Editorial: Military action in Libya not justified

Now in the fifth day of America’s third war, President Barack Obama has failed to offer Congress or the American people a reasonable and thorough justification for Operation Odyssey Dawn, or a definition of the mission and success in Libya. He sought support from European nations and the Arab League in concert with the United Nations, but did not adequately make the case here at home.

War is the most serious government action, and as such, demands the highest standard of scrutiny, the criteria for which we believe lies in the Powell-Weinberger Doctrine, formulated in the 1980s by then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and then-Gen. Colin Powell, who worked for him.

First, there are no U.S. national security interests at stake in Libya, no imminent threat to America. Thus far, the president’s sole justification has been that “we cannot stand idly by where innocent men and women face brutality and death at the hands of their own government.” Moral imperatives make for a shaky foundation for military intervention. The governments of Bahrain, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen are currently using violence to suppress opposition groups and public protests. Kim Jong-il has engaged in equally inhumane acts of brutality in North Korea. How would America apply Obama’s guiding principle with consistency in a world where more than 47 percent of the population is considered “not free,” according to Freedom House surveys?

Second, the president has not defined America’s mission. We are especially worried that senior members of Congress from both parties do not understand the nation’s goals in Libya.

Even the president’s top advisers are unclear about the objectives. When asked to define America’s objective, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, answered that “it’s to establish a no-fly zone.” A no-fly zone isn’t a long-term objective; it is a military tactic.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has explained that any final result requires “Col. Gadhafi to leave.” Most military analysts have conceded that a no-fly zone alone will not defeat Gadhafi, leading to a stalemate. That leads us to another problem: there is no exit strategy. In the same Sunday morning interview, Adm. Mullen conceded, “I think it’s very uncertain on how this ends.”

Finally, we are most troubled to see the president ignore the Constitution and, in effect, hand over America’s war powers to an international committee. As Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, has argued, the power to make and declare war rests solely with Congress, not the president or the United Nations. President Obama has neither asked for a congressional declaration of war, nor complied with the War Powers Resolution of 1973, which requires congressional notification within 48 hours of military engagement.

Since the president is unwilling to address these concerns, it’s time for Congress to demand answers. If House Republicans are serious about runaway government, they will act to rein in America’s participation in this runaway conflict.