President Obama has crossed the Rubicon. He now believes - and acts - as if he is above the law; the Constitution no longer applies to him. This is the real meaning behind the U.S. military intervention in Libya. Mr. Obama is abrogating the linchpin of our democracy: the rule of law.
He is violating the War Powers Act. Passed in 1973, the law clearly stipulates that the commander in chief can only deploy U.S. forces for 60 to 90 days without congressional approval. He must then receive authorization from Congress. If he does not, he is usurping legislative authority and expanding the prerogatives of the executive branch - concentrating power in his hands, especially the most important act of all: war. In short, by flagrantly transgressing the War Powers Act, Mr. Obama has sparked a constitutional crisis.
House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, is demanding that the Obama administration explain why it has passed the deadline without seeking or getting congressional approval for the Libyan campaign. The White House’s response: Get lost. The administration sent a report to lawmakers defending the NATO-led Libyan war. For Mr. Obama, the War Powers Act does not apply because U.S. forces apparently are not engaged in “sustained hostilities” with troops loyal to strongman Col. Moammar Gadhafi. Moreover, U.S. air and missile strikes are only being conducted in a “supporting” role. Hence, there is no need to have congressional buy-in.
This is postmodern humanitarian interventionism. According to the liberal apparatchiks in the White House, Mr. Obama can bypass Congress simply by redefining “hostilities.” War is no longer war. It is whatever Mr. Obama says it is - or isn’t. George Orwell warned that the perversion of language is the first step on the dark road to authoritarianism.
America has declared war on Col. Moammar Gadhafi. Mr. Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron have openly called for regime change. U.S. and NATO jets have pounded Tripoli, rained missiles upon Col. Gadhafi’s army positions and destroyed his air defenses. CIA agents are on the ground, helping to arm and train the Libyan rebels. Without U.S. drones, fighters, equipment, ammunition and missiles, NATO would not be able to sustain the no-fly zone or the relentless military campaign. Mr. Obama may pretend that our involvement is minimal or somehow not the equivalent of a full-scale war because of the lack of ground troops. But it is shameless propaganda. Col. Gadhafi and the Libyan army consider America to be at war, as do the civilians who suffer collateral damage from NATO’s missiles and bombs.
From its inception, the Libyan campaign has been strategically incoherent. First, the administration claimed military intervention was necessary to save civilians from a potential Srebrenica-style massacre in Benghazi. When that was averted, Mr. Obama then argued that NATO bombing had to continue to prevent Col. Gadhafi from routing poorly organized rebel forces. Now the policy has evolved into overthrowing Libya’s police state.
Mr. Obama pledged in the war’s opening days that the campaign would be quick, limited and well-defined. Instead, the conflict drags on and the goals keep expanding. It has become another exercise in nation-building. The president has misled Congress and the country.
Moreover, the rebels - contrary to Mr. Obama’s spin - are not pro-democracy freedom fighters. Many of them are Muslim fundamentalists who seek to forge an Islamist Libya. Al Qaeda is in their ranks. Libyan jihadists who spent years in Iraq killing U.S. soldiers form the nucleus of the anti-Gadhafi movement. Hence, Washington is doing the unthinkable: empowering Islamic butchers whose hands are soaked in American blood.
Mr. Obama’s policy contravenes our national interest, is inept, immoral and illegal. This is why members of Congress are in open revolt. A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio Democrat, and Rep. Walter B. Jones, North Carolina Republican, have filed a lawsuit demanding that the courts force Mr. Obama to end the intervention in Libya. They are right. It is time Congress reined in an out-of-control administration. There is a growing alliance between conservative constitutionalists and anti-war liberals.
Mr. Obama, however, continues to thumb his nose at lawmakers for one reason: He lacks the votes in Congress. The administration refuses to ask for congressional approval because the Libyan adventure is deeply unpopular - both on Capitol Hill and throughout the country. Having failed to make his case, the president now hopes simply to ignore the public and the Constitution.
In addition, the hypocrisy of the liberal establishment is stunning. For years, progressives, such as Mr. Obama, railed against President George W. Bush. He was denounced as a “fascist” dictator and compared to Adolf Hitler for his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Bush lied, people died,” went the slogan. Yet, regardless of whether one supported those campaigns or not, Mr. Bush received congressional authorization. Ironically, it is Mr. Obama who is behaving like a political thug.
Congress is rightly reminding the president that America is a self-governing republic. We will not allow the Anointed One to turn himself into a modern-day Caesar.
Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute.