Jacob Sullum

A report that the Obama administration sent Congress says, "U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve the presence of U.S. ground troops, U.S. casualties or a serious threat thereof, or any significant chance of escalation into a conflict characterized by those factors."

All that is irrelevant, since the War Powers Act says nothing about those criteria. According to the administration's logic, Congress has no say over the president's use of the armed forces as long as it does not involve boots on the ground or a serious risk of U.S. casualties -- a gaping exception to the legislative branch's war powers in an era of increasingly automated and long-distance military action. As Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith, a former head of the OLC, told the Times, "The administration's theory implies that the president can wage war with drones and all manner of offshore missiles without having to bother with the War Powers Resolution's time limits."

This interpretation is so absurd that both House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who has criticized the war in Libya, and Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., who supports a resolution approving U.S. involvement, say it fails the "straight-face test." It is so absurd that The New York Times and The Washington Post, both of which strongly support the war, have editorialized against the Obama administration's "sophistry" and "evasion of its legal duties."

It is now up to Congress to enforce those duties by defunding the president's illegal and unnecessary war.


Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
 
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