Halfway agreeing with Kucinich on Libya

The rest of the world is wondering when the United States will officially make up its mind on the appeal put to it to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.  I suppose the rest of the world appeals to the U.S. to perform this task because they know full well that we are capable of this task in a way that no other nation is capable of doing.

The Obama Administration has dithered on the issue as time passes and dissenters get crushed by tanks.  The Obama Administration has said that it will not act unilaterally, so it is sending out feelers to see whether the U.S. has a mandate from the international community to take action on the request for the no-fly zone.  The Obama Administration dithers because the international community is divided on the issue.  For some strange reason, the President can’t decide which nations’ opinions count and which ones don’t.  If one were to base a decision upon what other nations think, one would suppose that the opinions of the Arab League, France, and the U.K.  would be more persuasive than the opinions of Russia and Germany, don’t you think?

Umm . . . I think, in one sense, it is OK for the U.S. to act unilaterally.  We don’t  need to ask the international community what the U.S. ought to do.  We never did need to.  Our nation makes up its own mind and then acts accordingly.  The international community is not the entity that is entitled to mandate what the U.S. does.

In another sense, the President should not act unilaterally.  It is the people of the United States of America who are sovereign.  We are the ones who issue mandates, and in the case of war, we do that through our representatives in Congress.  The U.S. Constitution even says so.

Congress moves as slowly as molasses running uphill in January.  Waiting for an act of Congress would cost precious time.  I’m of the opinion, however, that the President has wasted precious time already consulting the international community when he should have been using that time to appeal directly to Congress to affirm, one way or the other, what action is to be taken.  He might have to take a whip to Congress to swiftly draft a resolution and vote upon it, but Congress, as the representatives of We, the People, are the ones who make the binding decision, not the international community.

Legislatures prescribe what the executive branch is to do.  The executive branch is to carry out the directives of the legislative branch.

Some would argue that it is the prerogative of the President to make an executive decision on the matter in his role as Commander-in-Chief.  He does command the armed forces of the United States, true.  He’s directed some armed forces to assist Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami.  Assisting Japan, though, is not an act of war.

The President could reasonably take immediate action against Libya if Libya were engaged in an assault upon the U.S., its citizens, or its diplomatic or military institutions abroad.  Libya is not carrying out an assault against the United States.

Under these circumstances, military intervention against the government of Libya, such as imposing a no-fly zone upon it, would require a Declaration of War from the United States Congress.  Upon that point, I readily agree with Dennis Kucinich, who has posted his position on his website.

My question is:  Where is the resolution at?  What I mean is, where is the bill before Congress that would officially declare war if it won passage?

Senator Kerry and Senator McCain have talked about resolutions to authorize implementation of a no-fly zone, but I agree with Dennis Kucinich that such authorization is insufficient because it is not in keeping with the U.S. Constitution.

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul has vowed to introduce a resolution that stipulates that the President cannot take part in any action in Libya without first being approved by Congress.  Wimpy, wimpy, wimpy, . . . and redundant.  That’s not the resolution that’s needed, since it only repeats the Constitution.  When it comes to foreign policy, when has Ron Paul ever exhibited signs of leadership?  That’s why I can never vote for him in GOP presidential primary elections.  Do you, Ron Paul, want to demonstrate leadership?  Put a war resolution before Congress, even though you’ll obviously vote against it.  Get the matter decided right now and put an end to Obama’s dithering.  Do whatever you want within the rules of Congress to ensure that your side prevails and wins the day, but cease the inaction.

Likewise to Dennis Kucinich.  Urge the Congress to vote on a war resolution, nothing less.  Put the matter to rest once and for all.

