uprising in Libya

In 2011, the revolt in Libya against Muammar al Gadhafi's administration shaped international and local politics around a potential worldwide military action that included the proposed establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya. The United Nations (UN) Security Council enacted the War Power Resolution (WPR) of 1973 on March 17, 2011, establishing a no-fly zone in the country's airspace and authorizing robust enforcement efforts for the arms embargo established by the 1970 resolution. Furthermore, the UN enabled other member countries to take critical measures to protect citizens and populations in Libyan regions under attack. However, the resolution was clear that the member states should avoid foreign occupation force in the Libyan territory. In reaction, American created the Operation Odyssey Dawn under President Obama that in return resulted in the debatable conflict between the lawmakers and the Commander in Chief.

The United State contribution to the multilateral troop's effort was to enforce the no-fly zone initiative as well as protect innocent lives in Libya. The armed operations in the Odyssey Dawn started on 19th March 2011. Consequently, America and coalition forces established the command of the air in the major cities of Libya, destroyed parts of Libyan air forces network as well as raiding the pro-Gadhafi troops that were deemed to pose danger to the civilian people. From the onset of the actions, the Obama government declared its intention to transfer command of the mission over Libya to the coalition entity. By 30th May 2011, NATO assumed full command of all forms of alliance military operations in Syria where member states commanders are also involved.

The enforcement of the first no-fly zone over Libya was successful. However, one of the marine’s aircraft was lost because of the mechanical breakdown but the soldiers were rescued. The estimated cost of the Libyan operation ranged from 400 million to one billion dollars. The participation of USA in NATO and Odyssey operation raised several questions for the Congress comprising the duty of Congress in approving the utilization of force, cost of the action, the duty of American forces in the mission under the international command and the desired political outcome. Obama made a statement concerning the United States policy in the wake of the passage of the United Nations Security Council resolution of 1973. According to the President, “ the United Kingdom, United States, Arab states and France agreed to the cease-fire intervention to be implemented immediately, meaning the stop of all types of attacks against civilians”. Therefore, Gadhafi was supposed to stop his soldiers from pressing forward to Benghazi, withdraw from Zawiya, Misrata, and Ajdabiya as well as establish gas, electricity, and water supplies in all regions.

Moreover, Obama stressed that “humanitarian help should be allowed to reach all Libyan citizens and it was not negotiable. If Gadhafi does not obey the decree, the international society will inflict the consequence and the declaration enforced via military action”. Based on the President’s remarks, the major focus of United States was to secure the innocent individuals in Libya as well as holding Gadhafi administration accountable. “America is ready to act as the portion of the international alliance, I have engaged secretary Gates and military to manage their preparation and foreign secretary Clinton will move to Paris for the gathering with various Arab partners and European allies regarding the WPR”. The president was very clear that the USA had no intention of deploying ground soldiers in Libya and the force to be utilized would be in a limit of well-defined aim, particularly the protection of innocent people.

Consequently, Gadhafi discarded the conditions stipulated by the 1973 decree and reiterated by coalition alliance as well as President Obama. Although the military action by the American forces commenced on the 19th of March, the head of state wrote to the lawmakers on March, 21st announcing the start of the Libyan operation “to avert the humanitarian calamity and address the danger posed to the global peace and safety by the civil battle in Libya.” Moreover, the President stated that the airstrikes would be restricted in their duration, scope and duration while their rationale was to boost the international alliance as it takes all measure to enforce WPR. According to Obama, “American forces efforts are focused and discrete on employing exceptional United States military abilities to set the situations for the Arab partners and European allies to perform the actions permitted by United Nation safety council”.

Despite a successful achievement of implementing the 1973 resolution to support the Libyan revolution via no-fly zone enforcement as a part of the NATO action, Obama failed to tackle the constitutional contemplations. The approach of legality enhanced Obama’s managerial authority in distant policy-making and adhering with distinct institutions that shared his strategic aims and would facilitate efficient functioning. When the office of lawful advice informed the head of state of the need to adhere to the WRP if legislators asked for the withdrawal, he required the viewpoints to except the intrusion from legislature approval. Based on the assembly power, the President tried to implement the battle powers and marginalize Congress so that to attain his policy desires unimpeded.

