On Wednesday, the full ramifications of the Congress’ lack of response to the Obama administrations intervention in Libya became apparent. Both Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey, under questioning from Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) gave us the administration’s definition of the “legal permission” for waging war.
Senator Sessions, a careful lawyer, questioned both as to the legal basis wherein the United States would carry out military actions against a foreign power. Both, more or less, stated that they felt that ‘international permission’ was necessary before the United States would carry out any military action.
Before a stunned Senate Armed Services Committee, Sessions carefully questioned both defense officials on the fundamental legal basis for the national defense. Both officials stated that they saw ‘international permission’ from organizations such as the United Nations, NATO or the Arab League before seeking Congressional approval.
Under the Constitution of the United States, the sole organization with the responsibility to declare war is the Congress of the United States. Article, Section 8 of the Constitution states very simply that The Congress shall have power…To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water.
How much clearer can it be? Yet, presidents since Richard M. Nixon have felt otherwise. Using legal opinions from their Departments of Justice, every president has declared that they had the ‘executive power’ to wage war without Congressional permission.
In 1973, the Congress went so far as crafting and passing the War Powers Resolution. The resolution was adopted in the form of a United States Congress joint resolution; this provides that the President can send U.S. armed forces into action abroad only by authorization of Congress or in case of “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.”
Several presidents since then has either ignored this resolution or quarreled with its terms at one time or another. Saying that it was an infringement on their ‘executive power’, they commited U.S. troops to action without specific Congrerssional approval. And the Congress allowed it without significant pushback. Most recently, we have seen Obama’s use of military force in Libya without any Congressional action.
So here we are in a position where the two highest appointed defense officials now have opined that ‘international permission’ was required before any consultation with the elected representatives of the people. We have strayed so far from the Constitution that the Founding Fathers would wonder if this was the nation that they founded.
Obama assured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayu Monday that the United States “will always have Israel’s back.”
And on Wednesday, his two top defense officials qualified our support still further, by stating that ‘international permission’ was needed before American action. On Thursday, Press Secretary Jay Carney denied promising Israel top-of-the-line bunker buster bombs as part of an arrangement in which Israel agreed not to attack Iran in 2012.
So let’s pose a hypothetical case. Accept the fact that Iran has a nuclear weapon or weapons. Let’s say that they begin to use them to blackmail their neighbors like Saudi Arabia. Or even worse, they drop one on Tel Aviv. After all Ahmadinejad has promised to wipe Israel of the face of the Earth.
In that event, will we stand by waiting for ‘international permission’ from the enemies of Israel to retaliate? Or will we respond with overwhelming force.