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Obama’s Gift to Samantha Power



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Over at the Lawfare blog, Jack Goldsmith has some thoughts on the Obama administration’s war powers argument. Whatever you think of the War Powers Act, Goldsmith’s second point is of particular interest:

The Administration argues that its operation is legitimated and limited by the U.N. Security Council Resolution. It does not really explain why it thinks this. But in any event, the “no danger to troops” theory, combined with the heavy reliance on the Security Council Resolution, suggest that the Administration is creating a principle of unilateral presidential war power for U.N.-sponsored interventions from a distance. In practice, this principle will likely favor humanitarian over national security interventions, since the U.N. is more likely to authorize a purely humanitarian intervention than one that has a more obvious U.S. national security interest. So the ambition of the Obama legal theory – or at least its effect – is to carve out a place for presidential war unilateralism for U.N.-sponsored humanitarian wars but not (for lack of a better phrase) national security wars. That ambition (or effect), unsurprisingly, dovetails with the commitments and preferences of some top Obama advisors.

Somewhere Samantha Power is smiling.



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