Will Congress abdicate its Constitutional responsibilities again?
“The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” Barack Obama 2007
“The consequences of war — intended or otherwise — can be so profound and complicated that our founding fathers vested in Congress, not the president, the power to initiate war, except to repel an imminent attack on the United States or its citizens.” Joe Biden, 2007
The drums of war beat again as establishment leaders line up once more to drive us into another Middle Eastern quagmire with no plan, no end game, and no clear U.S. interest in the Syria. Worse yet, President Obama claimed the power to engage our military without the consent of Congress (not to mention the American people!) Although the President ultimately caved to public pressure by seeking Congressional Authorization for the conflict, Secretary of State John Kerry still insists that President Obama is fully within his Constitutional authority to act even if Congress votes down the use of force.
James Madison said, “in no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found, than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature.” But Constitutional limitations are not enough to keep Presidential War Powers in check without Congress doing something to back it up. This is not the first time that the Executive has overstepped his bounds in exercising war powers. (See Libya in 2011, Kosovo in 1999 with Bill Clinton, and countless others). There is a long history of Presidents ignoring the people and Congress when using our military, but few examples of Congress doing something about it. One example is the War Powers resolution in 1973, but even that does little to restrain Presidents in practice. Congress has no backbone and has abdicated its authority for far too long. Just last week, the Senate foreign relations committee failed to pass a vote that would require the President to actually obey a decision from Congress regarding Syria. If we want to keep our republic, we need Congress to assert its authority when the President breaks the law and ignores the Constitution.
There are plenty of reasons not to go to war with Syria and now the battle lies with Congress to oppose this well intentioned, but ill-advised foreign entanglement. Hopefully Congress will respect the will of the people and vote no on any resolution threatening to drag the United States in a complicated civil war. However, if the President decides to act even without Congressional approval, we need to call our members of Congress for a different reason: we must ask them to impeach President Obama. We cannot let such a serious transgression of our Republican form of government go unanswered.
This article originally appeared in the September issue of the Greater Rochester Libertarian Party Newsletter. You can read the original version at rochesterlp.net