to protect the American people. I am uninterested in using U.S. forces for the process of nation-building. We must take care of our nation before we attempt to rebuild or support others.

Thus far, the United States has provided 93 percent of the cruise missiles, 66 percent of the personnel, 50 percent of the ships and 50 percent of the planes in this Libyan mission. The resources provided are estimated to cost roughly $700 million. I do not see any logic behind such expenditures. Why is America, in a time of economic emergency, spending $700 million to support a war effort that is not of any interest to our nation’s well-being?

Congress should not stand by indolently while a war of choice is being waged on our dime. America cannot financially or emotionally afford another war. Congress must put an end to it. It is our responsibility to defend the Constitution and the American people; thus, I urge my colleagues to remember their loyalties and take this administration off of its unnecessary war path.

Considering that many of my colleagues (and the president himself) have forgotten the war authority of the legislative branch, I am introducing legislation reiterating these powers. Our lawmakers should be on record acknowledging whether they agree that Congress, not the president, has the power to authorize war and, in doing so, recognize that Mr. Obama violated this rule.

Admitting the president violated the Constitution won’t change our situation in Libya. It will, however, send an important message to the chief executive that our Constitution is to be honored and respected. Who’s to say that if he had come to Congress initially he would not have gotten the approval he needed? I would not have voted in support of the engagement, but others likely would have.

Sen. Rand Paul is a Republican from Kentucky.

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