Gates: No vital national interest or imminent threat in Libya before Odyssey Dawn

posted at 10:15 am on March 27, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Jake Tapper reminds ABC why they foolishly spent money on Christiane Amanpour last year for the anchor job on This Week with a tough joint interview of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.  Tapper asks Gates exactly what vital national interest the US has in Libya and what kind of imminent threat to our security Moammar Gaddafi posed at the beginning of Operation Odyssey Dawn.  Gates says … none in either case:

On “This Week,” ABC News’ Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper asked Gates, “Do you think Libya posed an actual or imminent threat to the United States?”

“No, no,” Gates said in a joint appearance with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “It was not — it was not a vital national interest to the United States, but it was an interest and it was an interest for all of the reasons Secretary Clinton talked about.  The engagement of the Arabs, the engagement of the Europeans, the general humanitarian question that was at stake,” he said.

Gates then says that refugees from Libya could have destabilized Tunisia and Egypt, which is true — obviously, the revolutions in those places helped destabilize Libya — and that somehow that was of interest to the United States.  That is certainly an arguable point either way, but that point should have been argued in Congress before committing the US to war.  The War Powers Resolution requires there to be “(1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces” before a President can send US military forces into a new conflict.

People have disputed the constitutionality of the WPR ever since Congress passed it, but no President has ever had the nerve to challenge it.  Moreover, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton ran for the presidency in 2007-8 by challenging George Bush’s record on military adventurism, and now-VP Joe Biden specifically campaigned on the promise to impeach Bush in his final year in office if he violated it.  Gates’ admission leaves Obama with very little room to pretend that he followed his own campaign rhetoric on warmaking.

Hillary felt the need to swoop to the rescue.  She claimed that Obama didn’t need to go to Congress because this coalition is so darned multilateral:

Tapper asked Clinton, “Why not got to Congress?”

“Well, we would welcome congressional support,” the Secretary said, “but I don’t think that this kind of internationally authorized intervention where we are one of a number of countries participating to enforce a humanitarian mission is the kind of unilateral action that either I or President Obama was speaking of several years ago.”

“I think that this had a limited timeframe, a very clearly defined mission which we are in the process of fulfilling,” Clinton said.

Obviously, the Secretary of State has trouble with both math and the law.  There is no “multilateral” waiver in either the WPR or the Constitution, but even if there were, Obama would be the least likely President to qualify for it.   This coalition is the smallest since World War II involving the US in military action, only half the size of  George W. Bush’s Iraq War coalition.

She also fails vocabulary test in her claim that the mission has a limited timeframe.  Later, Gates says that no one knows how long this will drag on:

On “This Week,” ABC News’ Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper asked Secretary of Defense Gates how much longer we might be there.

“Some NATO officials say this could be three months, but people in the Pentagon think it could be far longer than that.  Do you think we’ll be gone by the end of the year?  Will the mission be over by the end of the year?” Tapper asked

“I don’t think anybody knows the answer to that,” Gates said.

This administration has had trouble throughout this Middle East crisis getting its stories straight from day to day.  Now they can’t even get their stories straight in the same interview.

Smart power.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air