Remember how the Left was in an uproar about the 'illegal' war in Iraq? You know the one with multiple UN Security Council sanctions behind it? The one with the finding of two Congresses that, in the first instance, Iraq wasn't living up to its cease-fire and Saddam had to go, back in 1999, and the second one in 2002 Congressional Authorization for the Use of Force? And then 7 months of trying to talk Saddam down as we built up our forces? And don't forget the previous authorization under George HW Bush to go against Iraq, which only got us to a cease-fire that Saddam wouldn't hold to, thus making him untrustworthy in the extreme. Remember all of that?
No Blood For Oil was the chant? That, BTW, is known as the Carter Doctrine - Blood for Oil - although fancier 'interests of the US' was used to equivocate about it.
You may not have liked the war against Iraq, but you can't complain about its 'legality' and, no, no one knew the actual status of Saddam's WMD programs. Not even his top generals. There is reason to think that even Saddam, himself, may not have kept track of what was going on and how some shells might have gotten misplaced in the inspection shell game that went on. Mind you there were still poison gas bombs, facilities to produce more with precursor chemicals, yellowcake and the also prohibited SCUD missiles in Iraq, which the cease-fire required Saddam to also dispose of completely. Lock, stock and barrel - all of it.
Remember the frothing at the mouth about going after an 'innocent' Saddam and how he really, and for true, didn't do a thing to the US? Save take prisoners he wouldn't then release during the First Gulf War, of course. Aid members of HAMAS in counterfeiting technology that would then find its way to FARC. And a few of the guys captured in the First WTC attack also had passports that originated in Iraq. Then there were the training facilities in Iraq to help terrorist groups out on hijackings and such. Oh, and some of the chemical weapons manuals found in Afghanistan in the hands of al Qaeda before the CAUF? Yeah, those came from Iraq. Primers on how to make and test batches of chemical weapons. Dogs and other animals were used as test subjects, and possibly a spy or three or suspected one along the way by al Qaeda.
I know, the Left has memory blockage problems.
Now President Obama has decided on another of the Carter Doctrines for his general foreign policy: dithering. That is voting 'Present' when world affairs happen. The other term for this is: 'Isolationist'. Or, in this case, it is more: 'Nothing interrupts having a round of golf or vacation'. The term 'dithering' is being kind.
Egypt sees its tyrant losing his grip on power and it is all smiles from Obama.
The previous Tunisia may have gotten a kind word or two.
About Morocco we haven't heard him say a damned thing.
And marchers in Iran, still looking for a smidgen of support from the US under Obama? They are STILL waiting.
Hell, China has cracked down on freedom and democracy protesters, and those words were disallowed to even be in their spell checkers and dictionaries. Not a word. Zilch.
Japan has a major earthquake and tsunami, and Obama has some kind words... right before his round of golf.
Gotta get that golf handicap down!
Libya starts to go under with unrest, rebels on the march, He Who's Name Can't Be Spelled reeling and Obama is Johnny-on-the-spot with 'Kaddafi must go' or words to that effect. He then implements the Carter Doctrine of 'dither'. Q'ad'afi then pays off bunches of mercenaries and thugs, orders his air force to deal with the threat and to retake most of the country. The rebels, they don't gots air power, nor much in the way of armor, so guys in trucks with heavy machineguns (also known as 'Technicals') are wonderful against tribesmen in the desert, not so hot against tanks really much of anywhere.
A week later, with the rebels reeling and Gad'dafi's forces, such as they are, on the march and re-taking most of the country, Obama finally comes out and says that 'he can't stand idly by to let this happen'... while he was standing idly by to let this happen. He wants everyone else to do the heavy lifting for him to get a foreign policy together on this: the UN, Europe, Arab League, Hillary Clinton, that guy in the green uniform wearing a salad. Really, put it together and he might be able to think about if he supports it. A hastily convened UN Security Council more of less sanctions a No Fly Zone, and France and Great Britain rush in and the US is there to help along with lots of missile and air craft. The Arab League? They have lots and lots of aircraft and missiles and talked big leading up to this... apparently they want Qedifi out, but they reserve their planes, missiles, bombs, and really all of their military machines to do other things.
