Obama: Libya War Too Small to Count

| Wed Jun. 15, 2011 2:50 PM EDT

Guess what? Unlike every other president since Richard Nixon, Barack Obama apparently thinks the War Powers Act is perfectly reasonable. He just doesn't think it happens to apply to Libya:

“We are acting lawfully,” said Harold Koh, the State Department legal adviser, who expanded on the administration’s reasoning in a joint interview with White House Counsel Robert Bauer....“We are not saying the president can take the country into war on his own,” Mr. Koh said. “We are not saying the War Powers Resolution is unconstitutional or should be scrapped, or that we can refuse to consult Congress. We are saying the limited nature of this particular mission is not the kind of ‘hostilities’ envisioned by the War Powers Resolution.”

I guess this is progress of a sort. But it's always something, isn't it? We can fight a war in Libya because we're just a junior partner. We can fight a war in Yemen because it's sort of vaguely related to 9/11 if you squint hard enough. We can fight a war in Pakistan because it's right across the border from Afghanistan.

But to paraphrase a misquote of Everett Dirksen, a little fighting here and a little fighting there, and pretty soon you're talking about real war. Somehow, one way or another, American presidents just keep finding ways to get us into wars without bothering to get congressional approval. And Congress does nothing about it. It's almost as if they'd just as soon not have any responsibility for this stuff.

Reality being what it is, naked partisanship is probably the only way to bring this to a head. Republicans would never challenge a Republican president, and Democrats are reluctant to challenge a Democratic president. But who knows? Maybe House Republicans will decide there's some kind of cynical advantage to be gained by challenging Obama on this. It's better than nothing, I guess.