Obama rejected the advice offered by the legal counsel, hence, acting against the created norms of politics. Even if there was latent support for the Libyan intervention from several senior Republicans, legislators were determined to hold the head of state to account. The bipartisan declaration promoting the fight conceded the Senate on June 2011, restricting boots on the soil action but was turned down by the Congress citing concerns regarding the legality engagement and Obama’s attempts to evade WPR. Furthermore, the House rejected the suggestions to cut funds from the mission despite its expenses reaching about one billion dollars.

Congress Action

In reaction to the President’s choice of initiating the military intervention without the House approval, the Congress criticised the actions as unlawful, which resulted in confusing debates. According to Senator Richard Lugar, “it was doubtful that America interest would be implemented by enforcing the no-fly zone intervention in Libya. If Obama’s government is contemplating the step, it must start by finding the declaration of the fight against Libya that permits for a complete congressional debate on the action”. Several lawmakers challenged the actions in a different manner by either raising a motion or moving to the court. The house representative argued that the president overstepped its legal powers by allowing the utilization of the American troop forces abroad without receiving the permission from the Congress.

The critics explained that Obama despoiled the 1973 WRP by not engaging the Congress, which is mandated by the constitution to authorize the deployment of American soldiers in foreign nations. Additionally, the Congress approved a decree disapproving the president’s action on Libya and asked the government to offer detailed goals on the operation. Several committee chairpersons sent letters to the head of state seeking clarity. Several policymakers assailed the Libyan intervention as unconstitutional, hence, the president violated the lawful power offered to the Congress by article one, section 8 of the USA laws. Furthermore, the critics stressed that the American warplanes must be withdrawn from the area because it was against the WPR. According to Kucinich (Ohio Representative), “President Obama continued with the mission without the house approval. He did not obtain congressional authorization thus he has gone against the constitution. The action that entails putting USA servicewomen and men into the battle either in the Navy or Air Force is a grave choice that cannot be reached the head of state alone”.

Moreover, the Congress rebuked Obama for failing to offer the House with a compelling purpose for the troop campaign in Libya. By the ballot of 268 to 145, the Congress passed the resolution that opposed the 76-day old mission against Gaddafi. The decree gave Obama fourteen days to clarify his plan in Libya and convince the House the raids that were justified by American interests. In addition, several legislators of both parties proclaimed that they would try more stringent actions if the president did not make his case which includes cutting the funding for the activities or voting formally to end the battle.

The Congress speaker John Boehner sent a letter to the president warning him that the failure to adhere to the legislature resolution on operation odyssey would be termed as a violation of the WPR. According to the WPR rules, for the President to seek the Congressional approval before engaging the American force into battle. The legislators acted according to the law by insisting that the government should give a concrete rationale for the battle since all the actions were implemented in the name of Americans’ interest. By seeking clarification, the Congress was able to obtain the answer from the head of state via a report of the operation as well as the letter sent from the White House.

President Action

In response and attempt to solve the conflict, Obama met with the parliamentary leaders in the closed-door gathering within the Situation Room at the statehouse. The meeting happened after United Nations safety council passed the 1973 decree permitting the no-fly zone in Libya. On the 21st March, the head of state sent the letter to house asserting that his choice to intervene crisis in Libya was lawful. The letter was an attempt to address all concerns voiced by various policymakers that the United States would seek to expand the scope of the mission so that to cover a traditional definition of the battle. To convince the Congress, the President made a statement regarding the Odyssey mission and provided the report that clearly explained the scope of the operation and its purpose. On August 22, 2011, Obama made a statement elaborating how America helped to design the UN security resolution council that was tasked to secure the Libyan civilians. The President indicated how the USA supports the rebel fighters and the Libya residents, and NATO was crucial since it produced fruitful results of fighting against dictatorship.

