Hilary: The Multilateral Exception to Congressional War Powers

With the spirited debate among Richoterians, including professors Yoo and Epstein, about the proper locus of war-making power under the Constitution (I’ll add my comments to John’s latest post), many are wondering how Team Obama justifies its failure to consult Congress before taking action in Libya.  After all, during the ’08 campaign, Obama, Biden, and Hilary all relentlessly attacked Bush for his assertion of executive war powers.

On today’s Face the Nation, Hilary Clinton gave the answer, and it’s a whopper.  According to Clinton, the Constitutional requirement of congressional authorization does not apply to “this kind of internationally authorized intervention where we are one of a number of countries.”   Clinton dug herself in deeper by contrasting the Libyan project with the “unilateral” actions taken by President Bush.  Although, as Ed Morrisey points out, the Libyan coalition is maybe half the size of the Iraqi coalition.

Clinton’s answer is surely the worst of all worlds.  Wherever one draws the line between Executive and Legislative powers, the power to put American troops in harm’s way should lie with somebody accountable to the American electorate.  The idea that internationally “authorized” military action is outside the Constitutional framework dramatically illustrates this administration’s determination to cede US sovereignty to the ill-defined “international community.”