Respecting War Powers

Support for military action in Libya seems to be petering out. A bill introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich that would call on President Obama to end U.S. participation in the Libya operation came to the floor of the House and got a surprising amount of support from both sides of the aisle. For the time being though, GOP leaders tabled the issue. White House spokesman Jay Carney commented, “We feel strongly that the president has acted in a way that is consistent with the War Powers Resolution.”

Clashes between opposition members in Yemen and government forces are intensifying and the country seems to be verging on civil war. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step aside and let the opposition begin a political transition. “If it wasn't obvious before, it certainly should be now that his presence remains a source of great conflict,” Clinton said. She is also worried about the situation in Egypt. Hosni Mubarak may have stepped down, but the country’s military rulers are being pretty harsh. “We are disturbed by the reports of efforts to crack down on journalists, and bloggers and judges and others,” the secretary of state said. The military has pledged to democratize in the country, and Clinton urged Egypt to return to reforms.

President Obama meanwhile is sending John Brennan, his top counterterrorism adviser, to Saudi Arabia and the UAE to talk about the Yemen situation. Before heading to the Gulf, Brennan met with Sudanese officials in Khartoum. Northern Sudanese forces seized the oil-rich region of Abyei a few weeks ago and violence has flared since, prompting many to flee the area. Brennan was in theory in the country to talk about taking the Sudanese government off of Washington’s state sponsors of terrorism list, but that removal is now in jeopardy. Southern Sudan is scheduled to secede in July.

Yesterday, outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates offered his insight into the recent national-security-team shakeup. He said that the administration had been thinking about who to bring in as the new SecDef, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and so on for at least a year. He said the main factor in the deliberations was teamwork and how well the national-security team would function together and dismissed reports, for example, that Marine General James Cartwright was passed over for the Joint Chiefs job because of his input in Afghan war policy development.

Washington will be skipping the UN World Conference Against Racism this year, citing “ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism.” Acting Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Macmanus made the news official. The conference is heralding the ten year anniversary of the Durban process, a conference that ended with a draft resolution that put Zionism on par with racism.