David Frum muses:
In his mind, he may have been signaling: this is a humanitarian police action (like Somalia or Bosnia), not a real war (like the Gulf war, the invasion of Afghanistan or the invasion of Iraq). But he opened the door to his critics alleging: Obama is a liberal one-worlder who thinks that a Security Council vote can substitute for American democratic processes. Did he possibly fear that Congress would say No? Is he hoping that he’ll wrap this thing up faster than the debate would have required?
Is he signaling inner discomfort with his own decision, a preference for talking about almost anything else? Or is he just recklessly forgetting the old rule: if you don’t invite them to join you at the takeoff, they won’t be there for the landing?
The other obvious explanation: there was no time. But I think this blatant breaking of a core campaign promise strengthens the hand of those insisting that this be a short, limited engagement with no troops on the ground and no alliance with rebels we scarcely know anything about.
Of course, the Republican position on this is a fantastic example of opportunism.
They loved an executive branch under Bush that declared its unilateral power to declare war and peace at will, to simply reinterpret the law as something to be gotten around rather than complied with, and that summed up its ethos in one piece of cult-lingo: "the Decider." There was only one "moment of accountability" for the last Republican president - his re-election in 2004. In matters of war, outside the law, he was a monarch.
Nonetheless, even granting this massive piece of situational politics, I'm glad the right has now remembered the things it wilfully forgot under Bush: that you have to live within your means, and that the Congress has the ultimate say on whether to go to war. I'm also relieved to see some Democrats not shifting, in reverse fashion, to back the imperial presidency, but insisting on accountability from the executive branch.
If we are ever to restrain the Washington machine from its addiction to unfunded and unbudgeted and unending war, now is as good a time to start as any.