Last Friday, May 20, was the deadline for a report to congress from President Barack Obama on his engagement of U.S. military forces in the Libyan civil war. That deadline passed without the report required by the War Powers Act, making this administration once again a group of lawbreakers. When the chief executive of a nation takes it upon himself to act without legal authority and without the required consent of other areas of government, we usually think of such actions as imperial in nature.
Consider President Barack Obama’s long record of contempt for the laws and Constitution of the United States.
Going back to the early days of his presidency, a Democrat-controlled congress acting in contravention to constitutional limits on government authority essentially gave him the authority (as if one body acting outside its authority can give authority to someone else that is outside their authority) to dictate terms to the bailed-out auto industry, even going so far as to dictate that auto companies close certain (Republican-owned) dealerships around the country and to force the resignation of the General Motors CEO.
The administration did basically the same thing to the bailed-out financial industry, making it clear that the Administration expected the financial industry to dance to its tune, or face the might of the federal government coming down on it. Obama and Treasury Secretary “Tax Cheat” Timothy Geithner made it clear that in “their America” even our free market way of life (the only economic system permissible under the U.S. Constitution) would look very different than Americans were used to.
Next we saw a Democrat-controlled congress pass the unconstitutional government health care bill known as ObamaCare–a socialist scheme we are now seeing even the proponents of which are trying to get out of.
This administration made it very clear that it would not only refuse to enforce our nation’s borders and national sovereignty, it would vehemently oppose any of the states attempts to do the job it refuses to do.
Not only has the Obama Administration made it clear that it refuses to enforce our border laws, it refuses to enforce our immigration laws to deal with the millions of invaders who have come here and remain here illegally. The Obama Administration is seeking to effect “stealth amnesty” where congress has failed to provide amnesty legislatively.
A few months ago, the Obama Administration informed the American people that it had taken it upon itself to decide that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)–passed by congress and signed into law by a Democrat president–was unconstitutional and it wouldn’t be enforcing that law either.
Now President Obama has entangled the U.S. military in a civil war in Libya where there is absolutely no American interest whatsoever. He did so without the slightest shred of authorization from congress, not even bothering to tell them beforehand of his intent, much less seek formal authorization as President Bush did for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Since then, he has not considered it worth his time to descend from Mount Olympus to issue the report to congress required by the War Powers Act of 1973.
Unlike many of my conservative friends, I do not see a requirement in the U.S. Constitution for a formal declaration of war before U.S. military forces can be employed. Article 1 Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, which provides to congress its limited powers, says congress has the authority to declare war, but it does not require that congress issue a formal declaration of war in order for American military forces to be employed.
This is what Article 1 Section 8 says about congressional authority to declare war:
To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;
Like many of my conservative friends, I firmly believe that a declaration of war is undoubtedly the best way to begin the use of military force for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it makes our intent very clear, and by default should set a tone which expects and demands a very clear and definitive end to hostilities (i.e. the unconditional surrender of our enemy). But I do not see in the Constitution or in the actions of the founders that a formal declaration of war is required before U.S. military force may be employed.
In fact, there may be instances where a declaration of war would be (pardon the unintended pun) overkill. If one is to adopt the assumption stated above that a formal declaration of war helps to make it clear that the declaring nation means to thoroughly kick the object nation’s can and not let up until you can stick a fork in them, this makes sense in cases where the offending nation’s leadership is unrepentant and unreasonable (see the World Wars, Iraq and others for examples). But in other cases, it may only be necessary and even desirable to make a point and walk away (the Barbary Wars, Grenada, Reagan’s 1986 strike on Libya, etc).
We conservatives usually look to the words and deeds of the founders when we seek to determine the proper course of action for our nation. Looking back to the actions of our nation’s third and fourth presidents, we see U.S. military force employed half-way across the globe, and without a declaration of war. The Barbary Wars which took place during the presidencies of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, saw the president sending military force without a declaration of war against the Barbary nations which were attacking our ships and enslaving our sailors.
As the Heritage Foundation’s blog The Foundry pointed out recently, the United States engaged in military actions abroad nearly 60 times between 1783 and 1860. Most of these military engagements were carried out without a declaration of war.
But while President Obama is not bound by the U.S. Constitution to have a formal declaration in hand before employing our armed forces, he is bound by the lawfully-passed War Powers Act. That law requires the president to notify congress within 48 hours of committed U.S. military forces to action, and sets a 60-day limit on their use without authorization for further use from congress.
President Obama is now not only well past that 48 hours, but also past the 60 day limit on the engagement of our forces in those hostilities. And we have heard not a whimper from congress. Though I cannot conceive of what the American interest in the Libyan civil war might be, the president is legally required to at least attempt to make his case to congress. He has allowed 60 days to elapse without even attempting to seek congress’ approval, thus once more demonstrating complete contempt for not only congress, but for the laws of this nation and for the people of this nation.
While we certainly cannot expect the gang of Democratic lapdogs in the Senate to do anything, certainly we should be hearing something from the Republican-controlled House about this outrage. Yet all I hear from Capitol Hill is the crickets chirping.
Has the Republican House lost its nerve to stand up to this lawless president?