Assessing Obama’s Performance on Libya

Politico recently asked its Arena contributors whether the recent death of Muammar Gadhafi vindicates President Obama’s Libya policy:

How much credit should President Barack Obama get for Qadhafi’s death and the tyrannical regime’s ouster? Does it vindicate the president over Libya mission critics like Rep. Michele Bachmann?

My response is available here:

President Obama deserves credit for facilitating the overthrow of a brutal dictator at little immediate cost to the United States. Republican critics were wrong to claim that this result could only be achieved with a much larger commitment of U.S. forces.

On the other hand, it is far from clear whether the new regime in Libya will be any better than the old. The new Libyan government includes many different groups, including an influential radical Islamist faction….. If radical Islamists do take over Libya, the result could well be a regime that is just as oppressive as Gadhafi’s and much more hostile to American interests.

The United States may also pay a price for violating our 2003 agreement with Libya, under which Gadhafi agreed to stop supporting terrorism and give up his nuclear program in exchange for the US and Britain implicitly committing themselves to not seeking his overthrow….

Obviously, Gadhafi deserved to be overthrown. He certainly had no “right” to tyrannize over the people of Libya. But, after seeing what happened to him, other dictatorships such as Iran may be less willing to sign similar deals….

Finally, by going to war without congressional authorization, the president violated both the Constitution and the 1973 War Powers Act. Then-Senator Barack Obama got it right back in 2007, when he wrote that “[t]he president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

I previously wrote on these issues in more detail here, here, here, and here.