War with Syria requires Congressional approval

“[I]f the President takes us to war with Iran without Congressional approval, I will call for his impeachment.”  That was a comment made by Vice President Joe Biden just a few years ago. 

With two ground wars already underway at the time, the Bush Administration was not discussing a ground war with Iran but rather a series of air strikes to take out its uranium enrichment plants.  Yet the Vice President stated that the War Powers Act did not give the President the power to act unilaterally.  Biden goes onto say that if a “war is warranted” than “it warrants coming to Congress and the American people first.”  He was exactly right. 

Indeed, President Obama himself has written that “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.”  Like always, candidate Obama was everything we wanted him to be, in this case a constitutional scholar. 

Article I, section 8 of the United States Constitution specifically states that the right to declare war belongs specifically to Congress.

However, in classic Obama Administration form, the President doesn’t seek Constitutional authorization for his actions but rather power under the War Powers Act, 50 U.S.C., section 1541 which states that in the case of a strike against the United States, the President can act unilaterally for up to 60 days and by notifying Congress within 48 hours. 

But that is not what the President seeks to do here.  Here, the President seeks an executive humanitarian war in a far-off country that poses as little of a military threat to America as can be imagined. 

Importantly, President Bush requested Congressional approval for the war in Iraq (although it wasn’t technically a declaration of war).  Yet this president refuses to do so.  Strangely, this president has already taken his case to the United Nations for approval while avoiding the people’s representatives in Congress.

We can say all matter of things about this President, his hypocrisy and his unconstitutional maneuvering, but the sad truth is that this latest threat to the constitution doesn’t come from a place of strength.  This latest move is the result of a failure of leadership.

No president in either this century or the last has divided the country in the manner in which Barack Obama has.  While his proponents argue that this is due to his race, his detractors point out that he has implemented policies never dreamed of by his predecessors.  These include but are in no way limited to requiring religious groups to fund abortion, assassinating an American citizen without trial, spying on every single American in the United States without probable cause, forcing every American to affirmatively purchase a product against their will or face a penalty/tax if he or she refuses, raising taxes on working Americans, and expanding the police state with Stimulus funds.  And these successes don’t include his failures to make it harder for law abiding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment right, force businesses to expend money for the right to manufacture under a cap-and-trade system or force voting laws on right-leaning states.

Now, this president seeks to start a unilateral, Executive branch war.  The President knows his previous position on the issue – that only Congress can authorize war.  And the President hasn’t changed his mind on where his authorization comes from.  Here the President is working from a point of weakness.  The President knows that he has turned the House against him; he knows that this is an imprudent war and he knows that he will be unable to get anything resembling a declaration of war from Congress and for that reason he has decided to ignore Congress. 

His inability to lead the nation is an embarrassment.  Understandably, his supporters blame his opposition for his failure to lead.  But it is the President who continues his slow march over-top-of Constitutional rights.

The President should not seek armed conflict with Syria, but if he does he must request Congressional authorization.  In a year when he was overwhelmingly re-elected, he should want the approval of Congress.  The War Powers Act is supposed to make it easier for the President to quickly and effectively respond to attacks on the nation in this fastpaced world.  It is not intended to usurp Congress’ power and hand it over to the President, inching him closer to the powers of a king.  The President owes it the American people today as well as Americans yet-to-be born to aggressively protect the Constitution.  If he seeks a humanitarian war, so be it.  But he must abide by the Constitution.