‘If you start to take Tripoli, then do not take Tripoli’

by Victor Davis Hanson

That un-Napoleonic strategy sums up the current Libya misadventure. Aside from questions about the constitutionality of the War Powers Act, why does not Obama simply go to Congress and ask for authorization for his Libyan war and make the case to the public and its representatives? To do so would accord with past public proclamations by himself, Secretary Clinton, and Vice President Biden; not to do so, renders all three abject hypocrites.

Congress was consulted and voted to authorize interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan; so why not Libya? The present mea culpa that Libya does not rate the status of war/conflict is laughable, given the barrage of bombs and missiles we launched the first week, and ongoing NATO strikes, in which American participation is apparently by design disguised. If the point was to embarrass the ankle-biting and hypocritical Europeans through showcasing their lack of resolve and capability by leading from behind, the point was made in the first week.

Obama should at least state to Congress what the original mission was, what the methodology to accomplish is, and what the desired results will be. He would probably get an authorization, but is apparently afraid of election-cycle stinging public criticism and opportunistic sound bites ridiculing the past three months of indecision and confusion — in the fashion of his own rhetoric during 2004–6 — much of it coming from his own party. In 2007, if someone had written that then–Yale Law Dean Harold Koh and then–Senator Obama,  in the immediate future, would be crafting legalistic and sophistic arguments to justify bombing an Arab Middle Eastern oil-exporting country that did not pose a threat to either the U.S. or the region (Gaddafi is no Saddam) while circumventing congressional oversight, he would have been considered quite unhinged. But then again, that was the Jurassic Age of a lost Iraq and failed surge, in which Guantanamo was al-Qaeda’s “chief recruiting tool” and things like renditions, tribunals, wiretaps, preventative detention, and predator targeted assassinations were right-wing affronts to the Constitution.