Obama to Congress: Oh, By the Way, We’re at War


Though the weekend included strategic bombing campaigns in Libya nicknamed Operation Odyssey Dawn, carried out by the United States, in association with France and the United Kingdom, it took until Monday for President Barack Obama to notify Congress, via an official notification, that the U.S. had gone to war. Two days later, to the dismay of congressional leaders who say they were not properly consulted, Obama wrote in a letter that at “approximately 3:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, on March 19, 2011, at my direction, U.S. military forces commenced operations to assist an international effort authorized by the United Nations (U.N.) Security Council and undertaken with the support of European allies and Arab partners, to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and address the threat posed to international peace and security by the crisis in Libya.”

Jack Tapper at ABC News says the letter “had the effect of a rather discomforting ‘While You Were Out…’ note,” with complaints coming from both sides of the aisle. Pardon the vague cliches, but Politico puts it this way: “It remains to be seen whether Congress has reached a tipping point in its cession of war-making power to the executive branch, but it’s clear that U.S. intervention in Libya has hit a nerve with a war weary legislative branch.”

National security adviser Tom Donilon defended the president:

“First of all, consultation with Congress is important, as I said. Secondly, the administration welcomes the support of Congress in whatever form that they want to express that support. Third, as I indicated during the course of the briefing, this is a limited — in terms of scope, duration and task — operation, which does fall in the president’s authorities. Fourth, the circumstances arose with the passage of the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, the night before a congressional recess. So he did, even with that, call Congress — those who remained in town on Friday and those who are out of town — on the phone to consult with them.”

In his letter, which can be read in full here, Obama stresses that “strikes will be limited in their nature, duration, and scope” and are meant to “set the stage for further action by other coalition partners.”