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Prompt Global Strike and Executive Power

[ 6 ] June 29, 2011 |

My column this week is on the technological implications of the Obama administration’s excuse for avoiding the WPR:

In the future, however, presidents may resort to airpower in order to avoid congressional limitations on their executive power. A longer-range concern is that as the United States continues to develop technologies that increase the distance between “shooter” and target, such as advanced drones and Prompt Global Strike, power over decisions of military and security policy would shift even more radically away from Congress and toward the executive…┬áIn the short term, members of Congress concerned about executive control over war-making powers might be best advised to pay closer attention to procurement decisions. If the president continues to claim the right to use certain weapons of war without Congressional oversight, then Congress is clearly within its powers to deny those weapons to the president, or at least to demand accountability.

 

 

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  1. I would argue that providing the CIA, in addition to the military, with armed UAVs for strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, a development that happened years ago, is a manifestation of the same dangerous tendency. This wasn’t as obvious years ago, under Bush, when these strikes began, because they were being carried out in furtherance of the objectives of the September 2001 AUMF and against the adversaries in that war, but it’s clearer in hindsight.

    The CIA’s armed UAVs should be handed over to Special Operations Command.

  2. But the campaign launched by the West’s most powerful air forces has thus far failed to dislodge Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi,

    The air campaign isn’t aimed at directly dislodging Khadaffy. It’s aimed at protecting civilians from his war against the rebels, and degrading his capability to make war. That the Libyan people themselves dislodge him on their own is a central defining principle of our policy. If we dislodge Khadaffy, we end up owning Libya, like we owned Iraq and Afghanistan, and nobody wants that. Not us, and not the Libyans.

    or even to force him to yield very much of the country to rebel rule.

    I think this misses the point. The rebels’ advances towards Tripoli aren’t working towards storming the city from the outside, but towards occupying government forces so they won’t be able to put down the impending uprising in the capital. That, not the main-force military campaign on four fronts across the country, is what will oust Khadaffy. Territorial control isn’t what wins wars in Libya; making the opposition force collapse is what matters. Ask the Germans.

  3. wengler says:

    Imagining Congress actually curtailing weapons procurement made me laugh a little. The vast majority of them seriously don’t care about Libya. The only reason why they provided a muddled response is because Congressional Republicans were looking for a way that both supported war-the unequivocal good-and also made Obama look bad. They couldn’t thread that need, at least not yet, so they are content to occasionally call him in violation of the Constitution,

    Not that they care,

  4. Glenn says:

    Your column makes the key point to me which is that the constitutional assignment of the war power to Congress (and its assertion by Congress in the WPR) is not exclusively, or perhaps even primarily, concerned with danger to the our troops. If anything, the putting of forces in harms’ way is more clearly consigned to the President as one of the extremely difficult aspects of his role as Commander in Chief. It is the potentially dire consequences to the country as a whole of bringing us to a state of war that demands it be a step taken only by Congress.

    Of course part of the problem is that, whereas once this country understood that “war” was an extremely serious undertaking that would be felt on the homefront, we’ve reached the point where “war” is something done by a small subset of society overseas. But think about if say, the President decided to start launching an attack of Libyan characteristics against someone like China. Surely such a step would be of such grave potential consequences for us here at home that it should be within Congress’ power to decide.

  5. Ralph Hitchens says:

    Joe from Lowell has it right. And of course not only is Libya not a fair test of airpower, we’re unlikely to see a “fair test” these days, where no peer competitors are likely to slug it out. Airpower, like naval power, is a “big war” tool. Anyone see a big war on the horizon?

  6. Asteele says:

    The United States is a violent imperium, it will always be involved in political violence around the imperial periphery. As a practical matter Congress can’t micro-manage this. As long as were committed to this political project the president needs wide latitude. Did Bush have special forces in Iran for more than two months, do we still have them there, does Obama need a vote from Congress? If Congress wants the US out of libya it needs to vote to cut funding, although as Iran-Contra taught us, that often isn’t enough.

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