Two days after announcing plans to start phasing the U.S. out of combat operations in Afghanistan, President Obama is under fire from his own party. Facing declining political support for America’s overseas wars, the U.S.’ military involvement in foreign countries may also be facing a drawdown.
70 House Democrats broke rank and sided with House Republicans Friday, in a congressional vote which challenged the authority of the President to use force to intervene in the Libyan conflict. The bipartisan decision failed to strip funding for the war but has set up a showdown between Capitol Hill and the White House over America’s involvement in the conflict. With the end of the war in Afghanistan coming, Congress–along with many Americans, is rightly skeptical of involving the battered nation in another open-ended nation building/regime change commitment.
Rebels and forces loyal to dictator Muammar Gaddafi, have been engaged in a bloody civil war, with NATO and U.S. aid being given to the rebels in their quest for the Libyan dictator’s ouster. The objective in Libya is eerily similar to that of Operation Iraqi Freedom and America is still spending ‘blood and treasure’ on it eight years later. Gaddafi’s death or exile wouldn’t stop foreign involvement in Libya, just as the deaths of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein have yet to end the conflicts in either Afghanistan or Iraq.
There’s been great debate over the legality of deploying U.S. forces(manned and unmanned aircraft) since the President called on the War Powers Resolution to use military action without Congressional permission three months ago. Controversy over the issue hit a new crescendo several weeks ago when the White House announced that it didn’t need Congress’ permission for military action in Libya because U.S. forces were not engaged in ‘hostilities’.
Despite launching nearly 90 airstrikes since ‘handing off’ the mission to NATO last month, the White House argues that its support role and zero risk of casualties means no war needs approving by Congress.
Today’s vote is a follow up of a threat by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and other members of Congress, warning the White House that it would use it’s ‘power of purse’ to stop the conflict. While they failed to embarrass the President on the level planned, the decision was a Republican victory if for no other reason than causing dissension within the Democratic party.
The victory for the nation may be in stopping the United States from getting mired in another foreign war.
Over the past decade, American military involvement in foreign countries has drained over $1 trillion from the nation’s increasingly faltering economy. The outcome is most different from the plan in war than in any other case, and as such, military intervention in another country with a set-in-stone plan for invasion and withdrawal is one of the greatest risks a government takes.
As the U.S. has learned from its struggles in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, there is no easy way to reshape an entire region or country. It would be a mistake to believe doing so in Libya would be any easier.
Congress has taken a step in the right direction, but it must follow through on its bold words with action. The opportunity before them is similar to 2007 when the Democrats had the ability to cut funding for the war in Iraq and dropped the ball when it came to their court.
Back then they forgot that supporting your nation’s warriors means not wanting them to be in harm’s way when necessity doesn’t demand it. For the sake of the United States and its future, the same mistake can’t be made twice.