Airstrikes on Libya Break Obama Campaign Promise?

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Barack, France, Libya, Obama, Oil

I agree with the strikes on Libya because they’ll pave the way for a no-fly zone…and that will cut down on Gaddafi’s ability to do a lot of damage quickly. And I would agree with air strikes on Sudan who are doing awful things. Let’s remember, many Dems were for hitting Afghanistan hard in 2001 given their role in 9/11.

However, as Andrew Sullivan points out, this does break one of his campaign promises.

From Daily Dish:

“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,” – Barack Obama.

Of course that depends on what you define as an imminent threat. Whether any of us like to admit it or not, Libya’s oil and gas reserves are important to the entire world. And that’s why I think we’re seeing intervention right now from a country like France.

As the LA Times points out…

For France, Libya is important, partly because it shares a border with four French-speaking countries strategic to France: Tunisia, Algeria, Chad and Niger. France also imports oil from Libya, and the French oil giant Total controls an important Libyan oil field.

Still, Sullivan laments…

It’s just brutal to have supported Obama’s foreign policy for so long, only to see it morph into a multilateral version of McCain’s so swiftly. The whiplash is jarring.

Things change. And we’re offering air support right now, not ground forces. If we commit any significant number of boots on sand I’ll be against it. Until then I think taking out some military positions that could shoot down our planes isn’t a big deal.

What are your thoughts?


This entry was posted on Sunday, March 20th, 2011 and is filed under Barack, France, Libya, Obama, Oil. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

20 Responses to “Airstrikes on Libya Break Obama Campaign Promise?”

  1. Solomon Kleinsmith Says:

    I’m not a constitutional scholar… but I’m not sure that it isn’t under the power of the President to wage war that isn’t a direct threat to the country.

  2. obamawbush Says:

    No War For Oil!!

  3. dmf Says:

    Sullivan went off the rails on this one. i was nodding off to sleep and flipping through my google reader just before going to sleep when the word came out and Sullivan was posting all this nonsense about how we were going to war! and who was really president, obama or mccain or dubya!!? and i got a very incorrect picture of what was actually happening until i woke up the next morning and read the rest of the news.

    like how it wasn’t even the US’s lead, for one.

  4. Tillyosu Says:

    Well, Sullivan has gone off the rails generally. But I suspect he’s just as ignorant of constitutional law and international relations as Obama was when he made that statement.

  5. kranky kritter Says:

    My thoughts are it’s a gray area and it always works out in fashion that’s acceptable to all but the zealots. The point is a President doesn’t get to declare and run a war without oversight fro the legislative branch. And he doesn;t get to. It’s too complicated a thing. Sometimes Presidents get to take some quick and hopefully decisive military actions they judge expedient. And there’s always a small group that gets their panties all atwist. Oh well.

    Obama looks like a hypocritical dink for saying what he said then. But as long as he gets it now, about how and why a President might need to act as he has just acted, I’m not that bothered by the inconsistency. There’s theory, and then there’s practice. Another lesson learned.

  6. Simon Says:

    I agree with everything Justin said in ¶1. I don’t think it’ll have any serious ramifications for Obama; I think independents will see this as an indication that Obama is pragmatic, and while the left will wail and scream about this, they’ll line up to vote for him in 2012. They’re in the bag; he knows it, they know it, we know it. The rest is for show. Also for show is the carping about its constitutionality. The price of admission to that show is consistent application of the principle, and only a few folks (Doug Mataconis, for instance) may claim to do so. Unless you’re willing to concede that Clinton should have been impeached over Kosovo (if you’re on the left), and that Reagan should have been over Grenada (if you’re on the right), Obama hasn’t exceeded his powers. We can talk more about this if necessary, but I have a post explaining it here.

    My initial reaction to the Boston Globe quote when it began circulating over the weekend was “So what? He was wrong then; he’s learned now, just as Cheney said he would.” But a commenter at Volokh this morning added a sour mote to the discussion, observing that while Obama did not seek permission from Congress, he did seek it from the United Nations. In a sense, Bart suggests, “Obama is not so much exercising ‘executive supremacy’ as he is implementing the left’s developing doctrine of UN supremacy.” That’s a troubling thought. After all, it’s possible that Obama changed his mind on executive power—but as Bart’s comment points to, it’s also possible that he hasn’t changed his mind on executive power but has a radically flawed view on sources of authority for action.

