I've also heard the claim that actions undertaken as part of NATO or the U.N. are somehow exempt from the constitutional requirement, but the fact that a war is fought with allies does not make it any less of a war (Congress declared war during World War II; it also voted to authorize the first Gulf War and the attack on Afghanistan even though they were done, respectively, through the U.N. and NATO).
I can't put an exact percentage to it, but I'd say I find myself in agreement with Glenn Greenwald's opinions on constitutional issues in the high 90's. Let me also preface by saying I oppose US imperialism. I'm also a pacifist. Concerning Libya, while there is no doubt that there are Americans in "high" places with ulterior motives (oil), there is no doubt in my mind that Qaddaffi has the greater sin in this matter. In addition, I have used the argument that the US didn't declare war concerning Afghanistan or Iraq.
So, what about this Libyan situation? Is there anything different about it vis-a-vis Declarations of War, etc.?
Look, the US is part of NATO. NATO is a treaty. The US is signatory. That treaty calls for mutual defense. The US Constitution expressly binds the nation to such signed treaties as the highest law of the land (the US). If any NATO member is attacked, the government and people of the US have already committed to their defense. The Declaration of War, per se, is agreed to in advance. Now, that in and of itself doesn't answer Glenn's question about the UN. It begins to though.
The US is signatory to the UN Charter documents (not all but certainly the founding documents). I've seen it argued between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. There are those who say that Declarations, per se, are not as binding as other international documents. That argument is the same that is used to say that while the Declaration of Independence is a founding document of the US, it is not law as the US Constitution is law. I disagree for matters of spirit. However, that's not good enough for most for this debate about Libya and the UN and NATO, etc.
The whole point of the UN in terms of international law, of which the US is a party, is to protect rights of nations and peoples and individual people. There are numerous international instruments/documents that evidence this. I won't list them all here. The US is signatory to many and certainly enough of them to make clear that the US is supposed to hold that the treatment Qaddaffi had been dishing out to the dissenters in Libya was a clear violation of international law (and the US Constitution for the reason I mentioned above). What does that law require? Frankly, it requires the Security Council to enforce it militarily if necessary. Therefore, in the simplest terms, the US is obligated to support any UN effort to enforce the international law. Whether the US does consistently or not is irrelevant to the point. It should be consistent. Even still, it shouldn't be violent, but that's a theological point on my part that Glenn is probably not much interested in. He may agree on other moral grounds though. I won't prejudge him about that. He has never struck me as an advocate for violence as the solution.
The truth of the matter is that all of the permanent members of the Security Council, and I would argue all Security Council members and UN member-states, are literally to police the world. I realize that's not a popular view, but it's the truth. That policing is actually supposed to be as effective as the most effective policing on a local level. The people of the whole world are supposed to be protected from violence and criminality including if inflicted by the government of a particular nation-state against it's own people and regardless of membership in the UN.
Local police departments are violently coercive. They are hopefully as restrained in that as possible while still getting the "job" done. I would have it that everyone would have the Christian law written on his or her heart such that such police wouldn't be necessary but rather each person's conscience would keep the peace in the highest sense. However, it is a fact, it is the current reality, that in most places, were there no local police, greater evil than the coercion of the "reasonable" police would certainly come forth. Shame on those who would bring it, but they are blind and deaf to the truth.
My issues regarding Afghanistan and Iraq were that the basis for the attacks on each were lies and that the Congress was hiding behind them. In addition, the term "war" as contemplated under the Constitution and international law certainly applied to both Afghanistan and Iraq while it likely does not concerning Libya. The US is not at "war" with Qaddaffi in that sense, albeit the range of connotations for the term certainly includes war of a type. I know I'm not splitting hairs here. The US says that it is not seeking to overthrow Qaddaffi even though it has made clear that it no longer finds his government legitimate. Being Frank again, let me say that the difference escapes me. I think the US is playing word games that it should not and that are unnecessary. The UN does have the authority to declare a ruler no longer a ruler. Self-determination is about the people of a nation, not some absolute monarch or dictator.
Also concerning Afghanistan, the Congressional authorization was too vague and open-ended. Proof as to who was behind 9/11 and how various parties tied in was never forthcoming. Torturing a confession out of someone violates the very international law of which I speak. Al Qaeda was never shown to have been behind 9/11. Bin Laden actually denied he was behind it, and the US never showed any proof otherwise. Yet, the US attacked and invaded Afghanistan for being a training ground and "safe harbor" for al Qaeda. As for Iraq, not one reason given before the attack and invasion stood up. The evidence against Qaddaffi though is irrefutable. It matters!
So, my position about the US and its current actions against Qaddaffi's regime is well-reasoned and supported by national and international law as those fit together in this situation.
I'm not sure of Glenn's ultimate objective or ideology. Non-intervention would seem to be it, but he'd have to tell me one way or the other. If it is, is it absolute? Is he a total pacifist, as am I?