Home National Politics Jim Webb’s Libya Resolution: A Few Thoughts

Jim Webb’s Libya Resolution: A Few Thoughts


I’ve got a few thoughts on Jim Webb’s Libya resolution. First and foremost, I don’t see where this leads. I mean, the debate over the roles of Congress and the Executive Branches in conducting (or participating in) military operations has been going on for decades now, and has pretty much led to a complete dead end. How many military operations have we seen in the 20th and 21st centuries – including in the Reagan Administration, which Jim Webb was an important part of – where Congress actually declared war, or even where Congress a priori approved the use of force?  Very, very few, if I’m not mistaken (including Reagan’s military actions in Libya, Nicaragua, Lebanon and Grenada, none of which had Congress’ explicit, a priori consent; did Jim Webb protest then?).  

As far as today’s Libya situation is concerned, what’s preventing Congress from passing whatever resolutions or holding whatever debates it wants?  Other than the fact that public opinion appears pretty strongly behind U.S. support for air operations in Libya, and also given that numerous Republican and Democratic members of Congress support the operation, or if anything have criticized Obama for not doing MORE!

Anyway, the bottom line is that I mostly see the Webb/Corker joint resolution as getting nowhere and accomplishing nothing.  We’ll see…

In addition, I think this comment on the Frum Forum nails it:

So, what is it they want? Withdrawal? Congress did not have to enact the War Powers act; they did so because they were unwilling to do their duty in making a decision. Now they complain but without putting forth an idea or plan or decision.

Regardless of my personal views of lending support to NATO’s bombing in Libya, I find Congress’ actions over the last several decades, going all the way back to Reagan, completely incomprehensible and irresponsible.

That about sums it up for me. What about you?

  • Dan Sullivan

    Those who recall the Viet Nam era will have a disquieting sense that the issues that spawned the War Powers Act have returned in spades. At least until now there may not have been “explicit” deference to the Congress, whatever that is, but in almost every instance there were consulations and implicit approval by Congressional leadership. And in general, the 90 day threshold was respected.

    The cases where force has been used have each been very different and always will. Lebanon and Somalia both started as attempts to stabilize and do good. We shouldn’t care what the intent is, the decision to commit American forces should never be taken as casually as the Libyan intervention was. It was a terrible decision and no matter how many bad decisions provide precedence, that cannot be changed.

    Back to the Viet Nam deja vu: now we are embroiled in some very odd action in Yemen that seems to parallel Cambodia and Laos. Meanwhile, as bad an actor as any, Syria, is allowed to tip the scales against our only reliable ally in the region.

    No Lowell, the fact that Congress has been cowardly heretofore does not provide this President the authority to waste the blood and treasure of our nation. At least Geoerge Bush had enough caution to deceive the Congress into providing him authority.

    Webb is right this time even if you think he was wrong before. Or, are you good with an imperial Presidency.  

  • Jim B

    Webb seems to be all over the place. One day he is a republican and the next a democrat. The country is going to hell in a hand basket so to speak and he is worried about the military power of the president? Yesterday he and Warner were for the banks. Yeah, so the little banks maybe hurt according to Tester, but here in Va there are hardly any little banks. George Allen is going to be worse?

  • Tom

    Webb has never wavered in his strong objections to the U.S. becoming involved in military actions with no stated, or in this case even significantly implied, U.S. National Security interest and/or objective. Contributing to what is now a combination of a civil war and something rapidly approaching anarchy, which can only favor the Islamic extremists as tribal warfare pushes the citizens to support any group that might stabilize their situation.

    My belief is that if Obama is required by a resolution to explain his original intentions and where he thinks he want to go with this adventure may force Obama to thing this through to where he thinks he wants the U.S. to be when we stop all military actions. I do not buy the claim that the American citizens support U.S. military action, regardless of whether we have troops on the ground or not. Attacks against a sovereign nation, dictator or not, is by any reasonable definition an act of war. So what if their dictator agrees to leave and never returns ? Which of the tribes will then take over what’s left of the government ? My guess is that it will for the interim become a military dictatorship out of necessity to avoid all-out tribal warfare. But what then ? Elections that would give the Islamic extremists a majority vote and cause Lybia to become an Islamic state ? How does that help U.S. Security interests ?

    When any president openly and publicly supports removal of a dictator from office, and backs up his public support for the people who robbed a bank to fund their attempt at the violent insurrection against their own government, that U.S. president has committed our military and our money to a path to long-term war that he is obligated to explain, defend, and tell the Congress how what his plan is to end our involvement. President Obama has by his own words and inaction already revealed that he started these military actions with no plan, and unless he has directed the Joint Chiefs to prepare a plan he still does not himself know where he wants to head with this. Webb is doing nothing more or less than forcing Obama to decide what he wants to do and then ask Congress to fund whatever plan he might eventually develop. Right now, not even the DoD knows Obama’s intentions and ultimate objectives might be, for the obvious reason that Obama himself gives no indication that he knows himself what he wants to do or how far he wants to take this military action.

    I am with Jim Webb 100% on this issue. His previous comments with respect to a cavalier attitude about committing American military members to use of force is spot-on right.

    I have seen no polls that would indicate that the U.S. voters support continuation (or expansion) of our involvement in the Libya insurrection, and if anyone in Congress submitted a bill to fund any part of our involvement, I doubt that even 40% would vote in favor after they’ve heard from their consituents. That is, the only poll that matters in this cans is whether the war hawk republicans and democrats would risk losing their seats next year for no other purpose than keeping us involved in a civil war with a likely outcome that can only destabilize the Middle East even more.

  • Glen Tomkins

    Congress isn’t going to get back any effective control over war-making until and unless it stops funding military forces for general, stand-by, use.  Forces that are available, just sitting around doing nothing, will inevitably be used whenever the president perceives a need.  That’s what they’re there for.  

    As long as these forces are just there waiting for contingency commitment, the president is not just free to use them as he sees fit, it is his repsonsibility to use them at his perceived need.  The Congress gave up to the president its Constitutionally mandated responsibility to be that decision-maker that decides when the US needs to intervene with military force by voting to keep large expeditionary forces in being, the large standing army that the Constitution forbids.

    Now, I think that arrangement doesn’t make any sense, having extremely expensive force structure just sitting around doing nothing except providing a detailed model of exactly what capabilities any potential adversary would have to match or overcome to win a war with us.  In addition to those two disadvantages — huge expense and making our capabilites known, predictable and subject to organizational inertia — that arrangement means that the legislature gives up control of the question of war vs peace, surely the most momentous question any nation can face.

    If you don’t want the president making war at his or her pleasure, you need to disband the standing armed forces, to reduce US land power to what is needed to defend the nation’s borders.  That’s the force levels we alwasy kept between wars until the aftermath of WWII.  WWII ended a loing time ago.  It’s long past time for us to go back to being an actual republic, where only the legislature can commit us to war.  But that’s not happening until and unless we take the standing army away from the president by disbanding it.