FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why Congress Must Debate Going to War in Libya

by MARK WEISBROT

“The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

That was Sen. Barack Obama on December 20, 2007, opposing the idea that President Bush could bomb Iran without congressional approval. But now he is doing exactly what he opposed when he was not yet representing the U.S. foreign policy establishment – in other words, an empire.

The people who founded this country were not interested in ruling the whole world, and that is why they wrote a constitution that gave the people’s representatives in Congress the authority to declare war.

The average American, contrary to popular mythology, lives a lot closer to those principles than does the foreign policy elite. To support going to war anywhere, he or she generally has been lied to for years and persuaded that there is a serious threat to our own security. Iraq is just the most blatant and recent example, where 70 percent of the people were convinced that Saddam Hussein was involved in the massacres of September 11. And still most Americans were against the invasion of Iraq before it happened.

For the foreign policy elite, despite their differences over Iraq, war is just an extension of politics by other means. Their kids don’t have to fight in them or come home disabled or dead, and they don’t bear the economic costs.

This difference in attitude is why this administration went to war in Libya without consulting the Congress, despite working with the UN Security Council and the Arab League. There are serious reasons for an elected official to think twice about supporting U.S. involvement in yet another war in a far away Muslim country that has little or nothing to do with our national security.

We do not know how long this war is going to last; it could go on for years. History shows that it is a lot easier to get involved in a war than to get out; there are still 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 9 years, despite a recent Washington Post poll showing nearly two-thirds of Americans think that the war is not worth fighting.

In just a few days of bombing Libya we have spent hundreds of millions of dollars and this will surely escalate into the billions. Congressman Barney Frank spoke for millions of Americans when he said that this military action was a “fiscal issue,” and that some Americans were going to die because we were laying off firefighters and police. But somehow there are always some extra billions for war.

Americans are understandably skeptical that our involvement in yet another war in an oil state is motivated by humanitarian concerns. Our leaders have shown little concern for the people of Yemen as dozens of peaceful protesters have been massacred by a U.S.-backed government. Also, if Washington and its allies were really just trying to prevent bloodshed in Libya, there would be a serious effort to find a negotiated solution to the conflict – which is lacking.

Foreign intervention in a civil war often makes things worse, by inflaming ethnic conflicts. More than a million Iraqis are dead as a result of the U.S. invasion there, which among other things promoted a bloody civil war. The invasion of Afghanistan also greatly worsened the civil war there.

A number of Members of Congress, including John Larson, the chair of the Democratic Caucus in the House, have demanded that President Obama seek Congressional approval for this war. Let’s hope that more have the courage to join them. Otherwise, the next President may decide that they have the right to decide to bomb Iran.

MARK WEISBROT is an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: the Phony Crisis.

This article originally appeared in the Sacramento Bee.

 

 

More articles by:

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. and president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of  Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2015).

January 23, 2018
Carl Boggs
Doomsday Panic in Hawaii
Mark Ashwill
If I Were US Ambassador to Vietnam…
Nick Pemberton
The Inherent Whiteness of “Our Revolution”
Leeann Hall
Trump’s Gift for the Unemployed: Kicking Them Off Health Care
Dean Baker
Lessons in Economics For the NYT’s Bret Stephens: Apple and Donald Trump’s Big Tax Cut
Mitchell Zimmerman
Law, Order and the Dreamers
Ken Hannaford-Ricardi
The Kids the World Forgot
Dave Lindorff
South Korea Slips Off the US Leash
Ali Mohsin
Extrajudicial Murder of Pashtun Exposes State Brutality in Pakistan
Jessicah Pierre
Oprah is No Savior
John Carroll Md
Keeping Haiti in Perspective
Amir Khafagy
Marching Into the Arms of the Democrats
January 22, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
It’s Time to Call Economic Sanctions What They Are: War Crimes
Jim Kavanagh
Behind the Money Curtain: A Left Take on Taxes, Spending and Modern Monetary Theory
Sheldon Richman
Trump Versus the World
Mark Schuller
One Year On, Reflecting and Refining Tactics to Take Our Country Back
Winslow Wheeler
Just What Earmark “Moratorium” are They Talking About?
W. T. Whitney
José Martí, Soul of the Cuban Revolution
Uri Avnery
May Your Home Be Destroyed          
Wim Laven
Year One Report Card: Donald Trump Failing
Jill Richardson
There Are No Shithole Countries
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
Are the Supremes About to Give Trump a Second Term?
Laura Finley
After #MeToo and #TimesUp
Howard Lisnoff
Impressions From the Women’s March
Andy Thayer
HuffPost: “We Really LOVED Your Contributions, Now FUCK OFF!”
Weekend Edition
January 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Dr. King’s Long Assassination
David Roediger
A House is Not a Hole: (Not) Caring about What Trump Says
George Burchett
How the CIA Tried to Bribe Wilfred Burchett
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Plan B for Syria: Occupation and Intimidation
Michael Hudson – Charles Goodhart
Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations be Reintroduced Today?
Marshall Auerback – Franklin C. Spinney
Boss Tweet’s Generals Already Run the Show
Andrew Levine
Remember, Democrats are Awful Too
James Bovard
Why Ruby Ridge Still Matters
Wilfred Burchett
The Bug Offensive
Brian Cloughley
Now Trump Menaces Pakistan
Ron Jacobs
Whiteness and Working Folks
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Keeper of Crazy Beats: Charlie Haden and Music as a Force of Liberation
Robert Fantina
Palestine and Israeli Recognition
Jan Oberg
The New US Syria “Strategy”, a Recipe For Continued Disaster
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Return of the Repressed
Mel Gurtov
Dubious Partnership: The US and Saudi Arabia
Robert Fisk
The Next Kurdish War Looms on the Horizon
Lawrence Davidson
Contextualizing Sexual Harassment
Jeff Berg
Approaching Day Zero
Karl Grossman
Disaster Island
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail