Senator Webb: “Humanitarian Interventions” Must Have Congressional Approval “The most important constitutional challenge facing the balance of power between the Presidency and the Congress in modern times”
anybody else. Where should it apply? Where should it not? Rwanda? Libya? Syria? Venezuela? Bangladesh? In the absence of a clear determination by our time-honored Constitutional process, who should decide where our young men and women, and our national treasure, should be risked? Some of these endeavors may be justified, some may not. But the most important point to be made is that in our system, no one person should have the power to inject the United States military, and the prestige of our nation, into such circumstances.
Our Constitution was founded upon this hesitation. We inherited our system from Great Britain, but we adapted and changed it for a reason. One of our strongest adjustments from the British system was to ensure that no one person would have the power to commit the nation to military schemes that could not be justified by the interests and the security of the average citizen. President after President, beginning with George Washington, have emphasized the importance of this fundamental principle to the stability of our political system, and to the integrity of our country in the international community. The fact that the leadership of our Congress has failed to raise this historic standard in the past few years, and most specifically in Libya, is a warning sign to this body that it must reaffirm one of its most solemn responsibilities.
I have been working for several months to construct a legislative solution to this paralysis. This legislation would recognize that modern circumstances require an adroit approach to the manner in which our foreign policy is now being implemented. But it would also put necessary and proper boundaries around a President's discretion when it comes to so-called humanitarian interventions, where we and our people are not being directly threatened. My legislation requires that in any situation where American interests are not directly threatened, the President must obtain formal approval by the Congress before introducing American military force. This legislation will also provide that debate on such a request must begin within days of the request, and that a vote must proceed in a timely manner.
I would remind the leadership on both sides of this Body that despite repeated calls from myself and other Senators, when this Administration conducted month after month of combat operations in Libya, with no American interests directly threatened and no clear treaty provisions in play, the Congress of the United States, both Democrat and Republican, could not even bring itself to have a formal debate on whether the use of military force was appropriate, and this use of military force went on for months and was never approved. The Administration, which spent well over a billion dollars of taxpayer funds, dropped thousands of bombs on the country, and operated our military offshore for months, claimed that "combat" was not occurring, and rejected the notion that the War Powers Act applied to the situation. I am not here to debate the War Powers Act. I am suggesting that other