Webb: ‘Humanitarian interventions’ must have congressional approval
Sen. Jim Webb today announced he will introduce legislation to require Congressional approval before the president could take military action for so-called “humanitarian interventions,” where U.S. armed forces might respond to crises abroad but American interests are not directly threatened.
The legislation would require the President to obtain formal approval by the Congress before using military force, and would also require that debate begin within days of such a request and that a vote must proceed in a timely manner.
Webb, a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, has repeatedly voiced concerns over the Administration’s evolving policy of humanitarian intervention since the lead-up to U.S. involvement in Libya. In June 2011, he introduced a Joint Resolution with Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) to require the Administration to justify its actions in Libya, to prohibit U.S. troops on the ground, and to call for Congressional authorization of continued operations. More recently, he has raised similar concerns regarding possible U.S. intervention in Syria.
“Year by year, skirmish by skirmish, the role of the Congress in determining where the U.S. military would operate, and when the awesome power of our weapon systems would be unleashed has diminished,” said Webb, who served as a combat Marine in Vietnam, a journalist covering the U.S. military in Beirut and Afghanistan, and an Assistant Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Navy. “In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, especially with the advent of special operations forces and remote bombing capabilities, the Congress seems to have faded into operational irrelevance…. We have now reached the point that the unprecedented – and quite frankly contorted – Constitutional logic used by this Administration to intervene in Libya on the basis of what can most kindly be called a United Nations standard of ‘humanitarian intervention,’ was not even subject to full debate or a vote on the Senate floor.
“The legislation that I will be introducing will address this loophole in the interpretation of our Constitution,” said Webb. “It will serve as a necessary safety net to protect the integrity and the intent of the Constitution, itself. It will ensure that the Congress lives up not only to its prerogatives, which were so carefully laid out by our founding fathers, but also to its responsibilities.”