Well, looking at the list of uprisings, who can blame them, right?
Why, any one of them might be the next in line to be in the Unspellable's position. Like maybe tomorrow the way things are going.
So with that all done the President jets off for his vacation in lovely Rio, where the poverty level is at 20% and the crony oil company pays off its financiers very nicely, indeed. The one thing the President forgot to do? Consult with Congress.
Now many pixels and ink have been spilled on this topic, so I will cut to the chase.
Can the President order this action?
Yes, if it is in the clear and obvious best interests of the United States or Libya is a direct threat to the US. That is via the Law of Nations, boiled down from thousands of words to a sentence.
So is getting rid of Kadaffy in our best interests? Be nice if the President said it was, right? Got lots of words about how the civilian population has to be 'protected' and such, little about why this is necessary for the best interests of the US.
But didn't Libya attack us in Berlin, on the Pan Am 103 bombing and elsewhere, like training fighters to go into Iraq?
Nice if the President cited those, but he didn't. He chose to vote 'Present' on rationale.
Thus we have the President unable to make clear that getting rid of Gaduffai is in the best interests of the US or that he is a clear and present danger to the US, or that he has taken actions in the past that can only be seen as giving him a clear and present danger status due to unrest in the region and his ability to spread it against US allies.
Of course he could have just consulted with Congress. That would have been dead easy, but get in the way of his trip to Rio. Instead he mailed that home, today.
This is the wrong way to do things as it leaves you without a leg to stand on at any turn, no clear and easy to state rationale for what you are doing, and seems pretty petty, given how he didn't really say much of anything about Libya in the run-up to the election or even after it.
Is there a way to have done this 'right' so as to get lots of military capability to help the 'rebels', or at least oppose Qadifi?
Yes, there is.
The President is the Head of State, the guy who makes foreign policy. You know who we recognize and deal with, and then send Ambassadors and such abroad to keep tabs on things? That is his power, also, under the Constitution. His power of the Commander of the Armies and the Navies also gets him the ability to say who is a threat to the US and what kind of threat they are. That is a potent piece of brew, right there!
So lets take the route of seeing what the rationale would be for going after Gaadaffi using the foreign policy side, before hitting up the military. What could a President, any President, do? Well, not recognize the current regime in Libya as a legitimate government. You can do that as a President, and then take the shit-storm that follows as people realize you are actually serious about this. If you didn't like that you could say that during this period of unrest there is no 'legitimate' government of Libya in the eyes of the US. Still nasty, but understandable. If the rebels were serious about a governing constitution, and presented it to the world, then the President could immediately switch over and say that THIS rebel government is the legitimate government of Libya.
Those are all painful and would really be nice to have some backing for them, no?
To get backing you can then utilize the Commander of the Armies and the Navies, particularly the Admiralty portion of the latter. The Admiralty portion is that with the oversight on declaring who is and is not a legitimate fighter abroad with respect to the Laws of War. Normally applied to the Sea, Congress has extended the Sea Powers to the airspace of the planet and down to the core of it, too. By that any aircraft registered in the US is, while in the air, sovereign US territory.
So with the Berlin Disco Bombing we can cite Libya as using illegitimate war tactics without declaring war against the military of a sovereign Nation. A big 'no-no' in the world. It starts to make you look illegitimate. Ask Saddam about where that gets you.
Next is the Pan Am 103 bombing which is not just an act of terrorism, but one on our sovereign territory while transiting airspace legally and giving no affront to any Nation, nor being a military vehicle of any sort. It is an attack on our civilian air cargo and passenger service while going about its legal, commercial affairs. There is a word for those who attack unarmed, legal, commercial vessels while transiting air or sea and they are not a military vessel of any sort: Pirates.
