The President of the United States often faces unforeseeable dilemmas that demand tough decisions based on reliable intelligence. The recent events in Libya presented President Obama with such a scenario. But how our Commander in Chief chose to handle this new dilemma raises serious questions about his understanding of constitutional checks and balances.
Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi is every bit the madman Ronald Reagan once said he was, but are the rebels adherents to Jeffersonian democracy or Bin Laden's radical jihad?
In 2007, then-candidate Obama said that "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."
I agree with candidate Obama. Unfortunately, President Obama has failed to heed his own advice. He has ignored our constitution and engaged us in a military conflict without congressional debate and approval
What imminent threat did Gadhafi or Libya pose to the United States? Obviously, the decision to take military action of this magnitude is something that should not be taken lightly, and should first require determining whether it is in the United States' vital national interest.
Over the weekend, even Defense Secretary Robert Gates admitted that America has no vital interest in Libya.
Our brave men and women in uniform are patriotic defenders of our nation. They are members of the greatest military in the world, and in times of war, I am confident of their willingness and ability to ensure that our vital interests are protected.
But they should not be asked to be nation-builders or the world's policemen. And they should serve in wars authorized and called for by the United States Congress, not the United Nations.
At the moment, there are uprisings taking place across the Middle East. The problem with sending U.S. military to help rebels in Libya or anywhere else is that we are taking sides in a conflict and on behalf of a people whom we know nothing about.
When, or if, there is regime change in Libya, what kind of leadership, exactly, will replace Gadhafi? Who are the Libyan rebels exactly? The Daily Telegraph newspaper in London reported over the weekend that some Libyan rebel leaders now claim they have members of al-Qaida within their ranks and are glad to have them. Why do we have American soldiers, our best and bravest, helping people in Libya who may be the very same people we ask our military to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq?
Intervening in a civil war in a tribal society in which our government admits we have no vital interests to help people we do not know, simply does not make any sense. Libyan society is complicated, and we simply do not know enough about the potential outcomes or leaders to know if this will end up in the interests of the United States, or if we are in fact helping to install a radical Islamic government in the place of a secular dictatorship.
Of even more lasting concern is how our troops were committed to this battle by President Obama.
The Founding Fathers understood the seriousness of war and thus included in our Constitution a provision stating that only Congress can declare war. The decision to wage war should not be taken cavalierly. As Madison wrote:
The Constitution supposes what the history of all Governments demonstrates, that the executive is the branch of power most interested in war and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war in the Legislature.
If President Obama had consulted Congress, as our Constitution requires him to do, perhaps we could have debated these questions before hastily involving ourselves in yet another Middle Eastern conflict.
The Constitution doesn't say the president can wage war after he talks to a handful of Congressional leaders.
The Constitution says Congress -- all of Congress -- is responsible for declaring war.
While the President is the commander of our armed forces, he is not a king. He may involve those forces in military conflict only when authorized by Congress or in response to an imminent threat. Neither was the case here.
We are already in two wars that we are not paying for. We are waging war across the Middle East on a credit card, one whose limit is rapidly approaching. And this is just wrong.
We already borrow money from countries like China to pay for our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and it would be interesting to know how many Americans believe we should continue borrowing money and saddling future generations with debt to pay for our current actions in Libya.
The subtext to the President's speech concerning Libya tonight was "What if we had done nothing?" But a better question might be, What if helping Libya's interest actually hurts America's interests? What if we are sending our military to places where we might actually be helping the same terrorists we fight in other countries or potential future terrorists?
It's time that we re-examine these policies by once again consulting the Constitution on such matters and the common-sense principles that made this country great. We can no longer afford to spend what we don't have. And we can't afford to address every other nation's problems before we can address our own.
Over the coming days and weeks, Congress will force President Obama to confront these questions. Our brave young men and women have answered the call of duty time and time again over the past decade. Our soldiers deserve, at the very least, that before we send them into a third war that Congress -- the People's House -- deliberate, debate, and decide whether this war is in our vital national interests.
We will gather information, ask questions, and deliver our best advice about whether we, as the people's representatives, believe we should be at war. Whatever the outcome, we stand square behind our troops, and seek that their mission be clear and true.
Thank you for listening tonight, and God bless the United States of America.