Obama releases report justifying actions and cost in Libya
Obama releases report justifying actions and cost in Libya
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[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official website] released a report [text] to Congress late on Wednesday, justifying the continued air strikes on Libya despite presumptive violation of the 1973 War Powers Resolution [50 USC § 1541 et seq.]. The report, “United States Activities in Libya,” was released in response to recent criticisms of American intervention in Libya, including: a resolution [bill materials] passed in the US House of Representatives [official website] calling for withdrawal without congressional approval; a letter [text] to Obama from House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) [official website] warning that he was within five days of violating the War Powers Resolution; and Representatives Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Walter Jones (R-NC) [official websites] filing a lawsuit [JURIST report] seeking an injunction on the Libya action. The report argues that America is merely providing support as is required by several international treaties and does not have enough participation in the conflict to declare war.

The President is of the view that the current US military operations in Libya are consistent with the War Powers Resolution and do not under that law require further congressional authorization, because US military operations are distinct from the kind of “hostilities” contemplated by the Resolution’s 60 day termination provision. US forces are playing a constrained and supporting role in a multinational coalition, whose operations are both legitimated by and limited to the terms of a United Nations Security Council Resolution that authorizes the use of force solely to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under attack or threat of attack and to enforce a no-fly zone and an arms embargo. US operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve the presence of US ground troops, US casualties or a serious threat thereof, or any significant chance of escalation into a conflict characterized by those factors.

The report endorsed a pending resolution [bill materials] that would provide some congressional support for continued efforts in Libya, though not approval of declaring war. The report also detailed that the US has spent USD $716 million and will spend $1.1 billion by the end of September.

In March, US Representative Justin Amash (R-MI) [official website] announced [press release] legislation requiring an immediate halt to military action in Libya [JURIST report] until Congress authorizes its resumption. The Restoring Essential Constitutional Constraints for Libyan Action Involving the Military (RECLAIM) Act [text, PDF] cites Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution while declaring that Obama must obtain authorization before any further military action is conducted. The bill is still in committee and has yet to be voted on [bill materials]. Operation Odyssey Dawn [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], a US-led military operation, has been conducting air strikes against the government of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] since March. The action began after the UN Security Council approved Resolution 1973 [text], imposing a no-fly zone over the country. The mission, as well as US involvement absent Congressional approval, has been controversial. JURIST Contributing Editor Michael J Kelly [official profile] has argued that Obama has the constitutional authority [JURIST op-ed] to conduct the operation under the 1973 War Powers Resolution. JURIST Guest Columnist Curtis Doebbler [official profile] has argued that the operation violates international law [JURIST op-ed] by failing to comport with Article 42 of the UN Charter [text], which requires a determination that “measures not involving the use of force” have failed. JURIST Guest Columnist Jordan Paust [official profile] argues that the War Powers Resolution does not limit [JURIST op-ed] the president’s options in Libya due to his constitutional authority and international obligations.