To the editor of THE EAGLE:
Dana Milbank’s August 5 op-ed commentary "Obama wrong either way" got me wondering whether it is possible for the president to be "wrong either way" for not seeking congressional authority prior to taking military action and wrong for, at this time, seeking congressional authority prior to taking military action. I have concluded that the president can and in fact has gotten it wrong both ways.
Wrong because he committed American air power to bombing runs in Libya without seeking congressional approval on the specious and dangerous rationale that bombing a country is not "hostilities" within the War Powers Act when there were no American boots on the ground. Wrong for not strategizing and getting the temper of Congress from congressional leaders to his response to crossing the line before setting his red line. And wrong for now, after announcing his unilateral decision, reasons, strategy and likely attack date, for doing a U-turn and seeking congressional action (which he says he can disregard if Congress disagrees with him), thereby giving Syrian forces the opportunity to prepare for whatever action the U.S. will ultimately take and creating confusion that could lead to future miscalculation by both U.S. allies and adversaries.
With the president having put the United States out on a limb, Congress should give him the authority but that should not be taken to mean that Congress or the public agrees or that the president has got it right; merely that Congress cannot cut off the limb.
CARL F. GOODMAN
The writer was a foreign service reserve officer and a member of the legal advisor’s office at the State Department in the 1960s.