Samstag, 4. Juni 2011

Libya: On that House Vote

When Wolf Blitzer says the government's been slapped in the face, I suddenly start paying attention to otherwise boring news-reports (they have a tendency to focus on the seriously unimportant, while the world is rapidly rotating on its axis. But this is not a post to lambaste the useless media and if the media thinks a congressman's tweet and Sarah Palin's nonsense bus-tour is news, so be it). But what Blitzer was commenting on was important, at least in comparison to the other bit of news mentioned here. The House of Representatives has voted on a resolution demanding that the president explains his administration's strategy on Libya, threatening to enact the War Powers Resolution with which the House could eventually demand the withdrawal of U.S. forces. So while the news-media is gearing up to publicly declare fading support for the president's Libya-campaign, I can only caution and say, well, hold your breath.

1. The House is fretting over the way the president is acting, not on the substance of acting itself. And on that they are quite right. After all, President Obama has so far refrained from explaining the U.S. role in Libya, fearing that the explanation itself might lead people to assume that the U.S. is leading the effort. I was giving a lecture last week and in the Q+A someone mentioned that the U.S. already withdrew, which is not only wrong but exactly the impression the administration was trying to create. So in demanding that the president actually explains his strategy, Congress is first and foremost stating a fact, namely that the president hasn't yet. That doesn't mean that they'll eventually withdraw their support. No such thing. What it does mean is that they want the president sitting in the Oval Office and do what a commander-in-chief is supposed to do: explain the aims, goals and principles in committing U.S. forces. And your humble author has maintained for quite some time now that its time for the president to speak to the people and the world from behind the resolute desk and not travel to West Point to, forgive me, make his point.

2. On the note of withdrawing support. Well, Noam Chomsky, don't get your hopes up. There is always a party expressing frustration over the way the president is committing U.S. forces and demanding that the president seeks authorisation from Congress first or at least, as the War Powers Resolution demands, after sixty days. That party, unsurprisingly, is the opposition party. Every White House since 1973, when the law was passed, maintained that the law is unconstitutional. After all, there is a reason that the U.S. has one of the strongest arrangements in the separation of branches of government—you know, all that checks-and-balances. So strong, that there is a strong case to be made that the 1973 War Powers Resolution infringes upon the constitutional authority of the president, who, not without reason, is actually the commander-in-chief. The law has never been enacted, because a) it would inevitably end up in front of the Supreme Court and b) even an opposition party knows that it aa) might eventually end up in the White House and bb) that it would weaken its government in the international arena and undermine morale and, well, resolution. So the Speaker's support for the bill is positively half-hearted.

3. Should Dennis Kucinich ever manage to win overwhelming bipartisan support to embarrass any president, I shall read one of the unreadable books by Noam Chomsky.

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