Through his letter to the Congress speaker, Obama elaborated the need and purpose of the operation in Libya. According to the President, “the UN war resolution of 1973 permitted member state within the chapter seven of the united nation charter to conduct all necessary actions to secure all people in Libya”. Therefore, the head of state stipulated that the action was not illegal given that America is part of the united nation thus had the obligation of protecting Libyan civilians. “Even if Libyan foreign minister declared an instant cease-fire, Gaddafi and his troops did not implement the decree since they continued their attack on Benghazi and Misrata”. Furthermore, Obama stressed that the illegitimate utilization of force by Gaddafi was not only causing deaths but also making several flee to the neighbouring nations hence destabilizing the security and peace of the region. “If left unaddressed, the developing instability in the area would ignite broad instability within the middle east hence dangerous results to the national safety interests of America”. The statements were meant to convince policymakers and Americans who had a negative understanding of the Odyssey mission.

To lessen the gap between the White House and Congress, Obama described the troop’s role in Libya. “The USA has not deployed ground soldiers in Libya but is conducting a well-defined and limited mission in the boost of the worldwide efforts to avert the humanitarian disaster. Besides, the American forces have targeted Gaddafi government’s air defence networks, control structures, and command as well as other abilities of his armed troops utilized to assault civilians and resident populated regions.” Obama continued, “for the purposes WPR objectives, I have directed the military action which is the countrywide and foreign plan interest of the USA, pursuant to the constitutional power to carry out American foreign association and as the chief executive and Commander in Chief. I am offering this report as a fraction of my effort to keep the House fully notified, consistent with the WPR”. The President adhered to the Congress resolution to provide clarification of the operation as well as notify the legislators so that they can debate the issue.

The report to the Congress entailed the classified and unclassified parts. The unclassified portions described the American efforts, evaluation of the situation, military and political objectives, projected and current military and humanitarian costs as well as USA contribution in the NATO. Moreover, there was the analysis if United States operation were affecting the efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. For the classified sections, the report articulated the data relating to the American missions and opposition military factions. Based on the report, the United States government authorized the operation for three major reasons of countrywide interests. The initial purpose was to restrict the expansion of instability and violence in the regional pivotal to the security interests because it was going through sensitive transitions. Secondly, to show the individuals of the North America and the Middle East that America supports them during the momentous changes. The third interest was to avert any form of massacre hence securing human rights, which is a fundamental task of the United Nation.

Outcome and Advantages

Both the President and the Congress had the advantages as mandated by the United States Constitution. Initially, it is the constitutional right of the House to debate the issue regarding the deployment of American troops in the foreign land. The Congress was not consulted before the operation started, hence, they had the right to question the head of state. It is the role of House of representatives to seek clarity on any foreign policy executed in the interest of United States residents. According to the WPR rules, the President should seek the congressional permission before sending soldiers to battle or NATO mission. Besides, the Congress had the advantage of winning the majority of citizen’s interest of knowing the major purpose of involving the American troops in Libya since the president did not make it public. Moreover, the advantage of the House was that the USA had suffered a great loss of service men and women during the Iraq and Afghanistan war as well as huge expenses. Therefore, the Americans were much keen to ensure that they did not engage in a battle that had no clear objectives and benefits to the USA as a nation.

On the other hand, the government had the advantage of engaging in foreign affairs and participation to the international allies on behalf of the residents. The President is given the power by the constitution to command and initiate military operations for the interest of citizens. According to Obama, the operation odyssey was focused on protecting human rights and securing the nations that border America so that to strengthen the homeland security. The law permits the President to represent the people of America in different global activities, hence, commencing Libya intervention was constitutional. Furthermore, the President of America represents the unity of USA residents meaning he has the support the majority. At the same time, the head of state had the chance to clarify to the Congress and nation about the aims of the mission, scope, and time.

