President Obama’s decision to declare war on Libya is unconstitutional, and also foolish

President Obama’s decision to declare war against Libya is as unconstitutional as it is strategically stupid.  It might also very well be immoral from the Augustinian and Thomistic traditions of just war.

And, let me be blunt, the Obama administration has been a near total disaster from its opening moments–from its desire to nationalize the health care system to its absurd “cash for clunkers” to its numerous foreign policy blunders (let’s not forget the WikiLeak revelation that Hilary Clinton was having American ambassadors search through the wallets and credit cards of foreign diplomats) and to its intensifying of the power and invasiveness of the Transportation Security Admnistration.

In nearly every way, Americans are less secure and less free than they were before January, 2009.  And, this, of course, on top of the incredible erosion of rights and freedoms during President Bush’s two terms.

Now, I will be even more blunt–after yesterday’s invasion, we can call the sitting president either a liar or a fraud.  Take your pick and proclaim it loudly.  President Obama, which is it, are you a liar or merely a fraud?

Even if we decide to give him the benefit of the doubt and claim him merely a fraud, President Obama should be remembered as our generation’s Nixon, power hungry and abusive.

Correctly and constitutionally, Senator Obama had chided President Bush for his use of military power, claiming the executive branch did not to have the right to intervene and declare war without the consent of Congress.  In this, and perhaps only in this, Obama proved to have some backbone and a brain.

Yesterday’s decision shows he has neither.

In every way, after yesterday’s unilateral decision to attack Libya in league an “entangling alliance” of foreign powers, President Obama has abused his position as the chief executive officer of these United States of America.  The Constitution states quite clearly that Congress and Congress alone has the power to declare war.

Needless to write, how Congress responds to this gross abuse of power will prove fascinating.  The American people can be represented only in the House of Representatives and the Senate, according to our Constitution.  As citizens, we have absolutely NO direct say as to who will govern us in the White House or from the Supreme Court.

For this reason, and this reason alone, the Founding Fathers gave the sovereign legislature the power to declare war in Article I, Section 8.

The president of the United States is “commander in chief” of armed forces, but not without restrictions.  As the Constitution states in Article II: “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.”

Again, how Congress responds to President Obama’s arrogance will be nothing short of fascinating.  This past November, the American people clearly and loudly elected a new Congress, presuming it would reclaim power that had been handed over to the other branches of government as well as restrain the seemingly endless growth of the powers and reach of the federal government as a whole.

If those elected last fall possess even an ounce of honor, they will begin to investigate and possibly (that is, the members of the House) impeach the sitting president.  He has grossly abused his power, and Congress must respond in kind, and it must do so immediately and without mercy.  Should Congress continue to abdicate its constitutional duties, it will have proven itself impotent and unworthy of representing the American people.

None of this blog is to suggest that somehow war in and against parts of Libya is right or ill.  It could be either, frankly, from a Catholic policy of just war.  But, the policy of war is always and everywhere fraught with many, many dangers.  We will be making alliances from expediency, not right.  We will be sending Americans out to deal with the ever-nastiness of a civil war and asking our men and women to shed blood.  And, of course, we will be directly responsible for killing civilians in North Africa, what military strategists euphemistically call “collateral damage.”

The Founding Fathers did not give power to declare war to Congress lightly.  War affects all, and the decision must be made after serious deliberations and only with the consent of the people through a sovereign legislature.

That the president would presume such a power–especially after this current president’s previous statements against Bush and his general pacific tone–is nothing short of offensive.

It’s worth repeating that President Obama is either a liar or a fraud.  Either way, Congress has the republican duty to reclaim its rightful authority and restrain the idiocy and arrogance ruling illegally and unconstitutionally from the White House.


Tom Crowe has offered a fine assessment of the situation in Libya on this blogsite with his post yesterday. The best neutral analysis of the situation is George Friedman’s blog yesterday at Stratfor.  Dan McCarthy, editor of the American Conservative has kept the updates coming as well.  Each of these men is to be commended for their fine work.



  • Linus

    Sweet merciful Mother…the comments attacking Mr Birzer are mind-boggling. Even with the fiascos of Iraq and the “Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” still sucking dry American blood and treasure ten years later, some folks still insist we play World Cop. “Khaddafi is a tyrant”…so what?? And the regimes in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, etc are any better?! How many radical Islamic regimes will so-called conservative American Christians allow to come to power before we realize that strongmen like Khaddafi are the lesser of many evils? Wake up: these middle-east “rebels” do not want or need our help except to establish Islamic regimes like what we see in Iran, which will turn on us and other Christians the first chance they get. See the Copts and Chaldeans for proof.

  • Ted Seeber

    Depends on WHICH Catholic definition of a Just War you follow. It may well be justifiable from the modernistic five principles view, but from St. Augustine’s view in _City of God_, any movement of troops outside of a country’s own borders invading another country is an unjustifiable act.

    • Tom Crowe

      Ted, they’re the same definition, just developed further by later equally orthodox Catholic thinkers. Like Thomas Aquinas.

