March 21, 2011
Military action began in Libya after I sent out my last e-update so I thought it was important to check back in with you on this serious matter. I am troubled by the lack of information that has been shared with Congress and I believe that the President has an obligation to engage with the House and the Senate on this matter.
You may recall I informed you in my last e-update that I signed on to a resolution re-stating the principle that the President must obtain authorization from Congress before implementing a no-fly zone in Libya. Clearly that did not happen before military action began over the weekend.
I have consistently upheld the constitutional separation of powers, whether there is a Republican or a Democrat in the White House. Article I, section 8 of the Constitution, and the War Powers Act of 1973 state that, unless a crisis threatening our security requires immediate action, only Congress may authorize the use of force. I firmly believe that the Constitution entrusts Congress, not the President acting alone, to decide when to put U.S. troops in harm's way. The United Nations does not have the authority to deploy US troops or US assets.
I respect the President's expressed commitment to multilateralism and his attention to the United Nations. Britain and France, and other nations within the European Union as well as the Arab League have called for a no-fly zone in Libya. Many NATO members are cooperating in this action and Qatar is the first Arab state to commit airplanes. But consulting with allies does not exempt the Executive Branch from consulting with Congress.
This operation, "Odyssey Dawn" may well prevent a despot from slaughtering civilians who have rebelled against him. I certainly do not question this goal, but how is it different from Darfur? Why do we support dissidents in Egypt and not in Iran? Why do we protect rebels in Libya and permit our allies, the Saudis, to reinforce a monarchy in Bahrain? The post-Cold War, post-9/11 world raises new issues and presents new problems. It has never been simple and it will never be simple to protect our interests and uphold our principles. The President must engage with Congress to strike the right balance in Libya and for future situations.