The Obama administration argued Wednesday that the War Powers Act, requiring congressional approval for undeclared US wars, does not apply to the nearly three-month-old war against Libya.
In a letter to Congress, the White House revealed that US operations in Libya have already cost $716 million and will top $1.1 billion by the end of September. This funding, it said, would come out of the Pentagon’s existing budget.
At the same time, the letter insists that the US military’s role in the war is too limited to fall under the War Powers Act, which requires that the president obtain congressional approval of any military operation within 60 days of the outset of “hostilities.”
“The President is of the view that the current US military operations in Libya are consistent with the War Powers Resolution and do not under that law require further congressional authorization, because U.S. military operations are distinct from the kind of ‘hostilities’ contemplated by the Resolution’s 60 day termination provision,” an unauthorized version of letter circulated Wednesday states.
It describes the role played by US military forces as “constrained and supporting” and insists that “US operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve the presence of US ground troops, US casualties or a serious threat thereof, or any significant chance of escalation into a conflict characterized by those factors.”
This interpretation appears to suggest that so long as the US is waging war against relatively defenseless countries and populations, which lack the ability to strike back against bombings and missile attacks, the War Powers Act does not apply.