Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why Congress Must Debate Going to War in Libya

“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).

May 23, 2018
Nick Pemberton
Maduro’s Win: A Bright Spot in Dark Times
Ben Debney
A Faustian Bargain with the Climate Crisis
Deepak Tripathi
A Bloody Hot Summer in Gaza: Parallels With Sharpeville, Soweto and Jallianwala Bagh
Farhang Jahanpour
Pompeo’s Outrageous Speech on Iran
Josh White
Strange Recollections of Old Labour
CJ Hopkins
The Simulation of Democracy
stclair
In Our Age of State Crimes
Dave Lindorff
The Trump White House is a Chaotic Clown Car Filled with Bozos Who Think They’re Brilliant
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Domination of West Virginia
Ty Salandy
The British Royal Wedding, Empire and Colonialism
Laura Flanders
Life or Death to the FCC?
Gary Leupp
Dawn of an Era of Mutual Indignation?
Katalina Khoury
The Notion of Patriarchal White Supremacy Vs. Womanhood
Nicole Rosmarino
The Grassroots Environmental Activist of the Year: Christine Canaly
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
“Michael Inside:” The Prison System in Ireland 
May 22, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Broken Dreams and Lost Lives: Israel, Gaza and the Hamas Card
Kathy Kelly
Scourging Yemen
Andrew Levine
November’s “Revolution” Will Not Be Televised
Ted Rall
#MeToo is a Cultural Workaround to a Legal Failure
Gary Leupp
Question for Discussion: Is Russia an Adversary Nation?
Binoy Kampmark
Unsettling the Summits: John Bolton’s Libya Solution
Doug Johnson
As Andrea Horwath Surges, Undecided Voters Threaten to Upend Doug Ford’s Hopes in Canada’s Most Populated Province
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Surprising Election Results
Dana Cook
Canada’s ‘Superwoman’: Margot Kidder
Dean Baker
The Trade Deficit With China: Up Sharply, for Those Who Care
John Feffer
Playing Trump for Peace How the Korean Peninsula Could Become a Bright Spot in a World Gone Mad
Peter Gelderloos
Decades in Prison for Protesting Trump?
Thomas Knapp
Yes, Virginia, There is a Deep State
Andrew Stewart
What the Providence Teachers’ Union Needs for a Win
Jimmy Centeno
Mexico’s First Presidential Debate: All against One
May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
Amitai Ben-Abba
Israel’s New Ideology of Genocide
Patrick Cockburn
Israel is at the Height of Its Power, But the Palestinians are Still There
Frank Stricker
Can We Finally Stop Worrying About Unemployment?
Binoy Kampmark
Royal Wedding Madness
Roy Morrison
Middle East War Clouds Gather
Edward Curtin
Gina Haspel and Pinocchio From Rome
Juana Carrasco Martin
The United States is a Country Addicted to Violence
Dean Baker
Wealth Inequality: It’s Not Clear What It Means
Robert Dodge
At the Brink of Nuclear War, Who Will Lead?
Vern Loomis
If I’m Lying, I’m Dying
Valerie Reynoso
How LBJ initiated the Military Coup in the Dominican Republic
Weekend Edition
May 18, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Donald, Vlad, and Bibi
Robert Fisk
How Long Will We Pretend Palestinians Aren’t People?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail