Hillary Clinton Was Against Unilateral Presidential Use Of Force Before She Was For It

Hillary Clinton February 14, 2007:

CLINTON: “If the administration believes that any, any use of force against Iran is necessary, the president must come to Congress to seek that authority,”

“It would be a mistake of historical proportion if the administration thought that the 2002 resolution authorizing force against Iraq was a blank check for the use of force against Iran without further congressional authorization”

“We continue to experience the consequences of unchecked presidential action,” she said, later adding: “This president was allowed for too long to commit blunder after blunder under cover of darkness provided by an allied Republican Congress”

Hillary Clinton March 27, 2011:

Tapper asked Clinton, “Why not got to Congress?”

“Well, we would welcome congressional support,” the Secretary said, “but I don’t think that this kind of internationally authorized intervention where we are one of a number of countries participating to enforce a humanitarian mission is the kind of unilateral action that either I or President Obama was speaking of several years ago.”

“I think that this had a limited timeframe, a very clearly defined mission which we are in the process of fulfilling,” Clinton said.

This is, of course, a distinction without a difference. If President Bush would have been required to seek Congressional authority for a strike against Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and I completely agree with Clinton’s statement in 2007 that he would, then President Obama should have sought Congressional authority for action against Libya which, as even his own Defense Secretary admitted today, was not a threat of any kind to the United States.

It’s funny how your perspective on these things changes once you have the power to use the military as you please.

FILED UNDER: Africa, US Politics, World Politics, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. john personna says:

    Shall we pretend, again, another day that this is “our” war, and not a move in support of our allies?

    It really stupid guys, un-American, for you to build the case that this is both “ours” and “wrong.”

    What if they believe you?

  2. Dean says:

    I think politics are driving the President’s strategy more than the law.

    By not going to Congress first, Obama is letting Congressional Democrats off the hook. They don’t have to go on the record and choose between either supporting the President or being anti-war.

  3. Tano says:

    “This is, of course, a distinction without a difference”

    You can stuff that “of course”. Your point is not at all obvious. It is a distinction between two different cases which most certainly are different.

    The Libya intervention was a done to prevent an imminent massacre of civilians. The Iran situation would not have been that at all.

    You keep repeating that Libya is not a direct threat to the US. Well, we know that. I don’t know that anyone has pretended that it is. The libyan government and armed forces were however, an imminent threat to innocent civilians. Hence the justification.

    Ironically enough – many of the same people who claim that Obama dithered and wasted time, also claim that he acted to quickly. They claim that he waited until it was almost too late, but now they also argue that he should have first gone to Congress and waited for them to go through their decision making processes.

  4. Dean says:

    The Libya intervention was a done to prevent an imminent massacre of civilians.

    If that’s the rationale, then we need to take the same approach to Syria and Bahrain. I happen to agree with the intervention in Libya, just as I agreed with the intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan. The problem is not the intervention. The problem is the inconsistency from members of this administration, both political parties and the media pundits.

  5. Tano,

    The problem is that preventing Iran from having nuclear weapons is, arguably, something in the interests of the United States whereas there’s nothing in Libya that impacts our interests..

    The U.S. military wasn’t created to stop every humanitarian crisis in the world and if there’s anything I object to the most about this intervention — as well as the idiotic interventions in Haiti and Somalia and Clinton’s decision to intervene in the Balkans — it’s the idea that we are obligated to be the savior of the world. We’re not. The military exists for one purpose only, to protect the vital national interests of the United States. Using it in combat for anything reason is something I will continue to disagree with strongly.

  6. Herb says:

    “then President Obama should have sought Congressional authority for action against Libya which”

    Nah, he needs to seek congressional authority to declare war. Under the War Powers Resolution, the Commander in Chief has a bit of leeway when it comes to military action. He needs to notify them and wrap it up within 60 days. This thing will be over by then.

  7. Herb says:

    “The military exists for one purpose only, to protect the vital national interests of the United States.”

    No doubt this is your view….but mileage varies. I don’t think there has ever been a president or a Congress that has held this view. Ever.