Some have said that our Congress should never vote in favor of a declaration of war when it is taking sides in some other nation’s civil war.  They say that a declaration of war should only win passage if the United States is under attack.  I don’t agree with that assessment, and neither does history.  During our Revolutionary War (a civil war within the territory ruled by the British crown) the American army did, in fact, receive valuable assistance from abroad.  Likewise, during our Civil War, some foreign influences aided the North and some foreign influences aided the South.  We did not waive off foreign involvement.  We accepted whatever foreign aid we could lay hold of to support our war efforts.  This precedent was set from the very founding era of our nation, so I reject the notion that we must automatically vote against going to war amidst some other nation’s civil war.  We can consider each proposed war resolution without being bound by such constraints.  I’m not saying we should be hawkish.  I’m not saying we should be dovish, either.  I’m saying we can make such decisions on a case-by-case basis, and whatever decision the Congress makes, yes or no, carries the full weight and force of the Constitution with it.

Having said that, I’d like to review a few specific sentences within Kucinich’s statement.

“A no-fly zone begins with an attack on the air defenses of Libya.  It is an act of war that can only be approved by Congressional action, not by any international body.  There is a civil war in Libya, which must be resolved by Libya.”

Instead of underscoring the words “It is an act of war” as Kucinich did on his webpage, I have highlighted those words in italics and bold print, since I think, on my blog page, the contrast with the rest of the text stands out more.  I do need to disclose, though, that Kucinich underscored it.

I agree with the first sentence.  It is an attack on Libya.

I would take the second sentence a bit further:  Not only is it an act of war that can only be approved by Congress, I would add that the approval from Congress (should it decide to do so) must come in the form of a declaration of war.  Authorizing a no-fly zone, I believe, would not pass muster.  The Congress declares war, then the Commander-in-Chief determines how to execute the war, whether to include a no-fly zone as part of the strategy, or not.  The chief purpose of the war would be to vanquish the forces of the government of Libya.  If that is accomplished, then a treaty is drafted, then ratified by the Senate, and the war is concluded.

The third sentence jumps to a conclusion.  That conclusion is that it is a civil war that must be resolved by Libya.  Instead, I wouldn’t speak for the rest of the nations of the world whether they are content to let Libya resolve this on its own or not.  Other nations might decide to involve themselves in the war and shape how it is resolved.  We might disagree with the actions of other nations who choose to involve themselves, but even if we disagree with the interference of any and all nations on the principle that Libya, itself, settle the matter as an internal concern, the word “should” needs to replace the word “must.”  We can have an opinion on what should happen, pertaining to the resolution of the Libyan civil war, but we aren’t able to decree what must happen.  In addition to not speaking for the rest of the nations, I don’t believe that Kucinich can speak for our own nation until the votes are tallied on the war resolution.  The Libyan civil war is not a matter that the U.S. should try to resolve if the Congress says “no” to a war resolution.  However, the U.S. will not leave the matter to be resolved by Libya, alone, if the U.S. Congress declares war on Libya.

Here are two more sentences from Kucinich that I want to examine:

“It is time for the Administration to stop looking for someone else to make the decision.  The U.S. must make a firm declaration that it will not intervene in Libya by means of enforcing a no-fly zone or any other aggressive military means.”

Kucinich hits the nail on the head with that first sentence, as the “someone else” refers to someone beyond Congress, and that especially applies to looking for other nations to make our decision.  Congress makes the decision.  Obama has no authority to look to someone else.

As to the second sentence, I would have to say, “Has the Congressional vote been held and tallied already?”  Only if the Congress has already voted against a declaration of war on Libya can the second sentence be binding upon the United States.  As much as Kucinich would like to dictate how all other members of Congress should vote, he can’t tell them how to vote.  If the other side prevails, then Kucinich ought to acknowledge that the United States really is at war with Libya.  The Constitution does not constrain the Congress from voting one way or the other.  What does the Constitution do?  It requires the United States to act upon the will of Congress, whether the vote is yes or no.  Much as Kucinich doesn’t like it, nothing bars a colleague from voting “yes.”

The bottom line here is that the Congress should render a decision on the matter so that President Obama knows what the mandate is.  Don’t tell him he can’t act without a mandate from Congress and then withhold a Congressional decision on what the mandate is, which is what Ron Paul’s proposed resolution amounts to.  Once Congress acts decisively, then Obama can act decisively.  Got it?  Do it!

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