With all of this talk about war and democracy, I think it is important to reflect on how our own democratic country decided to launch the military offensive against Libya. Many in Congress are angry at President Obama for not consulting the legislative branch on this decision, especially those who feel that such an action is outside of the scope of presidential powers. I doubt that it is an impeachable offense, as I could see how the air strikes in Libya could be seen as “limited in its expected nature, scope and duration” and therefore within the War Powers Resolution of 1973.
However, I think it is interesting to ponder how democracies go to war. War costs money, lives, resources, and sometimes soft power. With so much on the line, it makes sense why our founding fathers would want American citizens to have their input on this decision, albeit through their elected representatives. However, the United States hasn’t formally declared war since 1941. Obviously, this hasn’t kept the United States from entering long, drawn out conflicts through other means (You may have heard of the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the first and second Gulf War…) We have entered wars because of UN Resolutions (Korea, Bosnia, Iraq I), and through congressional resolutions that are short of full declarations of war (Vietnam, Iraq II). While Congress ultimately has to approve funding of such overseas adventures, one could argue that the decision to fund an ongoing effort is much different than the decision to go to war.
I am not saying that Libya will turn into the next Korea or Vietnam, but it is important to keep in mind that the United States has a habit of biting off more than it can chew. When Eisenhower first authorized the deployment of American military personnel to train South Vietnamese forces, I highly doubt he realized that he was taking the first step into the quagmire.