Opinion

Obama has Congress over a barrel in Libya

Photo of Hon. Ernest Istook
Hon. Ernest Istook
Former Republican Congressman
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      Hon. Ernest Istook

      Ernest J. Istook Jr. is a Distinguished Fellow at <a href="http://www.heritage.org/">The Heritage Foundation</a>. Istook served 14 years as a U.S. Congressman, then joined Heritage in 2007. He engaged in a wide and robust range of issues in Congress as he served on the House Appropriations Committee and chaired multiple subcommittees. He also served on the Homeland Security Committee.

      His congressional experience ranged from overall budget and spending issues to all forms of transportation, trade, defense, health care, education, labor, financial services, homeland security, religious liberty, and many others. He is a founder of the Republican Study Committee, the principal conservative caucus in the U.S. House.

      Tapping his broad experience, Istook is a frequent fill-in host for several major national talk radio programs; he writes weekly opinion columns for multiple outlets that include <a href="http://www.newsmax.com/blogs/ErnestIstook/id-66">NewsMax</a>, <a href="http://www.humanevents.com/search.php?author_name=Ernest++Istook">Human Events</a>, and The Daily Caller. His daily radio commentaries are heard on over 80 radio stations. He is a regular guest on many network and cable news and commentary programs.

      Istook’s professional background has been as a journalist, practicing attorney, public official and now policy expert. Overall, he served 25 years in elected office, ranging from city council to state legislature to U.S. Congress, all after he moved to Oklahoma in 1972 from his native Fort Worth, Texas. He also was the Republican nominee for Governor of Oklahoma in 2006.

      Istook holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Baylor University and law degree from Oklahoma City University. He and his wife, Judy, have five adult children and are active in church work. Istook served several years as a Boy Scout Scoutmaster. He is the grandson of Hungarian immigrants and the first college graduate in his entire family tree.

      His personal website is <a href="http://www.istook.com">www.istook.com</a>.

      Follow him on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/Ernest_Istook">@Ernest_Istook</a>.

It’s tempting to immediately cut off funds for President Obama’s ill-conceived Libya offensive. But it’s not the right course. For the sake of our allies, Congress needs to be patient in using the power of the purse to correct Obama’s misadventure.

The policy is indeed a mess. Even if the ongoing air attacks chased Muammar Gaddafi from power, he might be replaced by a radical Islamist regime. We have no good intelligence on what the rebels would establish if they took over.

Obama’s ham-handed approach has been an insult to the constitutional role of Congress in defining and punishing offenses against the law of nations, as specified in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. Obama failed to make any meaningful consultation with Congress before he committed American forces, much less obtain any type of actual approval from Congress.

Yes, it’s tempting for Congress to “teach him a lesson” by voting to cut off U.S. funding for Libyan operations. The power of the purse is Congress’s strongest counter-balance to the president’s role as commander-in-chief.

But the countervailing argument is that our NATO allies — a key component of America’s national security — have been pulled into the Libya fray based on assurances and urgings from the Obama administration. Those may have been improvident, but they are real.

A precipitous exit from America’s role in Operation Unified Protector would pull the rug out from under our allies, making it less likely they would ever be willing to stand with America in the future when we have real need for their help.

Nations conducting the airstrikes have included Great Britain, France, Canada, Norway, Denmark and Belgium while other military support has come from Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Turkey, according to the BBC’s tallies. Others, like Germany, have refused to participate in an unclear mission.

The current NATO operation expires in September; Congress should stick with our allies until then, even as it asserts itself to make sure there is no further extension or expansion of the mission.

In the meantime, other efforts such as arms and financial embargoes could be pursued.

It’s an uncomfortable fact that sending a message of solidarity with our NATO allies is more important than sending a message to President Obama.

Already, the House formally rebuked President Obama on June 3rd with a 268-145 bipartisan vote on a resolution that included a declaration that, “The President has failed to provide Congress with a compelling rationale based upon United States national security interests for current United States military activities regarding Libya.”

The bipartisan war of words against Obama’s mistaken course will take a toll on him. The lawsuit by some in Congress will be just a sideshow; the courts cannot be expected to be involved in this dispute over the president’s war powers, nor should they be.

It’s sad but true that the president has committed our forces and our funds unwisely. But Congress should resist the temptation to make it worse by abandoning our allies who followed us into the skies over Libya.

Ernest Istook is a former Congressman who served on the House Defense Subcommittee for Appropriations and is now a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

  • votersofny

    We have to get rid of this dictator wannabe in 2012. If youpeople don’t wake up soon, you will all be sorry. Another 4 years of this marxist Obozo will be the ruin of the country.

    Mark my words. Wake up people!!