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President Obama has yet to explain to Congress and the American people how he received authority from the United Nations Security Council to initiate military operations against Libya. On March 21, he informed Congress that “at my direction, U.S. military forces commenced operations to assist an international effort authorized by the United Nations (U.N.) Security Council.” An April 1 memo by the Office of Legal Counsel states that Security Council Resolution 1973 “imposed a no-fly zone and authorized the use of military force to protect civilians.” Because Libya did not comply with the resolution, the OLC concluded that President Obama was justified in using military force against Libya to maintain “the credibility of the United Nations Security Council and the effectiveness of its actions to promote international peace and security.”

May the U.N., rather than the elected representatives of Congress, authorize the United States to use military force against another nation? Is it possible to transfer the constitutional power of Congress to an international body? The answer to both questions: No. Authority under law and the Constitution must come from Congress. Statutory law, dating to 1945, speaks unambiguously about the use of American troops in a U.N. military operation: “The President is authorized to negotiate a special agreement or agreements with the Security Council which shall be subject to the approval of the Congress by appropriate Act or joint resolution.” 22 U.S.C. 287d.

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