The Gulf of Sidra Resolution
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Not since the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, via which the Congress voted 98 to 2 in the Senate and unanimously in the House to authorize the Vietnam War, have we seen such a spectacle over war powers as we saw this afternoon, when the House rebuked President Obama in respect of Libya. What in the world must the Duck* be thinking? The House rejected by a vote of 265 to 148 a measure designed to force an end to American participation in the operations against Libya being conducted under the North Atlantic Treaty. But not before passing by a vote of 265 to 145 a measure, offered by the Speaker, demanding of Mr. Obama an explanation.
It happens that this newspaper is on record with the view that Mr. Obama made a mistake in failing to go to the Congress for a measure authorizing this mini-war. It’s not our view that the Constitution required Mr. Obama do so; Mr. Obama is required by oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, whether the Congress authorizes him to do so or not. But it struck us as the more prudent, the more democratic strategy to bow to the Congress the way, say, George W. Bush did before moving against Saddam Hussein at Iraq or, for that matter, against the Taliban at Afghanistan. It made it harder for the Congress to shut down the war in the event that the going got rough, as it did in both theaters.
For it is a feature of legislatures that they are fickle. It was not the presidency that betrayed Free Vietnam. The presidency was held by the Democrats when the war was started, and it was a Republican president that pleaded with the Congress to keep it going. It was the Congress that shut down the war in Vietnam, and not even to keep American GIs out of harm’s way. The fact is that our GIs had long since left Vietnam when Congress voted to shut down the war. Congress just wearied of the fight. So even as President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger pleaded for support for Free Vietnam, the Congress voted to cast the 100 million people of Indochina into two generations of darkness under communism.
It is going to be illuminating now to see how Mr. Obama responds, if he deigns to respond at all, and we don’t mind saying that we will savor the moment. He is a Democrat of the Far Left give-peace-a-chance variety, who has gone to war at the behest of a left-of-center state secretary, from a party whose last president dodged the draft during Vietnam and spent part of the war protesting against it on foreign soil. And now the Republican Party that was prepared to stick with the war in Vietnam is demanding an explanation of the president in respect of Libya. All we can say is let’s hope the parchment on which this history is ultimately written is stout enough to absorb the ink of irony.
* Colonel Gadhafi is referred to by a neighborhood wag as “Daffy Duck” or, for short, “the Duck.”