Maybe, just maybe, they forgot. Or maybe they actually believe that what the U.S. is doing in Libya somehow doesn’t constitute the use of our armed forces — $750 million worth of bombs and missiles notwithstanding. Whatever the reason, it is obvious that the president has no intention of complying with the War Powers Act with regard to our military intervention in Libya.
This blatant disregard for the law must not go unchallenged. As several senators did this week, Congress must demand an explanation for the fact that, with no declaration of war, no authorization from Congress, and certainly no imminent threat to the U.S., our forces are today engaged in what is clearly a military conflict halfway around the world in Libya.
Specifically, the War Powers Act requires that the use of American forces in a conflict must be ended within 60 days of commencing — unless Congress expressly authorizes otherwise. In terms of our current engagement in Libya, Congress hasn’t authorized anything, nor has the president asked them to, and today, May 20, is the 60th day.
Perhaps we will be pleasantly surprised and the president will stop our military’s involvement in Libya today, but I rather doubt it. The War Powers Act was enacted almost 40 years ago for a reason. After fighting two costly wars, Korea and Vietnam, with no formal declaration of war, Congress acted to limit the authority of the president to engage the military in “open-ended” conflicts with no clear congressional consent. It was carefully crafted to allow the commander-in-chief to respond to attacks and otherwise take whatever action necessary to protect us. At the same time, it was obviously crafted to limit precisely the kinds of ill-defined and costly uses of our military that we are witnessing in Libya right now.
To be fair, this president is certainly not the first to disregard the War Powers Act. Some have even questioned its constitutionality. But until the courts or Congress deem otherwise, it is the law of the land — and in my opinion, a good one.
If there are compelling reasons — strategic, humanitarian or otherwise — to be doing what we are doing in Libya, then Congress will likely authorize it. If not, then perhaps we shouldn’t be firing those missiles and dropping those bombs — missiles and bombs financed with borrowed and printed money.
Either way, Mr. President, don’t treat today as just another deadline to ignore.
Gary Johnson is a Republican candidate for president. Johnson, who served two terms as governor of New Mexico from 1994-2002, has been a consistent and outspoken advocate for efficient government and lowering taxes.