Friday, March 18, 2011

Looks like we're going to war again

(Additional Libya news resource: NPR's Libya live blog)

Josh Rogin on the Foreign Policy website:

Several senators emerged from the briefing convinced that the administration was intent on beginning military action against the forces of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi within the next few days and that such action would include both a no-fly zone as well as a "no-drive zone" to prevent Qaddafi from crushing the rebel forces, especially those now concentrated in Benghazi.

"It looks like we have Arab countries ready to participate in a no-fly and no-drive endeavor," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told reporters after the briefing.

Asked what he learned from the briefing, Graham said, "I learned that it's not too late, that the opposition forces are under siege but they are holding, and that with a timely intervention, a no-fly zone and no-drive zone, we can turn this thing around."

Sounds like war to me. Greenwald points out that it's totally unconstitutional for the president to unilaterally get us involved in a war of choice, and that Obama and Hillary Clinton have both articulated this point forcefully in the past:
Obama's answer seems dispositive to me on the Libya question: "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation." And he went on to say that the President could constitutionally deploy the military only "in instances of self-defense." Nobody is arguing -- nor can one rationally argue -- that the situation in Libya constitutes either an act of "self-defense" or the "stopping of an actual or imminent threat to the nation." How, then, can Obama's campaign position possibly be reconciled with his ordering military action in Libya without Congressional approval (something, it should be said, he has not yet done)?
My assumption is that after Obama meets with congressional leaders at 12:30 Eastern time (presumably happening as I write this) and speaks to the nation at 2:00pm Eastern, he will ask for and get from Congress an authorization to use force in Libya. I read somewhere that American public opinion is currently against military intervention in Libya, but I just don't picture Congress saying "No" when the President asks "Do I have your permission to bomb Qaddafi?"

I just want to know that the administration is gaming out the consequences of this. Ten years from now, I don't want to be reading how the United States plans to reduce its troop presence in Libya to 40,000 from its current 58,000 level. Why aren't other governments acting? Why are we always the ones to do the bombing? What are all those sophisticated weapons we've sold/given to Saudi Arabia and Egypt for, anyway?

The idea of beating back Qaddafi is very appealing. But violence has so many consequences. And though the Libyan rebels sprang from the pro-democracy/pro-reform movement sweeping the Middle East, I don't actually know what their politics are. I desperately hope that Qaddafi either steps down or is pushed out by someone in his own circle, and that people can stop shooting and start negotiating. But I don't think that's likely. The "cease fire" Qaddafi declared seems to be phony, and he has an enormous incentive to seize Benghazi before other countries start to intervene.

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