  7. Common_Cents2 Says:

    Obama not only broke his campaign promises against unilateral military action against states…no public Congressional discussion or resolution approving it, making Bush a far more democratic leader; but he is failing to heed the UN charter by not engaging in regime change….so who put the missile in Omar’s compound? Who is responsible for the deaths of non-combatants in this and other missile strikes?

    “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,” – Barack Obama.

    Libya did not pose an imminent threat to our nation.

    The tenor of the comments is that if France’s interests are threatened, it’s ok to violate our Constitution to protect them militarily….Gawd, talk about a slippery slope; no, make that a weasel hole of huge proportions.

    The whole Libya escapade plain stinks and must be the starting point for Obama’s impeachment, if not his indictment for war crimes.

  8. kranky kritter Says:

    Meh, I’m very agnostic on “implementing the lefty vision of UN supremacy.”

    For that to be true, you have to assume that what’s being adopted is a consistent policy to follow and obey the UN. What’s WAY more likely than that? Why, to follow the UN’s cue when we agree and when it’s convenient, but to go our own way when we feel like doing that instead.

    All the powerful nations on the security council do that. It’s well known and accepted. We’ve got no reason at all to think Obama is doing the former and not the latter. Anyone who has watched how the UN behaves knows that it works fairly well when there is overwhelming consensus. And that it’s essentially toothless when a nation on the security counsel decides to tune it out. I am unworried that we’re headed down any road that leads to diminished US sovereignty. VERY unworried.

    Fact is, given the constellation of circumstances for the US and the world, it’s very useful and convenient for the US to work foreign policy through the UN using the old Nuke Lalouche school of diplomacy: “just going to take it one day at a time, try to help out the ballclub, do my job, fill my role, blah, blah blah.”

    And let’s face it, it makes for a really nice change from playing the predictable role of THE GREAT SATAN. Instead of showing up uninvited, throwing our weight around and making a big mess, we wait for a knock on the door and a nice invitation. Maybe some flowers. Works for me.

  9. Aaron Says:

    I agree with KK on both posts. The President made a lot of campaign promises. So far he’s either kept or attempted a sizable portion, or figured out they’re really not possible/not how the job works in practice. I don’t mistake him for a liberal, or for an infallible deity, and I’m not disappointed in what’s been accomplished.

    I also agree us working with other nations on any sort of military action instead of throwing weight around is a much better use of our time.

    As for oversight from the legislative branch, I’d imagine there’s some implementation for handling time-sensitive actions, like a retro-active approval/oversight? I’m totally guessing here, if someone would like to fill this in. :)

  10. Simon Says:

    Aaron Says:
    I agree with KK on both posts. The President made a lot of campaign promises. So far he’s either kept or attempted a sizable portion, or figured out they’re really not possible/not how the job works in practice.

    The St. Petersburg Times‘ Obameter breaks it down like this: Promise Kept 134, Compromise 41, In the Works 219, Stalled 70, Promise Broken 40. There’s too many balls in play for me to evaluate that (who has the time?), but one must observe that some of those ratings may be generous. For instance, #896: “If American workers are being denied their right to organize when I’m in the White House, I will put on a comfortable pair of shoes and I will walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States.” The Obameter ranks this as “stalled,” but I disagree with their conclusion that “t would be premature to call this a Promise Broken.” Over the last month, we have seen large-scale labor protests in at least three states and the President has (in my view wisely) ignored them.

  11. Nick Benjamin Says:

    I wouldn’t necessarily label the promise broken. We all know Gadddafi was about to roll into a city of 750,000 rebels. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t planing on giving everyone puppies. That’s not a threat to our physical security, but if we’ve got a national soul…

    @Simon
    The rules are designed to favor the US and you’re saying the US shouldn’t follow them. You want guys like Chavez to lay by our rules but you think we shouldn’t? You’re not helping. Not even a little.