Just as in the days of Barbary, President Obama could cite the government of Libya as being headed by a Pirate and having Piratical ends so as to enforce the dictates of its leader at home and abroad, and that leader uses no distinctions of warfare or, indeed, any civilized code, to do so. As this is a threat to the order of Nation States, Libya would then be a host to Pirates and be seen as a foe of all Nations who may then dispose with the supporters of the regime as they see fit wherever they are.
You see in the back of their heads, those diplomats who left the foreign service of Libya overseas have a great motivation to do so: they remember history of the Barbary States, and it wasn't a sweet or nice one. Base survival motivates one to act in a civilized manner and that is to be applauded, while staying in the sway of a Pirate and madman will get you 230 grains of lead going at just under 960 ft/sec to the cranium. Or a noose. Traditions vary.
At that point the President could have gone on vacation and now be informing Congress that he really needs some folks armed up to go after Libyan assets and could they draw up some Letters to do so? This would be drawing the clear and illuminating line of civilized behavior on the map and saying that if you don't respect other Nations and utilize terrorists, pirates, or similar sorts against other Nations without declaring war on them, then you are no longer a legitimate government.
The problem with doing it the right way?
The list of Nations that would then have to be approached like this is unappetizing and includes every terror attack helped, backed or hosted by a foreign power against the US. Iran and Syria come to mind. Cuba for training folks like the Weathermen who, themselves, would fit into the 'Pirate' category as having made illegal war on the US and even profiting from it. Venezuela for hosting FARC which has tried to assassinate at least one US President, that being Clinton in 2000 on a State visit to Colombia.
The fact that the US has done so with other Nations, particularly in the Cold War, also makes the US liable for this sort of thing from other Nations. Of course we could also use our foreign policy system to apologize... a venue open to Libya, but the apology must be accepted for that to work.
See how that works?
Order amongst Nations and forgiveness, but not forgetting?
This actually works rather well. It is when you start to put in 'humanitarian' and other squishy things that you don't wind up with good policy nor good ends. The Muslim world never thanked the US for its intervention in Kosovo, and would have damned us if we didn't. In Somalia we tried to help, got soldiers killed and left, thus becoming 'the weak horse'. In Rwanda it was the UN that ran... the US didn't really have anyone there, to speak of. Ivory Coast? Liberia? Niger? The Congo? Burma?
Do we really want to be on the hook for all the world's problems and blamed when we can't find a solution to them? If there were a solution, I mean something that everyone liked, then wouldn't the locals have already don it? And if there isn't, then what makes us so sure we know what the 'right' solution is to a local problem? Yes humanitarian disasters are horrible as they are brought about by the hand of man as opposed to, say, a subduction fault zone or volcano. That doesn't mean that a stronger power can make it better. Intervention is just another word for meddling, and if our local establishment can figure out that we need such things as coal, oil and natural gas, then how can we expect any President to figure out a multi-ethnic, multi-tribal, multi-faction fight that has been going on for generations in fits and starts?
That is why we encouraged Iraqis to make a government that represents everyone: it is better to go via the ballot box than the rebellion as it usually costs less in money and blood.
Say if the President had simply said that we no longer recognize the Unspellable's government as legitimate and declared him to be the head of a Piratical Cabal, well that would be fine and dandy!
Meddling in an affair that we won't even recognize the rebels as being the government of a place and supporting them when they can't even figure out what they are fighting for? Yes, all very well and good to be against a pretty brutal dictator exploiting his people and all, but what do the rebels stand for? Would backing them be just another long-term losing proposition on the road to yet another despotic regime?
Makes you wish they had gotten that constitution thingy together, huh? Know what they are fighting for and all that.
So I do agree the Unspellable must go... I disagree with how it is done and the lack of framework and context for it. And if you aren't going to declare a government to be illegitimate and without basis for being dealt with, null and void in all respects, then you do have to consult Congress beforehand as you are treating it as a real government.
You don't get to vote 'Present' on that.