Getting It Right in Libya

I think many Americans and most Southern Baptists appreciate and agree with President Obama's statement that it would violate our values and beliefs to allow human beings to be massacred by their own government when we had the ability to stop such a slaughter with a relatively small exercise of American military power.

President Obama's decision to intervene in Libya is the opposite and correct decision to the wrong decision by President Clinton not to intervene in Rwanda in 1994, which resulted in as many as one million people being hacked to death in about three months' time.

Unfortunately, President Obama has failed thus far to do one of the things that is absolutely necessary for the lawful use of the American military in combat: Seek the approval of Congress. For the president to authorize the use of American military force in combat without seeking the prior or subsequent approval of Congress is, to put it bluntly, illegal. The authorization by the United Nations Security Council is not now, and never will be, a substitute for the approval of the United States Congress. To argue otherwise is to diminish America's sovereignty.

The War Powers Act authorizes the president to use force in a military emergency but then limits the time period that he can use such force without the approval of Congress. This is why President Bush 41 sought the approval of Congress prior to the first Gulf War and why President Bush 43 sought the approval of Congress before the liberation of Iraq. For the president's action to be lawful, he must seek and obtain the approval of Congress prior to the deadline set by the War Powers Act.

The bottom line is the president needs to get the approval of Congress within a maximum of 90 days from the beginning of hostilities or he has to cease hostilities whether he is in coalition with NATO or not. Otherwise, it sets a dangerous precedent of the overreach of executive branch power and does serious damage to the constitutional balance of powers designed by our forefathers.

Dr. Richard Land is president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist Convention's official entity assigned to address social, moral, and ethical concerns, with particular attention to their impact on American families and their faith.

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