“Given the mission you have ordered to the U.S. Armed Forces with respect to Libya and the text of the War Powers Resolution, the House is left to conclude that you have made one of two determinations: either you have concluded the War Powers Resolution does not apply to the mission in Libya, or you have determined the War Powers Resolution is contrary to the Constitution,” – John Boehner, finally discovering the Constitution.
Jonathan Allen rightly notes Boehner's volte-face from his position even under the Clinton administration. But I'd argue that the years since Kosovo have shown a desperate need for the Congress to regain control over the vital issue of war and peace. The Founders put it there for a reason. And yet we have turned the president into an emperor who can launch wars at a moment's notice and face little Congressional bowback.
And this is not an abstract question any more. Obama is now engaged in two illegal wars – in Libya and in Yemen.
There was no Congressional debate or vote on these wars – and one is being waged by the CIA with unmanned drones. I think we have learned a little about what happens when you give the CIA carte blanche to run a war with no accountability except to a president who has a vested interest in covering up errors.
And Boehner is correct that Obama owes us an explanation of his views on the power of the presidency. Can he declare war at will? Are these wars not-wars under his definition? What then qualifies as a war for Obama?
I couldn't tell you. What I can tell you is that many supported Obama to end wars – not to extend one, try not to quit another too quickly, and add two more for good measure. And Obama is a sophisticated and learned Constitutionalist. He must have thought about this question. What is his answer?