WASHINGTON, DC – Human-rights activists have become increasingly frustrated by the Obama Administration’s inaction as Bahrain’s crackdown against pro-democracy protestors continues. In an apparent response to allegations of hypocrisy, the White House has revealed that President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are considering sending a Sternly Worded Letter to the troubled Middle Eastern nation.
The deployment of a Sternly Worded Letter (or SWL) would be a very serious action, and some foreign policy experts fear that it could destabilize an already-delicate region even further. Adding to the uncertainty, it is not yet known whether the President would seek congressional or United Nations approval before taking action, and legal scholars are split on whether such approval would be necessary. Some believe that the 2003 AUMF grants him the necessary authority, others believe he needs a separate AUSWL, while still others believe that it is an inherent executive power.
“The Constitution is very clear on the division of war-making powers between the executive and legislative branches, but the language on letter-writing authority is very murky, perhaps even deliberately so,” explained noted Constitutional scholar John Yoo while fidgeting with a nutcracker. “Unfortunately, the available precedents we have to refer to are few and far between.”
The most famous use of the Sternly Worded Letter was shortly before the Spanish-American War, when President McKinley sent what was at the time a state-of-the-art SWL to Spain, to devastating effect. However, McKinley obtained congressional approval and the UN did not yet exist, so it is not a very instructive example.
President Kennedy’s advisers recommended that he send an SWL to Krushchev but he refused. His restraint is believed to have prevented the start of World War III. It is also rumored that the second President Bush considered deploying an SWL to Iraq, but ultimately decided it would be easier and “awesomer” to invade instead.
When questioned about the President’s intentions, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney responded, “The President is very cognizant of the unfortunate situation in Bahrain and understands and shares the desire for decisive action. On the other hand, he does not want to repeat his predecessor’s mistakes by acting hastily. The President will deliberate carefully with Secretary Clinton and weigh all the possible consequences of an SWL before reaching a decision, and you can rest assured that he will not take action without a firm and flexible plan in place for dealing with the aftermath.”
Conservative commentators have excoriated the President for his indecision. “I think Barack Obama does our country a grave disservice by signaling weakness in a time of humanitarian crisis,” opined Weekly Standard editor William Kristol. “A President should never hesitate to use an SWL to project our moral authority overseas.” Right-wing provocateur Ann Coulter was even more blunt: “B. Hussein Obama is a pansy. If I were President I would fill the skies with Predator drones personally delivering SWLs to every Muslim in the Middle East. Write ‘em all, and let God sort ‘em out, I say. But the Kenyan pretender doesn’t have the stones.”
As expected, Congressional Democrats were protective of what they view as their constitutional prerogatives. “A Sternly Worded Letter isn’t something you can just throw around willy-nilly,” huffed House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers. “It should be an option of last resort, and it should never, ever be used without congressional approval. If President Obama chooses to ignore this bedrock constitutional principle, we’ll… we’ll… Well, we’ll think of something.”