  • tom dugas

    Mr. Birzer,

    I will have to disagree with you. This is an action to help the Libyan people have THEIR say in the affairs of their country. Muammar Gadahfi is a murderer, lier, and tyrant. He has oppressed his own people for over forty years. And if you will look at the pictures of his supporters you will see that they show all that he advocates; socialism and sharia law. The Libyan rebels want fair laws and freedom. They are the true voice of the libyan people. Now I am not saying war is good or any of that sort of trash, but Gadahfi won’t just leave. He is killing more civilians than we ever will. It’s not routine for American troops to kill civilians, because civilians are not their target. Besides, most of Gadahfi’s supporters live in foreign countries so they do not know how the situation in Libya REALLY is. As I said before Gadahfi is a murderer. So if a Libyan man wants to see his family and neighbors live the wisest thing to do is to defend them. And if he calls for help, the way the rebels have, then we would be obliged to answer. Perhaps Britain and France could handle this without us but the little that we do and the efforts of the rebels, I hope and pray, will benefit the future of a free and just Libya without Gadahfi.

    • Brad Birzer

      Thanks, Tom, I very much appreciate the comments. I would suggest, however, that we’re rather guilty of serious violations of human dignity–from our removal of American Indians to our internment of loyal Americans of Japanese ancestry. Not that this is any way makes Gaddafi right; he’s about as bad as they come. But, if we’re not willing to stand up for republican virtue and protect our beautiful inheritance, we have no future.

  • Hillsdale College

    He knows that Congress has not declared war since 1941; I have to imagine he is condemning along with the use of force in Libya all other pseudo-wars since 1941. In every case one can find an overreach of power. The difference in the sanctioning of activity in Libya by Pres. Obama is that he has not even sought token approval from the People of the United States (in Congress assembled).

    • Francis

      If the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are “psuedo” wars, then are all those casualties just “psuedo-dead”?

  • Teep

    Brad, this is, I have to say, one of the least helpful posts you’ve written in recent memory. To call someone’s decisions ‘stupid’ requires understanding what they actually did. This article is so out of touch with the events that actually transpired in our bombing of Libya that I simply cannot sort all the errors out, but there are a few that come to immediate mind. To correct them: Obama did not declare war. Something can’t be both unilateral and multi-national. The president is commander-in-chief and can move the armed forces however he darn well pleases when no declared war has been enacted. We are acting as enforcers of a UN resolution and, as such, restraining a dictator from committing further human rights violations. (Now, it just so happens that it is ‘in our best interest’ to do this because of a supposed ‘democratic’ sensibility in some of Qadafi’s opponents. Hence why we attack here, but not in Sudan three years ago, among other reasons.) The justice of such an action is touchy, yes, but at least debatable. If anything, Obama is guilty of not having acted soon enough and guilty of giving credence to the sham that is the United Nations. You are doing a disservice to this blog by looking like what every pro choice, catholic-in-name-only who reads it thinks is going on around here: CatholicVote is merely a republican shill, waiting to lash out in wild accusations every time the president blows his nose and makes a funny sound. Thanks alot. Really. All a post like this does is convince more wackos to comment here, conspiracy theorists from the right and left alike. Best to let Tom, Thomas and Matthew do the typing for a while until you calm down.

    • Brad Birzer

      TEEP, the idea that a direct violation of Article I of the Constitution is in some way a “wild accusation” comparable to the blowing of the nose is nothing short of bizarre.

    • Winston Elliott III

      It appears that Teep believes that if Dr. Birzer offers a strongly worded essay regarding the use of the American military for the purpose of regime change in the Middle East, without Congressional approval, then Birzer is a Republican shill. Apparently Teep is unaware that there are strong differences of opinions among Republicans regarding this action by President Obama. The lack of uniform Republican views on this matter would make it difficult for Birzer to be the shill for “the” Republican position.

      Teep’s reading of Dr. Birzer’s essay is extremely superficial and misleading. Of course Birzer knows Obama did not technically “declare war.” That only the Congress can declare war, and Obama is doing so de facto, is Birzer’s central point. This action can be unilateral (presidential without congressional support) and multi-naitonal (with allies) simultaneously. No, the president does not have the power to put the military wherever he damn well pleases without a declaration of war. There are customs, executive orders and legal precedents in play. The fact that previous presidents (including Republicans) have ignored these, and previous congresses have shirked their responsibilities, does not change the Constitution. Teep’s allusion to the U.S. military acting as the U.N.’s enforcers is apt. He suggests Obama does not need congressional approval because, more importantly, he has U.N. approval. I thought the president represented the U.S., not the U.N.? As far as Birzer doing a disservice to this blog I would recommend this verse to Teep: “Any why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye; and seest not the beam that is in thy own eye?”

  • Brian C

    Well, Tom Crowe criticizes the president for not doing anything two weeks ago, and now you take him to task for doing anything at all. I understand that well minded people can disagree, but when two posters on the same site have such differing points of view on the same issue, don’t you think the tone of the post (stupid, idiocy, arrogance, absurd) should be reigned in a little bit?

    • Ottoman

      It doesn’t matter if the criticisms don’t make sense! All that matters is that the radical pro-abort Democrat 0bama is being criticized on his every action.

      • Brian C

        Um, I honestly can’t tell whether or not you’re serious. It does very much matter if the criticisms don’t make sense. If we persist in criticisms that don’t make sense, then we will be taken less seriously with our criticisms (like abortion) that DO make sense.

    • Tom Crowe

      Nah, Brian, let Brad make his comments the way he wants to. It’s polemic, so language can get overblown. I can handle it! :-)

      • Francis

        McCain was on t.v. over the weekend telling the interviewer that Obama should have sent the military in sooner. So I suppose if he had won the election the rush to “war” would have been more extreme than Obama’s response.

    • Brad Birzer

      Brian, thanks for this–but what kind of litmus test should there be? There’d have to be one for the kind of consistency you seem to be suggesting.



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