On Friday afternoon and into the evening, conservative talk radio was all abuzz after publication of a letter sent by President Obama to House Speaker John Boehner in which Mr. Obama announced that he “authorized the deployment to Uganda of approximately 100 combat-equipped U.S. forces to help regional forces “remove from the battlefield” – meaning capture or kill – Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony and senior leaders of the LRA.” I was just as shocked as the radio talkers and amazed at the president’s chutzpah, especially in the wake of his deployment of troops to Libya.
Rush Limbaugh characterized the move as an effort of on the part of Obama to crush a Christian effort to combat jihadist Islam in Sudan. Mark Levin fulminated and fumed, wondering what sort of phony pretext was employed for a decision that should have been made after consulting Congress. In particular, he scoffed at Obama’s claim that his decision was made pursuant to the direction of Congress.
I took the liberty of actually researching this matter before discussing it and in my opinion, both Limbaugh and Levin are wrong: President Obama acted within the boundaries of the Constitution and federal law and while his failure to consult with Congress beforehand is certainly a political faux pas, there is precedent for his action: in the early 19th century, President Thomas Jefferson dispatched a battle fleet to the Mediterranean to confront the Barbary and Tripolitan pirates who were preying on U.S. merchant shipping in those waters. He notified Congress of his decision only after the fleet was well out to sea. I realize that Jefferson’s decision was made in response to vital U.S. interests, while in the present case the tumult in central Africa – while certainly horrific – has no bearing on our national well-being or security. Nevertheless, the principle is unchanged: as commander in chief of the nation’s armed forces, the president has the authority to deploy our armed forces within the boundaries set forth in the Constitution and in federal law without consulting Congress beforehand .
On May 24, 2010 President Obama signed into law the “Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009,” which Congress enacted with bipartisan support on May 10. The purpose of the bill is:
To support stabilization and lasting peace in northern Uganda and areas affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army through development of a regional strategy to support multilateral efforts to successfully protect civilians and eliminate the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army and to authorize funds for humanitarian relief and reconstruction, reconciliation, and transitional justice, and for other purposes.
Section 3 of the bill provides the foundation for the use of military force:
It is the policy of the United States to work with regional governments toward a comprehensive and lasting resolution to the conflict in northern Uganda and other affected areas by–
(1) providing political, economic, military, and intelligence support for viable multilateral efforts to protect civilians from the Lord’s Resistance Army, to apprehend or remove Joseph Kony and his top commanders from the battlefield in the continued absence of a negotiated solution, and to disarm and demobilize the remaining Lord’s Resistance Army fighters;
The authority of the president to deploy military forces to that region may be found in Title 22, Chapter 32, Subchapter II, Part II, Section 2311 of the U.S. Code:
The President is authorized to furnish military assistance, on such terms and conditions as he may determine, to any friendly country or international organization, the assisting of which the President finds will strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace and which is otherwise eligible to receive such assistance, by
(1) acquiring for any source and providing (by loan or grant) any defense article or defense service;
(2) assigning or detailing members of the Armed Forces of the United States and other personnel of the Department of Defense to perform duties of a noncombatant nature…
That said, it should be noted that the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009 was passed by a Congress overwhelmingly dominated by Democrats. Unfortunately, there is no record of who voted yea or nay and the bill itself (which was passed by Unanimous Consent in the Senate and a simple voice vote in the House) had bipartisan sponsorship.
For better or for worse, Congress authorized the present deployment to central Africa and while we can certainly debate the wisdom of both the law and the president’s decision to commit our armed forces to an operation that has no direct bearing on our national well-being or security, the law is the law and President Obama acted well within its limits.
What’s needed now is a Representative or a Senator with a pair of solid brass Reagans to sponsor legislation rescinding the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009 or at least cut off the funding. But neither will ever happen and for obvious reasons: Republicans are terrified of the “R” word and still cowed by the ever increasingly irrelevant Drive-By Media, which will not hesitate to brand anyone who opposes either the legislation or Obama’s decision as racist.
Next week expect to see a lot of huffing and puffing and grumbling on the part of Republican leaders, with plenty of references to the War Powers Act and intense criticism of the unilateral nature of the president’s decision. But I doubt you will see anything substantive in the way of action from any of these spineless weasels.
And the 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls? With the exception of Ron Paul, I suspect that each and all of them will express support for the legislation while criticizing the president for not consulting Congress before deploying our troops according to the authority given him by…Congress.
I’m no fan of Barack Obama, folks, but facts are stubborn things and in this case, the president has the facts – and the law – on his side.