Is Obama's Military Adventure an Unconstitutional International Interventionism?

In December of 2007, then-Senator Barack Obama said,

    "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."

On March 19, 2011, President Obama ordered the use of military force against Libya in support of U.N. Resolution 1973. Congress had not been involved in the decision to use military force against Libya. Obama has yet to provide evidence that Libya posed an imminent, or was involved in an actual threat to the United States. The most clear public explanation he has provided thus far was on Tuesday, March 22:

"It is in America's national interests to participate ... because no one has a bigger stake in making sure that there are basic rules of the road that are observed, that there is some semblance of order and justice, particularly in a volatile region that's going through great changes."

That sounds a far cry from being an imminent threat to the nation, and it certainly doesn’t sound as if Libya was engaged in activities that posed an actual threat. So much of what many politicians claim to be constitutional isn't really found in the Constitution. Those justifications are found in court opinion, congressional resolutions, and sundry other writings designed to evade the narrow delegation of powers to the federal government by our Constitution. The constitutional powers granted the President of the United States are found in Article II, Section 2:

Section 2 – Civilian Power over Military, Cabinet, Pardon Power, Appointments

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

In his March 21 letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and President pro tempore of the Senate, Obama said his decision to commit military forces was "to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and address the threat posed to international peace and security by the crisis in Libya." He further explains U.S. military forces were "conducting a limited and well-defined mission in support of international efforts to protect civilians and prevent a humanitarian disaster." Then he contends that "these actions, which are in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive."

Public law 93-148, commonly referred to as the War Powers Resolution, was enacted on November 7, 1973 over the veto of President Richard Nixon. In the absence of a declaration of war, Section 4.(a)(3) requires the President to "submit within 48 hours to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and to the President pro tempore of the Senate a report, in writing, setting forth--

  • the circumstances necessitating the introduction of United States Armed Forces
  • the constitutional an legislative authority under which such introduction took place
  • the estimated scope and duration of hostilities or involvement

If the contentions of his letter to the House of Representatives and the Senate were true, and this meets his requirement for military intervention, why has he not intervened already in Darfur? That is a humanitarian disaster whose proportions have already far outweighed whatever might have happened in Libya. And what about China, Syria, Yemen, and any number of other countries around the world? And the letter still does not address the requirements stated in the War Powers Resolution.

The answer is simple: there is no justification in either the Constitution or in Public Law 93-148 for taking such action. Aside from our laws preventing it, it is unwise, and ludicrous to expect any one nation to be ever ready to intervene in every foreign civil war, tribal conflict, internal political struggle, and the host of other reasons for civil unrest that occurs throughout the world. Yet, we Americans now find ourselves having chosen sides in yet another tribal conflict half a world away without any clear, legal justification.

The Presidential Oath/Affirmation of Office is found in Article II, Section 1. of the Constitution:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

One Black American has come to the conclusion that Obama either does not have the ability to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States; or, he lied when swearing/affirming the Oath to do so.