America’s intervention in Libya’s civil war, the most protracted and least surreptitious assassination attempt in history, was supposed to last “days, not weeks,” but is in its fourth month and has revealed NATO to be an increasingly fictitious military organization. Although this war has no discernible connection with U.S. national security, it serves the national interest, in three ways. It is awakening some legislators to their responsibilities. It is refuting the pretense that the United Nations sets meaningful parameters to wars it authorizes — or endorses, which is quite different. And it is igniting a reassessment of NATO, a Potemkin alliance whose primary use these days is perverse: It provides a patina of multilateralism to U.S. military interventions on which Europe is essentially a free rider.
Recently, one-third of the House of Representatives — 87 Republicans and 61 Democrats — unavailingly but honorably voted to end American involvement in Libya in 15 days. Were Barack Obama not taking a Nixonian approach to the law — the War Powers Resolution — his intervention would have ended last month. The WPR requires interventions to end after 60 days, absent congressional approval.