Good Morning Libya

Today’s New York Times features Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt reporting that America’s no boots on the ground humanitarian intervention in Libya features ground-based CIA agents (presumably wearing tennis shoes) coordinating with Libyan rebels so as to better be able to assist them with tactical air support. Chris Adams for McClatchy also has a story out headlined “Libyan rebel leader spent much of past 20 years in suburban Virginia”, which is presumably because he really liked the Tyson’s Corner mall and has nothing to do with the location of the CIA or the Pentagon.

Reuters also had it that Obama had signed a secret order to provide the Libyan rebels with weapons, but that presumably meant humanitarian weapons rather than the kind you use to kill enemy soldiers and resolve post-revolutionary political disputes with. The administration, however, denies that this decision has been made. Meanwhile, the Gaddafist state continues to disintegrate as foreign minister Moussa Koussa defected to the United Kingdom but Gaddafi’s troops made advances on the ground.

Here at home “Challenged on whether Obama overstepped his constitutional authority in attacking Libya without congressional approval, Clinton told lawmakers that White House lawyers were OK with it and that Obama has no plans to seek an endorsement from Congress, attendees told POLITICO.” People will criticize this executive power grab, but remember to also see it as an abdication of responsibility. Members of congress will complain about this, but they won’t really do anything about it, nor will next year’s defense appropriation bill (or the one after that or the one after that or …) contain any effort to constrain presidential warmaking power. That’s because members of congress want to be kept in the dark, they want to be able to complain if things go poorly without taking ownership of the situation. And I think in adopting that attitude, members of congress demonstrate a rare bit of good sense. The level of uncertainty surrounding these activities is huge. There are unbounded downside risks all over the place. But instead of knowledge of those facts leading to greater hesitation about the profligate use of force, it just leads to a congressional flight from responsibility.