[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here. Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]
Yes, this is another post on Libya. As followers of this blog know, I first drew the conclusion that it was an illegal war here, and have since talked about it here, here and here. Let me be clear where I stand. I believe he was required to get Congressional approval first. And I believe Congress should have given it to him. But since they haven’t, and there is no attack or even imminent threat to the US or its troops, he can’t justify making war on Libya.
And it seems that the issue is not going away yet, and to their credit, ABC News Grilled Defense Secretary Robert Gates on the subject yesterday:
On “This Week,” ABC News’ Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper asked Gates, “Do you think Libya posed an actual or imminent threat to the United States?”
“No, no,” Gates said in a joint appearance with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “It was not — it was not a vital national interest to the United States, but it was an interest and it was an interest for all of the reasons Secretary Clinton talked about. The engagement of the Arabs, the engagement of the Europeans, the general humanitarian question that was at stake,” he said.
Gates explained that there was more at stake, however. “There was another piece of this though, that certainly was a consideration. You’ve had revolutions on both the East and the West of Libya,” he said, emphasizing the potential wave of refugees from Libya could have destabilized Tunisia and Egypt.
“So you had a potentially significantly destabilizing event taking place in Libya that put at risk potentially the revolutions in both Tunisia and Egypt,” the Secretary said. “And that was another consideration I think we took into account.”
Now, first, I will put aside my annoyance at this administration recognizing that uncontrolled immigration is a problem—for other countries.
But look, all of those are reasonable arguments to make, to Congress. But none of that is even remotely covered under the War Powers Act or the President’s inherent powers as commander in chief.
Also the National Review held a “symposium” on the subject, apparently soliciting different views on the legality of the war here. They are deliberately choosing a variety of voices and thus they are all over the map. I wouldn’t focus too much on the credentials of the persons saying it, so much as the quality of their argument when evaluating their stances. On the other hand, if you want to evaluate their potential impact, who they are matters, and one person who matters much more for who he is than what he says is Bruce Ackerman. Ackerman is considered one of the leading constitutional authorities on the left and has been called in by Democrats to discuss constitutional matters in the past—for instance, he advised them on Bush v. Gore.
As for the quality of his argument, it’s not so much he said anything wrong, it’s just that coming from him, I can’t take it seriously. Full disclosure, this is another one of my professors and I know the guy well enough that… I wouldn’t say he doesn’t care about the Constitution so much as that his concept of what the Constitution is, is unrecognizable to most people. He believes the Constitution can be amended without an amendment by this complicated and amorphous process he calls the “Constitutional moment.” Oh, and the Constitutional moments that he believes to have existed always just happen to favor liberal causes—such as claiming that by passing and retaining the New Deal, they amended the Constitution in some unspecified way. On the other hand, when Professor Michael McConnell skewered his ideas by pointing out that you could just as easily argue that the institution of Jim Crow was a “Constitutional moment” amending the Constitution by effectively repealing the 14th and 15th amendments (if not the 13th as well), Ackerman didn’t have a very good answer to that argument even as he rejected it. Oh, and my favorite part is that supposedly “we the people” were amending the Constitution in the 1930’s in relationship to the New Deal (and he never made it clear whether it just made the New Deal Constitutional, or mandatory), but even as we amended it, we had no idea we were amending it.
And let me pause, before going on and say, no, I am not misrepresenting his views. I have explained this to about ten people and they all thought, “that can’t be what he really thinks. That’s crazy!” Yes, it is crazy, and yes, it is what he thinks.
So I can’t take him very seriously in claiming that this violated the Constitution, because he believes in some wacky version of the Constitution that most us don’t believe exists. But there are many liberals who have taken him seriously in the past and might in the future.
By the way, also today we have another person to add to the list of people who claimed that the Constitution demanded that the President seek congressional approval before attacking another country (unless we have been attacked or an attack was imminent)… Hillary Clinton:
(Via Outside the Beltway.) To his credit, in the same interview with Gates, ABC’s Jake Tapper threw a small clip from that speech in Hillary’s face, and she really didn’t have a very good answer to that, but I really wanted you to watch the whole speech because in context it sounds even worse, than Tapper’s snippet. I mean she is mentioning that there is a 2001 War Powers Resolution against al Qaeda, which might have arguably been stretched to that situation. And Iran appeared to be supplying if not training or directing many of the insurgents killing our soldiers, which comes much closer to meeting the requirements of the War Powers Act. Really, seriously, she makes the case for attacking Iran much more compelling than attacking Libya.
You can also watch the full Tapper/Gates/Hilldog interview, here:
Hilldog’s part comes at about 13:00, give or take a lot.
Meanwhile all of this has resulted in Obama finally deciding he needed to address the nation. Of course he won’t back off his decision not to have an oval office address, so instead he will do this:
US President Barack Obama prepared Monday to give a prime-time address to the nation aimed at winning the support of a war-weary American public for the military intervention in Libya.
After inheriting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning president finds himself embroiled in yet another conflict, this time one of his own choosing and one that many at home are not convinced by.
In his address at 7:30 pm (2330 GMT) from the National Defense University in Washington, Obama must win over a largely skeptical public preoccupied by domestic economic concerns and unclear what the Libya endgame is.
Obama, who has been criticized since military action began nine days ago for not getting his message across, will also give interviews on Tuesday with the anchors of three US television networks, the White House said.
Lawmakers, including many from Obama’s own Democratic Party, are angry Congress was not consulted before troops were deployed and have raised concerns the Libya mission is ill-defined and the exit strategy unclear.
(emphasis added.) We’ll see if he manages to convince people.
[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]