Obama’s Libyan ‘ki­netic ac­tion’ is, well, il­le­gal

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama has vi­o­lated the 1973 War Pow­ers Res­o­lu­tion. That is a good thing. The War Pow­ers Res­o­lu­tion was con­sti­tu­tion­ally du­bi­ous when it was passed, by a Demo­cratic Par­ty­con­trolled Congress in­tent on ob­struct­ing the pow­ers of a Repub­li­can pres­i­dent.

In­stead of tak­ing a prin­ci­pled stance against a ques­tion­able law, how­ever, Pres­i­dent Obama chose to mask his vi­o­la­tion with clev­er­ness, a cor­ro­sive, shal­low clev­er­ness smack­ing of the worst in par­ti­san skull­dug­gery.

Too bad. Tack­ling the War Pow­ers Act would have strength­ened the pres­i­dency as an in­sti­tu­tion and re­in­forced Obama’s moral au­thor­ity. Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can pres­i­dents have ar­gued rig­or­ous en­force­ment of the act leads to con­gres­sional mi­cro-man­age­ment of a war and erodes pres­i­den­tial pre­rog­a­tives to the detri­ment of U.S. se­cu­rity.

The act for­bids em­ploy­ing U.S. armed forces in com­bat for more than 60 days with­out con­gres­sional au­tho­riza­tion or declar­ing war. The Libyan War’s 60 days ended May 20. Obama never sought con­gres­sional au­tho­riza­tion. To do so would make him look, once again, like Ge­orge W. Bush.

Congress might also re­buff him since he has de­voted so lit­tle pub­lic po­lit­i­cal ef­fort to the war. A few leg­is­la­tors have raised the is­sue of Obama’s legal fail­ure, but me­dia out­rage is miss­ing, as are the usual arch-left moral seizures associated with Amer­i­can com­bat.

No demon­stra­tors, lathered in blood red paint, chant be­fore tele­vi­sion cam­eras.

We hear no manic lec­tures from the pony­tailed pro­fes­so­ri­ate on the White House tyrant’s im­pe­rial ar­ro­gance.

For the good of Amer­i­can se­cu­rity, we should re­scind the prob­lem­atic law.

Yet leg­is­la­tion to re­scind might face a pres­i­den­tial veto, for Obama claims he isn’t vi­o­lat­ing the act.

Which leads to the pres­i­dent’s cor­rupt­ing clev­er­ness. Rather than con­front the res­o­lu­tion’s suspect de­mands, it seems Obama wants to keep the law for Democrats to wield as a po­lit­i­cal cud­gel when Repub­li­can pres­i­dents wage war. In­vok­ing it will prompt the profs to be­gin their lec­tures.

Obama bases his claim the act does not ap­ply to his Libya ven­ture on word games that are as trans­par­ently silly as they are in­tel­lec­tu­ally and morally dis­hon­est.

Libya, ac­cord­ing to Obama, is not even a war but a “ki­netic mil­i­tary ac­tion.” If the stakes were not so se­ri­ous, say, if the sub­ject were bas­ket­ball brack­ets rather than deadly war, we might chuckle at his buck­naked bravado.

It re­calls Lewis Car­roll’s Humpty Dumpty. “When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scorn­ful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean, nei­ther more nor less.” The Big O echoes the big egg that Alice dis­cov­ered sitting on a wall, be­fore his fall.

The Pen­tagon uses the term ki­netic at­tack to mean the use of a weapon that re­lies on en­ergy (e.g., high ex­plo­sive en­ergy) to in­flict dam­age. Ki­netic op­er­a­tions (or­ga­niz­ing ki­netic at­tacks to achieve a goal) are com­bat op­er­a­tions. So the sub-

Libya, ac­cord­ing to Obama, is not even a war but a “ki­netic mil­i­tary ac­tion.” If the stakes were not so se­ri­ous, say, if the sub­ject were bas­ket­ball brack­ets rather than deadly war, we might chuckle at his buck-naked bravado.

ject is deadly se­ri­ous, or­ches­trated war­fare, un­less you use Obama’s read­ily re­vised dic­tio­nary as a ref­er­ence.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s next act of ver­bal pres­tidig­i­ta­tion is to claim that U.S. forces are, by and large, sup­port­ing NATO’s war by pro­vid­ing lo­gis­tics ca­pa­bil­i­ties (like tanker air­craft) and in­tel­li­gence. So, the ruse goes, we aren’t at war too much, it’s war einy-tiny, since we’re mostly non-ki­netic.

This ar­gu­ment would lose in a mid­dle-school de­bate tour­na­ment, but in Wash­ing­ton’s Obama-wor­ship­ping precincts, who knows? If a Repub­li­can pres­i­dent made it, we’d hear for six years that the man was a low-IQ cow­boy at­tempt­ing “strate­gery.”

Obama has tried to turn Humpty Dumpty def­i­ni­tion­al­ism into pol­icy be­fore, and failed. In early 2009, he de­clared the Global War on Ter­ror ka­put and re­placed it with “Over­seas Con­tin­gency Op­er­a­tion.” Chang­ing the name didn’t al­ter the bat­tle­field. Maj. Nidal Hasan’s ter­ror at­tack at Ft. Hood demon­strated the war is very much back here.

Obama must be­lieve his word games are tac­ti­cal tools for achiev­ing pol­icy ob­jec­tives. That may be the case if you are com­mu­nity or­ga­niz­ing in Chicago, but a more sober and pres­i­den­tial ap­pre­ci­a­tion of re­al­ity is ap­pro­pri­ate when cruise mis­siles dis­or­ga­nize air de­fense com­mu­ni­ties (by blast ef­fects). Other­wise, the com­man­der in chief risks di­min­ish­ing one of his most pre­cious strate­gic as­sets: moral au­thor­ity.

Austin Bay is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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