Friday, March 18, 2011


Would Obama-ordered attack on Libya spur a Republicans move to impeach him?

by Larry Geller

Regardless of the merit or lack of merit in a US attack on Libya—which some are saying is already weeks late, considering the lives lost—it seems clear that such an attack without the consent of Congress is unconstitutional.  Glenn Greenwald covers the territory quite well in Obama on presidential war-making powers (Slate, 3/18/2011).

(See also: How Obama turned on a dime toward war, The Cable, 3/18/2011)

Libya is no threat to the United States. The Constitution does not give presidents power to attack other countries at will, though history shows Congress hasn’t asserted itself when it happens.

However, this Congress is different. It may be happy to unseat Obama before 2012 with an impeachment proceeding, or just to damage him as much as it can by calling for one. While no such action was taken against George W. Bush, Obama could be vulnerable.

And Obama no doubt knows he cannot do this legally. Glenn Greenwald cites this excerpt of an interview with candidate Obama (his written response):

Q. In what circumstances, if any, would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress? (Specifically, what about the strategic bombing of suspected nuclear sites -- a situation that does not involve stopping an IMMINENT threat?)

OBAMA:  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.

As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. 

Should Obama consult with Congress, their approval is not certain. Bush easily got Democrats to go along with his wars. Obama can’t even claim Al Qaeda is involved. And this Congress is reluctant to give him anything.

Except perhaps impeachment, if they can get it.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.


THe biggest "imminent threat to the nation" appears to be the Republicans. What is the Presidents duty?

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