from The Water's Edge

The White House’s Libya Justification

June 16, 2011

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President Barack Obama makes remarks about the situation in Libya in the East Room of the White House on March 18, 2011.
President Barack Obama makes remarks about the situation in Libya in the East Room of the White House on March 18, 2011. (Jim Young/courtesy Reuters)

The unclassified section of the report on Libya that President Obama sent to Capitol Hill yesterday is now available. Only one paragraph in the thirty-two page document speaks directly to Speaker Boehner’s question from Tuesday: What is the legal justification for continued U.S. military operations in Libya? Here it is:

The President is of the view that the current U.S. military operations in Libya are consistent with the War Powers Resolution and do not under that law require further congressional authorization, because U.S. military operations are distinct from the kind of “hostilities” contemplated by the Resolution’s 60 day termination provision.

The report goes on to say that U.S. military operations are:

Limited to the terms of a United Nations Security Council Resolution that authorizes the use of force solely to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under attack or threat of attack and to enforce a no-fly zone and an arms embargo.

Of course, President Obama says publicly with some regularity that “Qaddafi must go,” endorsing a goal not explicitly outlined by Resolution 1973. But for the purposes of responding to growing dissatisfaction on Capitol Hill, White House lawyers are defining the mission solely in terms of protecting civilians.

How is this going over with Speaker Boehner? Not so well. The Washington Post reports that Speaker Boehner says Obama’s claim that the Libyan mission is such a “limited” operation that it does not require congressional approval  does not “pass the straight face test.”

So who do you think has it right: Obama or Boehner?

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