  12. daniel noe Says:

    If intervention in Libya can be justified, then intervention anywhere can be justified. The question is whether it is a good idea to get bogged down in a third war while Korea’s building nukes, Latin America is slowly being socialized, Russia’s controlling much of Europe’s energy sources, and we’re falling deeper in debt.

  13. kranky kritter Says:

    If intervention in Libya can be justified, then intervention anywhere can be justified.

    I fail to see the logic in this “argument.” You got something better than “proof by declaration?”

    I remember when I was younger, and an avowed liberal. Back then liberals supported the virtue of intervening on behalf of folks oppressed by tyrants. Especially when little more than a well-placed thumb on the scale was enough to tip the balance. I’m glad I’m no longer a liberal, as I no longer fully understand what they think they stand for.

    The question is whether it is a good idea to get bogged down in a third war…

    Really? Is that the question? Because I don’t know anyone who thinks this a good idea, and I haven’t heard a single person, including our President, who has suggested that this is a good idea.

    What I have seen is a-hole opportunists from both sides of the aisle casting about for ways to look good and sound serious by questioning the President’s judgement. Without offering serious alternatives or acknowledging the downside to sitting idly by while a brutal tyrant slaughters his opposition for the sin of wanting a government that works for the benefit of its citizens.

    The test of a culture’s ideals is whether they can support and defend those ideals when it’s hard to do so. As opposed to, you know, supporting them when it’s easy and all you have to do is pay them lip service.

  14. Nick Benjamin Says:

    @kk
    The support for the intervention among liberals has actually surprised me. I’ve written like 5 posts justifying the war on DailyKos, and so far the closest thing I’ve gotten to opposition was a guy who speculated that the CIA staged the whole raped-chick-being-dragged-to-car incident.

    There seems to be a hard-core of intellectuals, especially intellectuals with columns or prominent blogs, who oppose the war. But they don’t seem to have many followers, even among the rabidly leftist.

    If Bush were in office the story would probably be different, but hey.

  15. kranky kritter Says:

    Opposition seems to be coming from a few diverse groups:
    • ideological pacifists
    • conservative opportunists
    • america firsters: “it’s not America’s responsibility to ________”
    • isolationists (who are closely related to america firsters, I think)
    • media folks who see the benefit in bringing any controversy into the highest possible relief

  16. Nick Benjamin Says:

    Some more opposition seems to be crystallizing, due to the rebels inability to hold anything. I can’t say I’m not worried, especially if the reports that the rebels don’t actually have a command structure in place are correct; but I still think we’ll win.

    The media folks I mentioned don’t seem to be doing it for the ratings. They’re doing it because they honestly believe Obama may be forced to send in ground troops. I doubt it because a) we have Libyan troops there, even if they suck, and b) he can let the rebels hang.

  17. kranky kritter Says:

    I highly doubt that the admin was unaware of the haphazard nature of the rebel forces as has been suggested. They are what they are: unskilled, poorly armed, few in number.

    And Quaddafi is what he is now: embargoed, without friends or oil revenue, dwindling in resources. It’s eventually going to come down to a modern siege, probably over a longer time frame than onlooking dilettantes would prefer. Over the shorter term, it may mean that outnumbered and outgunned rebels may have to adapt to traditional 4th generation warfare.

    Quaddafi may be able to run off the rebels from place to place, but without air support he’s fairly limited. Chasing the rebels exposes him and uses up resources which he can’t replenish.

    Again, think siege.

  18. Nick Benjamin Says:

    Assuming the rebels get their acts together, and can actually take advantage of the air support we’re giving them, because if they can;t we’re at a stalemate, Qaddafi’s got another option.

    He can do what Saddam did, run from the cities, and start an insurgency. that would be really bad from a humanitarian point of view, but (fortunately for us) it would also be somebody else’s problem.

  19. kranky kritter Says:

    Ultimately that would be as unsuccessful for MQ as it was for SH. If it goes that route, it’s MQ’s choice, and I don’t think anyone else has to be blamed.

  20. Nick Benjamin Says:

    I tend to agree.

    That doesn’t mean Gaddafo won’t do it, and it won’t suck for everyone else.

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