As we debated America hurtling itself toward another war (this time Syria) over the Labor Day break a lot of people missed the importance of what was really going on. Our President was transferring the responsibility of directing the armed forces to Congressional vote, something the founders never intended, in an action designed to weaken the Constitution.
While the President has to notify Congress of any continuing military action overseas, it’s clear the responsibility of initializing military action falls solely on the Presidency. Even more, the War Powers Act specifically states the President has 30 days to notify Congress and ask for funding for any military action—a de facto agreement of the Constitution that such authority is the responsibility of the President.
The President MUST have this authority for the safety of a nation. He or she cannot afford to hesitate in matters of national safety or security. If President Obama feels that this is an imminent threat to US interests he must use the military judiciously and quickly to quell that threat. If a threat is not imminent enough to direct military forces, then there is no need to address Congress for a vote.
A vote on what by the way? Is Obama asking for Congress to declare war on Syria? Hardly. As a matter of fact, the last time Congress was asked to declare war, President Roosevelt already had moved forces against the Japanese and taken domestic and overseas actions before addressing them. It’s not like asking Congress for a declaration of war is asking permission to protect the country—its asking for funding for a serious, long term commitment of US manpower and treasure.
A few missiles at Syria to ‘send a message’ would hardly constitute that.
It indicates a more serious problem in this country than the specter of chemical weapons in Syria would pose. We have a President who is shirking the responsibility of his office in order for political expedience. Being the guy at the top means sometimes you have to do things that may be unpopular or politically risky. That is certainly doubly true when it comes to national security risks, even though one would be hard pressed to find the risk to US interests in the case of Syria.
It’s not like the President hasn’t made decisions that are politically unpopular in the past either. Obamacare, gun legislation, the DREAM act etc., are all unpopular laws and political agenda issues that he has pushed past Congress by executive order. Why is this time different? Obama has routinely circumvented Congress saying that ‘he will act when Congress won’t’. Now, all of sudden, Congress is relevant again and he won’t act when this is one time he has the authority to.
There can be only one reason for this- no matter how it turns out (which most likely will be badly), he is going to blame Congress. He is going to blame budget problems on Congress because this will cost money. If people are killed, he will blame Congress. If things blow up, he will blame Congress. There is no way for Congress to escape blame for this. Even if Assad surrenders tomorrow and rainbows and unicorns appear over Syria, Congress will be blamed for not acting sooner.
Congress should go to the President and tell him that he must make this decision on his own, and that to come to Congress if he wishes to continue the conflict past 30 days.
That’s the law. That’s the Constitution. I know it seems to be treated as a paper bag on the bottom of a taxicab these days, but someone in the Senate should argue the point.
Otherwise you establish the precedent that it can be ignored.