Monday, September 5, 2011

Libya And Congressional War Powerlessness.

With the regime of Gaddafi soon to bombed out existence at Bani Walid and Sirte by   NATO air power, it is more than proper to look at the institution that had nothing to do with this story; the US Congress.

The Congress was MIA from Libya from day one of the revolt. This was not by accident, it was by choice. There is a reason that the only contribution Congress provided was the usual partisan tantrums provided by the minority of the Democratic left and the majority of the Republican right. The left rounded up the usual suspects of Kucinich and Conyers, the odd dogs barking. The right was more vigorous and larger in its opposition, if also more juvenile.

The attack by the usual suspects of the Elephant Party was so predictable, and so transparently partisan, as to be both futile and embarrassing. It was an utterly cringe-worthy performance. There are tantrums thrown by spoiled five-year-olds that have more merit than the objections mouthed by Republican leaders about Libya.

I have no idea how we fix the supposed equal branch of government that the Congress is supposed to be; the rot is so deep. I hate to channel Dan Carlin so often, but, you gotta do what you gotta do. Congress fails at its responsibility for war fighting because it wants to. The leadership failure is deliberate and depressing. Carlin is correct in supposing that Congress has abandoned its prerequisites because it prefers to have the Executive take the blame if a military action goes south. Note that even the Republicans, bent on destruction of what they see as the illegitimate Presidency of Barack Obama, still did not do anything to really halt the Administrations involvement in the overthrow of Gaddafi.

This is telling because this was one time the power of the purse could have been used to short-circuit Executive over-reach. The Obama excuse that Libya was only a “kinetic action,” and not an act of war was transparently ridiculous. The Obama action was regime change from the get-go, and only willfully ignorant Obama-bots argued otherwise. The air action was all war, all the time. But here is the thing, it could be stopped. It could be stopped because halting the bombing would put no US troops in danger. A credible threat by Congress on funding would at least forced Obama to be far more consultative with the Legislative branch then he turned out to be. The whole process of getting involved with Libyan regime change was driven by the Hamlet of the White House and his interactions with the NATO allies of the UK and France.

At the beginning the usual suspect were yammering about a “No Fly Zone” in Libya. Obama, as his want, went into full contemplation mode; dithering, pondering, musing, considering inputs, consulting, and dithering a bit more. All the while our NATO allies fuses were getting shorter and shorter. France, the UK and Italy were near apoplexy when Obama finally moved. Yet in this entire enactment of Rodin’s “the thinker,” Congress was not consulted once. The demand to fish or cut bait did not come from John of Orange, or Harry Reid, but from Nick Clegg, the PM of the UK, and Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France. That, gentle reader, is a ridiculous state of affairs. The vote for war in Libya was made by a two-thirds majority of three world leaders; the UK and France voted yea, whilst Obama, again, voted present.

And the Congress of the US, the governmental organ that is supposed to have the war making authority, what did it do? Why it did not even bother to use the powers invested in it by the war powers act; it just stood to one side, to kibitz, to position itself on the “winning” side. Even the right-most Obama-hater in the Congress had enough cover to retroactively support the US mission in Libya. The behavior of John McCain illustrates this point better than anything else. His only apparent complaint with Obama’s egregious usurpation of Congressional prerogatives is that Obama did not bomb more often, and with larger payloads.

McCain’s behavior was not as much of outlier as one would think. His fellow Elephants have also positioned themselves in a way that  they could still bash Obama, whilst still be on the “winning” side no matter how Libya plays out. By abandoning any real accountability or responsibility for foreign policy, both Republicans and Democrats can play endless partisan reindeer games, with no real consequence to their reelection prospects. Politically it is a wonderful place to be. Institutionally, it makes Congress worse than useless in its role of checking excessive Executive power.

With the Congress stead-fast in its refusal to do the job it was created for, I have no idea how we, the people, find a way to check executive over-reach in foreign affairs. The War Machine, the Web  Of War, continues to grow, with no check in sight. Ignoring George Washington, there seems to be no end of foreign entanglements our Executive will engage in. It is case of imperial over-reach that no one can stop, or at least the general public is unwilling to call a halt to.

It is that general public that will have to put and end to this Executive over-reach, to kill this elected King we have created. It will take a public action that will make the protests over Vietnam look like small beer in comparison, if such an event is possible. Otherwise the Executive will hit a wall where intervention becomes totally impossible; and that is a very bad place for our nation to be. That is a place of national collapse and possible implosion.
Dan Carlin is right about our nation devolving into something sinister, something deeply un-American. He is right about how our two party system is accelerating that process. Our two party system is utterly corrupt, shot through with pay for play; how do we fix that? How do we stop the wars of choice that our corporate masters insist we fight for their profit? I have no clue dear reader, I only know we better get busy, or soon we all will be living like paupers in a authoritarian dystopia that will serve only the lucky few.
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