Those who voted for Barack Obama in expectation that he would prove somewhat less bellicose than George W. Bush have been disappointed. “With us or against us” preemptive war has, to be sure, gone out of fashion, but it has been replaced by humanitarian intervention. Few Americans realize that the president signed a directive in August 2011 that established the Orwellian “Atrocities Prevention Board.” The impending first meeting of the actual board, headed by George Soros associate Samantha Power, was announced on April 23rd in an Obama speech at the Holocaust Museum, where the president also imposed new sanctions directed against Syria and Iran. He made clear that the board is intended to formulate policies to prevent mass killings and will be a central focus of White House foreign policy. Obama emphasized that “This is not an afterthought. This is not a sideline in our foreign policy.”
Sen. James Webb, who, like Obama, was elected by the voters of Virginia in part to restore some sanity to U.S. foreign policy, has disappointed many by his unwillingness to critique his president’s actions. But he apparently has had enough of the euphemisms used to justify successive overseas interventions. Back in June 2011, he joined with Senator Bob Corker to block the introduction of U.S. ground troops into Libya. More recently he has cautioned against any direct involvement in Syria.
On May 9th, Webb announced that he would introduce legislation requiring congressional approval for the use of military force in any “humanitarian intervention” where U.S. interests are not directly and immediately threatened. In his speech on the Senate floor, Webb described the assumption of executive authority to go to war as a constitutional crisis and derided the “unprecedented and –- and quite frankly contorted — Constitutional logic used by this Administration to intervene.” He observed that “The world is filled with tyrants…. I don’t know exactly what objective standard should be used before the United States government decides to conduct a ‘humanitarian intervention’ by using our military power to address domestic tensions inside another country, and I don’t believe anyone else knows either.”
It’s not clear if the Senate really wants to have the responsibility for declaring war, but it is, nevertheless, sound advice from a Senator with genuine military experience who is, unfortunately, leaving office. He will be replaced by the more malleable George Allen or Tim Kaine.