Home > Government, Law, War > Change We Can Believe In, XIX

Change We Can Believe In, XIX

Change We Can Believe In: It’s My Party, and I’ll Bomb Who I Want To

If you’re of a certain age, you’ll get the reference. If not, well, there was this nice Jewish girl named Leslie Sue Goldstein who recorded It’s My Party under the name Lesley Gore. As she turned 17 in the spring of 1963, it became the #1 song in the country, a hit for both her and producer Quincy Jones. The words of its immortal refrain were on all our tongues that summer: “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to, cry if I want to, cry if I want to. You would cry too if it happened to you.”

This morning I was dumbfounded as I read online the NYT article by Charlie Savage and Mark Landler, to appear in tomorrow’s paper, in which White House explains why the fighting in Libya is not a war. This was the basis for concluding that the War Powers Act doesn’t apply, so that President Obama need not ask Congress for authorization for continued fighting in Libya.

In contending that the limited American role did not oblige the administration to ask for authorization under the War Powers Resolution, the report asserted that “U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve U.S. ground troops.”


“We are acting lawfully,” said Harold H. Koh, the State Department legal adviser, who expanded on the administration’s reasoning in a joint interview with the White House counsel, Robert Bauer.

The two senior administration lawyers contended that American forces had not been in “hostilities” at least since early April, when NATO took over the responsibility for the no-fly zone and the United States shifted to primarily a supporting role — providing refueling and surveillance to allied warplanes, although remotely piloted drones operated by the United States periodically fire missiles, too.

They argued that United States forces are at little risk because there are no troops on the ground and Libyan forces are unable to exchange fire with them meaningfully. And they said the military mission was constrained by a United Nations Security Council resolution, which authorized air power for the purpose of defending civilians.

“We are not saying the president can take the country into war on his own,” said Mr. Koh, a former Yale Law School dean and outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s expansive theories of executive power. “We are not saying the War Powers Resolution is unconstitutional or should be scrapped or that we can refuse to consult Congress. We are saying the limited nature of this particular mission is not the kind of ‘hostilities’ envisioned by the War Powers Resolution.”

If I understand this correctly, we’re not at war because even though we get to fire missiles, Libyan forces can’t fire back.

Is this a great country or what? I love the rule of law. Okay, so the president is constrained by law to get Congressional approval to fight wars. But if we want to bomb the crap out of a country, as long as we keep them at arm’s length so they can’t return fire, we’re not at war.

Sorry, Congress. You don’t matter. It’s my party, and I’ll bomb who I want to.

Categories: Government, Law, War
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