John Nichols began his article with this statement;
" President Obama failed to seek a
declaration of war before ordering US attacks on Libya. Now, he faces a
challenge under the War Powers Resolution. " That is quite true. However,
it is not an immediate challenge to the President. He has sixty days according
to the WPR and the clock started on March 19th when coalition forces
began their air attacks on Gaddafi's armed forces.
That is not exactly a misrepresentation of the WPR, but a clarification to Mr. Nichols' remark was deemed necessary. His misrepresentation occurs later in the third paragraph of his article entitled, "A War Powers Challenge to Obama's Libya Project."
He stated, " The War Powers Resolution, enacted in the late stages of the Vietnam War over a veto by President Richard Nixon, requires the commander-in-chief to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action that he or she determines is necessary in the face of "a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.' " Emphasis is mine and represents the focal point of Mr. Nichols' misrepresentation. He combined, thus misconstrued, two separate paragraphs within the WPR.
With respect to the 48 hours here is what the WPR actually says under the heading, "Reporting requirement:"
The President shall submit within 48 hours to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and to the President pro tempore of the Senate a report, in writing, setting forth--
(A) the circumstances necessitating the introduction of United States Armed Forces;
(B) the constitutional and legislative authority under which such introduction took place; and
(C) the estimated scope and
duration of the hostilities or involvement.
Essentially, that is all it says about the 48-hour
requirement. There is nothing about a national emergency or a direct attack on
the United States. That particular language is in an entirely different section
within the WPR and in a totally different context.
That language is in the first part of the WPR under the heading, "Purpose and policy." The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to
(1) a declaration of war,
(2) specific statutory authorization, or
(3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States,
its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.
The gritty details of carrying out these provisions are contained later in the WPR mostly in the "Reporting requirement" section mentioned above as it pertains to the President. By combining two disparate statements into one, Mr. Nichols provided to readers a misleading view of the WPR.
I have only the deepest respect for Mr. Nichols. This article is a product of that respect. It is not meant as censure or criticism.