The conflict between the Congress and the President had fruitful results to the political understanding of the Americans and the entire world. The opposition towards the mission made the president to provide a report and speech describing the major objectives of the operations. If there were no rebellion, the mission would be criticized by several citizens since it would seem to be similar to the other battles in Iraq, which had significant disadvantages. Besides, it was clear that all foreign policies conducted by the incumbent party must be conducted in line with people’s interests but not the opinion of the president alone. Additionally, the American participation in UN’s mission of securing civilians and ending the dictatorship was the proof to the Middle East nations and the whole world that she is much concerned with humanitarian. Through the intervention, the Libya security and stability was restored while the massacre was prohibited.

Action Assessment

Firstly, the Obama speech regarding the operation odyssey can be termed as a curious beast both cautious and ambitious. The head of state surprised Americans by articulate the huge idea concerning United States power although he might have disappointed citizens by talking about the difficulties faces by Libyans. The actions to initiate the mission of protecting the civilian and ending dictatorship was effective enough and founded on the American interests. The President was clear why he decided to intervene in Libya civil war. With Muammar troops outside Benghazi, the Libyan leader was ready to execute “a massacre that could have repeated across the area and stain the conscience of the globe”. The act would be a moral abomination as well as a planned calamity that would send several refugees to Tunisia and Egypt hence straining their fragile transitions.

The Democrats wanted to protect and safeguard the UN charter and WPR by conducting the mandated operation. Allowing Gaddafi to confront the decision of the United Nations would be crippling its future ability to resolve or manage political and social issues in the whole world. Obama was right to commence the operation given that he was the Commander-in-Chief of the USA troops and his opinions are subject to the interests of the American people. The UN took a substantial action to promote good governance and prohibit the violation of human rights. As a member state, United States had the responsibility of taking part in the mission so that to show its commitment to respecting the 1973 resolution. It is the interest of the American people to have neighbours who have political stability and since their instability would be spread around the region as well as confronting the peaceful intentions in the Middle East.

Although the Republicans had the right to question the President’s action based on the Constitution, they did not value the importance of the operation. At first, their aim was to criticise the government for violating the laws that require congressional approval rather than weighing the urgency of the mission. Moreover, they could have asked for clarification of the mission using the legal means instead of applying stern such as refusing to pass the funding budget. The failure to approve the funding of the operation illustrated bad picture in the American politics since the world would feel that the government had hidden intentions in Libya rather than good governance or human rights. The president made it clear that foot soldiers were not deployed in the region meaning it was not a declaration of war to Libya. Besides, the ruling party was only enforcing the no-fly zone intervention by bombing Gaddafi’s base and soldiers who endangered the safety of civilians.

Conclusively, the operation Odyssey faced much criticism from the Republicans leading to the conflict between the chief executive and Congress since there was no congressional consultation. However, the action by the President is historical since it demonstrated the United States power and interest to safeguard the United Nations decree of 1978. Even though the Congress argued that the decision to bomb Libya was unconstitutional, the President had the constitutional right to represent and decide the country’s foreign policy. Besides, the strategy was determined to safeguard the innocent individuals and homeland security that was undergoing vital transitions. Nevertheless, the critics from the Congress made the government explain the rationales of participating in the Libyan intervention.


Barreto, Amilcar Antonio. American Identity in the Age of Obama. London: Routledge, 2015.

Carey, Joel L. Operation Odyssey Dawn and Lessons for the Future. Montgomery, AL: Air War College Air University Maxwell AFB United States, 2013.

Chivvis, Christopher S. Toppling Qaddafi: Libya and the Future of Liberal Intervention. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Combs, Jerald A. The History of American Foreign Policy From 1895. New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2012.

Engelbrekt, Kjell, Marcus Mohlin, and Charlotte Wagnsson. The NATO Intervention in Libya: Lessons Learned from the Campaign. Abingdon: Routledge, 2013.

Gertler, Jeremiah, Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, United States, Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, and Foreign Press Centers. Operation Odyssey Dawn (Libya) Background and Issues for Congress. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 2011.

Henriksen, Dag, and A. K. Larssen. Political Rationale and International Consequences of the War in Libya. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Henriksen, Thomas H. Cycles in US Foreign Policy since the Cold War. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

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