Well, it’s official. The President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, has asked the Nobel Prize Committee to take back President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize owing to Mr. Obama’s missile strikes in Libya. The head of Russia’s Liberal Democratic Party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, also has weighed in, and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is really in a snit. This is the best news Col. Moammar Gadhafi has had in weeks.
Mr. Obama, who ordered air strikes against Libya and then took his wife and the girls on a sightseeing and official junket to South America, probably took little note of the Bolivian’s and Russians’ actions, but it does show how difficult it is to get “world opinion” behind the use of force - even against a dictator like Col. Gadhafi. There is more unease in the “world community.” Amr Moussa, the head of the Arab League, at first was for enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya. Now he is not so sure. The next thing you know, he will be on Col. Gadhafi’s side. World opinion can be volatile.
Progressives have long been in favor of one world vouchsafed by the United Nations. Henry Wallace, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second vice president and the 1948 presidential candidate for the Progressive Party, spoke of it often. On the campaign trail in 1948, he spoke of “jobs, peace and freedom” that “can be attained together and make possible one world, prosperous and free, within our lifetime.” He, too, promised to coordinate policy through the United Nations. Had President Roosevelt died but six months earlier, America would have had this fantastico in the White House. As it was, in one last act of cunning for his country, Roosevelt maneuvered Wallace out of the vice presidency and Harry Truman in. Harry was green, but he was not naive. We came that close to Henry Wallace and his “Gideon’s Army” in the White House.
Now we have another progressive on the scene, and this one is in the White House. He sleeps in the very bed that Wallace sought, though Wallace got only 1,157,328 votes pursuant to the big bed at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In the 1940s, the Democratic Party was divided among diverse groups: the urban machines, the populists of the West, ethnic groups with roots behind the Iron Curtain, and labor unions that often were staunchly anti-communist. It was more difficult to get a left-wing loony through. Certainly it was difficult to get a left-wing loony through with no executive experience. Even Wallace had been vice president and secretary of commerce. In the homogeneous Democratic Party of today, Wallace might have made it through a convention. A community leader from Chicago, Barack Obama, certainly could, and he had just four years’ experience in national politics, two of those years spent on the campaign trail.
Now he has shown the progressive’s traditional impatience with our constitutional process. He did not go to Congress to get a declaration or an authorization of war. He has no authorization from Congress to spend money on his no-fly zone. In fact, he did not go to Congress at all. He went directly to the United Nations, seeking authority to act in Libya. There he was given the runaround for four days while Libyans were dying.
What should he have done? I think Richard G. Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had a very good thought on this. According to him, Mr. Obama first should have sought “a congressional debate on a declaration of war under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.” He did not do this. He went over the Congress of the United States to the United Nations. He was more comfortable with “world opinion” and “the community of nations.” But now that community is breaking up. China and Russia are not with him. The lesser nations are in flux, and even military commanders in the coalition are uncertain. Mr. Obama does not really know what is happening. I suggest he have another of his beer summits, this time with George W. Bush, though I would caution him to follow George’s custom and make it a sarsaparilla summit. Ask George, Mr. President, how he got the wisdom to go to Congress before going to war.
If there is no hero in this mess, there is, at least, an anti-hero, one of the first order - Col. Gadhafi. He has proved that a tyrant spared the presence of a resolute leader in the White House can get away with murder. How unlucky for Saddam Hussein and, for that matter, Adolf Hitler, that they did not have a Barack Obama or a Henry Wallace in the White House in their day.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor-in-chief of the American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His new book is “After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery” (Thomas Nelson, 2010).