Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Libya and the laugh test

I continue to think that intervening in Libya was the right thing to do, but I still don’t think this Obama administration statement to Congress passes the laugh test. Firing cruise missiles at someone isn’t an act of war? And I wonder if the Air Force and Navy know that it ain’t a war if ...

Bludgeoner86/Flickr
Bludgeoner86/Flickr
Bludgeoner86/Flickr

I continue to think that intervening in Libya was the right thing to do, but I still don't think this Obama administration statement to Congress passes the laugh test. Firing cruise missiles at someone isn't an act of war? And I wonder if the Air Force and Navy know that it ain't a war if it doesn't involve ground troops.

The twisted logic here reminds me of the Bush administration's legal rationale for embracing torture. 

The President is of the view that the current U.S. military operations in Libya are consistent with the War Powers Resolution and do not under that law require further congressional authorization, because U.S. military operations are distinct from the kind of 'hostilities' contemplated by the Resolution's 60 day termination provision. U.S. forces are playing a constrained and supporting role in a multinational coalition, whose operations are both legitimated by and limited to the terms of a United Nations Security Council Resolution that authorizes the use of force solely to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under attack or threat of attack and to enforce a no-fly zone and an arms embargo. U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve the presence of U.S. ground troops, U.S. casualties or a serious threat thereof, or any significant chance of escalation into a conflict characterized by those factors.

I continue to think that intervening in Libya was the right thing to do, but I still don’t think this Obama administration statement to Congress passes the laugh test. Firing cruise missiles at someone isn’t an act of war? And I wonder if the Air Force and Navy know that it ain’t a war if it doesn’t involve ground troops.

The twisted logic here reminds me of the Bush administration’s legal rationale for embracing torture. 

The President is of the view that the current U.S. military operations in Libya are consistent with the War Powers Resolution and do not under that law require further congressional authorization, because U.S. military operations are distinct from the kind of ‘hostilities’ contemplated by the Resolution’s 60 day termination provision. U.S. forces are playing a constrained and supporting role in a multinational coalition, whose operations are both legitimated by and limited to the terms of a United Nations Security Council Resolution that authorizes the use of force solely to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under attack or threat of attack and to enforce a no-fly zone and an arms embargo. U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve the presence of U.S. ground troops, U.S. casualties or a serious threat thereof, or any significant chance of escalation into a conflict characterized by those factors.

(HT to BB)

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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