It was only a matter of time before the bombing campaign that NATO nations—including the United States—have waged against Libya would go horribly awry. And so it has. NATO commanders are now acknowledging that their forces bombed residential neighborhoods in Tripoli, killing and injuring civilians over the weekend—just as they previously admitted that misdirected air strikes killed rebels they were supposed to be aiding.
War is a messy business that is frequently defined by “collateral damage.” Civilians get killed. “Friendly fire” takes down allies. That’s reality. And in a necessary war, Americans of many partisanships and ideologies can accept that reality and the need to continue the conflict.
But the Libya fight is not necessary; at least not for the United States. And Americans know that, The latest CBS News poll finds that “six in 10 Americans do not think that the United States should be involved in the conflict within that country. Just 30% of Americans think the United States is doing the right thing by taking part in the current military conflict in Libya now. A majority of Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike think the U.S. should not be involved in Libya.”
President Obama, who steered the United States into the Libya conflict without proper authorization from Congress, has stubbornly refused to reconsider his wrongheaded approach to the conflict. Now we learn, from a New York Times report, that Pentagon’s general counsel, Jeh C. Johnson, and Caroline D. Krass, the acting director of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, both advised President Obama that our nation’s involvement in the war in Libya constitutes “hostilities” as defined by the War Powers Act.
Translation: Even the Pentagon and the Justice Department say this was is in conflict with the laws and the Constitution of the United States.
President Obama is wrong.
And it is the job of Congress to address that wrong.
The opportunity could come this week.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, plans to offer the House a pair of choices: vote to authorize the US combat mission or vote to bring it to an end.
The first resolution—parallel to a proposal advanced by Senators John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, and John McCain, R-Arizona, that authorizes a limited US military mission of one year in duration. This resolution prohibits the use of ground troops except to defend endangered Americans.
The second resolution demands that, in keeping with the War Powers Act, US forces be removed from Libya “except for forces engaged in non-hostile actions such as search & rescue, aerial re-fueling, operational planning, intelligence/surveillance/reconnaissance, and non-combat missions.”
Even that is too much.
No war should be launched without a Congressional declaration, of the sort sought and obtained by President Franklin Roosevelt before the launch of World War II, and President Woodrow Wilson before World War I.