President Obama has finally achieved one of his stated objectives from the 2008 campaign, although it's probably not how he imagined it. He has managed to bring liberals and conservatives together, except that it's in opposition to the U.S. military intervention in the Libyan civil war.
As my wife and I were sitting at dinner and watching the president's speech, I was experiencing Déjà vu as I heard his words - "U.N." and "coalition" and "America's responsibility as a leader" while my normally apolitical wife kept repeating after every statement he made to justify the Libya action, "What about Darfur?"
There at our kitchen table were expressed the two prevailing sentiments of everyday Americans watching these events unfold. The first could be summed up this way: "What's the difference between this military intervention and the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan? Where are all the anti-war protesters and liberal commentators now that it's 'their' president doing the same thing they pilloried President Bush for doing?"
The second sentiment would probably sound like this: "If it's our job to intervene to prevent humanitarian catastrophes and the slaughter of the weak by the strong, why just Libya? What about North Korea? What about Darfur?"
Yet another sentiment where liberal voices and those of many in the Tea Party movement come together much to their collective chagrin, I would imagine would state, "What happened to the constitutional mandate for Congress to declare war? It's not the U.N.'s job to commit American forces to battle, nor is it the executive branch's prerogative to commence military actions without Congressional approval."
In fact, while some people seek to draw parallels between the actions of presidents Bush and Obama, one key distinction in Bush's favor is that, in the cases of both Afghanistan and Iraq, he went to the Congress and secured authorization to achieve the administration's stated objectives, including the authorization of military force if necessary. Those authorizations still were not declarations of war, however, and I'll come back to that in a moment.
The most cynical sentiment of all, however is this:
"Tonight, President Obama spoke to the American people about the ongoing international military effort to prevent the Gadhafi regime's brutal attacks on Libyan civilians. I support this lifesaving effort, which has been authorized by the United Nations and backed by our European allies and the Arab League. I also applaud the service and courage of the American troops who are helping to carry it out. It is essential, however, that the president continue to inform and consult with Congress as long as American troops remain part of this mission. Finally, I am pleased that NATO is set to take over leadership of this mission on Wednesday; as I have urged the president, our European allies and the members of the Arab League must assume the leading role."Who said it? Our very own Representative Steny Hoyer. Translated, it means, "It doesn't matter that Bush actually got approval from Congress, including me, to commence combat operations and Obama didn't, or that my constituents don't approve of us taking direction from the U.N. when American lives are at stake. My job as the number two partisan hack in the Democratic Party is to kick the hindquarters of a Republican president and kiss the hindquarters of the Democratic one, consistency and integrity be damned."
Maryland Senator Ben Cardin was equally squishy, saying that it was "welcome news that the international effort in Libya is working." Not according to what I'm reading in the press this morning, Senator. "Mission Accomplished," anyone?
I agree that Qaddafi is a madman intent on massacring his people by the thousands if he must to keep power. Based on my own personal experiences as a U.S. Air Force intelligence officer, not much has changed. Back in 1985, I wrote the air and air defense indications and warning indicator list for Libya, and I was the intelligence watch officer on duty in Germany when we launched Operation El Dorado Canyon against Libya in 1986 to avenge the La Belle disco bombing in Berlin which left two American servicemen and a Turkish woman dead, and 229 other people, including 79 Americans, wounded.
What I'm looking for, from the press, our elected officials and the public, is consistency. If President Bush's actions were deserving of public scorn, then so are Obama's and, conversely, if Obama is praised for his boldness and leadership of the ship of state in this circumstance, then Bush should be treated more fairly in the post-mortems and history books than he has been to date. Even Obama couldn't resist getting in a dig at Bush during his speech, crediting our military and our diplomats, but not their leaders, with our success in Iraq.
There's one other thing we should demand. "A better understanding of the law on how we commit our troops to action from those two lawyers that supposedly represent us, Hoyer and Cardin"? Well, that, too.
We need to demand that our government get back to the constitutionally mandated requirement for Congress, our representative body, to declare war. George Friedman, the president and CEO of STRATFOR, a global intelligence company, says it best:
"A declaration of war, I am arguing, is an essential aspect of war fighting particularly for the republic when engaged in frequent wars. It achieves a number of things. First, it holds both Congress and the president equally responsible for the decision, and does so unambiguously. Second, it affirms to the people that their lives have now changed and that they will be bearing burdens. Third, it gives the president the political and moral authority he needs to wage war on their behalf and forces everyone to share in the moral responsibility of war. And finally, by submitting it to a political process, many wars might be avoided. When we look at some of our wars after World War II it is not clear they had to be fought in the national interest, nor is it clear that the presidents would not have been better remembered if they had been restrained. A declaration of war both frees and restrains the president, as it was meant to do."We have not formally declared war against another nation or nations since World War II, and the decades have seen a shift in power from the Congress, which ostensibly speaks for us, to the president when it comes to matters of war. That needs to stop today.
Oh, and we need to send Hoyer and Cardin back to law school, right after they wash their lips from all the kissing up they've been doing.
Ron Miller is a conservative writer and commentator, author of the book, SELLOUT: Musings from Uncle Toms Porch, and the president of Regular Folks United, a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of individual liberty, free markets and our nation's founding principles. The nine-year plus veteran of the U.S. Air Force and married father of three writes columns for several online sites and print publications, and his own website, TeamRonMiller.com. Join him on Facebook and Twitter.