The PJ Tatler

WaPo editorial: Obama's Libya non-war is shredding the War Powers Act

The editorialists accuse Obama of using semantics to get around the law. Considering the fact that his folks characterized the war in Libya as “kinetic military action,” that’s not a stretch.

His March 21 letter to Congress telling of the Libyan campaign stated that it was “consistent with the War Powers Resolution.” And his Justice Department issued an opinion that acknowledged the 60-day rule without questioning its constitutionality.

Why, then, hasn’t the president been pressing Congress to approve the war before the looming deadline? Because it’s easier to paper over the problem with new legal fictions pretending that the time limit doesn’t apply to this instance. By Friday, the administration’s legal team is likely to announce that the clock stopped ticking on April 1 — the date when NATO “took the lead” in the bombing campaign. Since NATO is running the show, the argument will go, the War Powers Act no longer applies, and the president doesn’t have to go back to Congress after all.

But American planes and drones continued their bombing long after the April turnover — and the drones are still flying over Libya. Since the cost of the mission is at three-quarters of a billion dollars and climbing, it is sheer fiction to suggest that we are no longer a vital player in NATO’s “Operation Unified Protector.”

Friday is the deadline on the WPA’s 60-day window.

If nothing happens, history will say that the War Powers Act was condemned to a quiet death by a president who had solemnly pledged, on the campaign trail, to put an end to indiscriminate warmaking.