Obama Redefines "War" Bypassing Constitutional Authority Of Congress

By replacing the idea of "declaring war" with the much nicer-sounding "protect the American people", Barack Obama seems to think he has personally amended the Constitution to read that Congress has the power to listen to the President explain to them his reasons when he decides to protect the American people. The fact the Constitution says none of this and that it explicitly states the power of declaring, i.e. authorizing, military action, rests solely with Congress, and not with the President, seems to be of no interest to Obama. On this count alone, that Obama is either afraid or contemptuous of seeking authorization from Congress for war, the American people should reject Obama's demand that the US continue its military action against Islamic State.
In an interview aired today on NBC's Meet the Press, US President Barack Obama took an extraordinary step of claiming he possessed sufficient authority on his own to take the United States to war—for years—without Congressional approval.

This dictatorial power, not expressed or implied in the Constitution, comes from Obama's redefinition of "war"—basically eliminating reference to that word and replacing it with the idea the President is using military power against Islamic State to "protect the American people".

At one point in the interview, Obama explained he would be going to Congress, for one thing to ask for "more resources" in a war that Secretary of State John Kerry recently said could last three years or longer.

At that, Chuck Todd, the new moderator of MTP, asked Obama the following:
"This is asking Congress for a vote, an authorization of your strategy?"
It was instantly clear Obama was balking at that idea.

Todd continued:
"This is not a—what does that mean? Define that."
Obama then replied:
 "Well—I’m confident that I’ve got the authorization that I need to protect the American people, and I’m always going to do what’s necessary to protect the American people."
So, the answer to whether Obama will seek a Congressional vote authorizing the new, years-long war is plainly "no".

Obama then explained what he thought the role of Congress is when a President declares war (or that he is once again "protecting" the American people:
"But I do think it’s important for Congress to understand what the plan is, to have buy-in, to debate it, and that’s why we’ve been consulting with Congress throughout."
Todd looked more than a little concerned and dubious at this response. After all, even George W. Bush sought Congressional approval of the war against Iraq.

Many Americans are likely so distracted and so badly informed about abstruse things like Constitutional powers to declare war, that they figure there should not be any problem about a President just deciding to declare war—or anyway go to war—especially if he isn't going to call it war, but instead protecting the American people. And given Obama's claim that that he is always authorized to protect the American people, what is the Constitutional argument supporting that alleged power?

Answer: there isn't any.

While there is an implied power of the Executive to use military means to protect the United States in an emergency, i.e. in a situation where there isn't sufficient time* to obtain Congressional approval for war, outside of that situation, and especially when the President intends on committing the United States to years of war, which Obama intends to do, the Constitution is quite explicit:
*—There is a concept for example in Section 10 of Article I having to do with emergency powers of a state government to "go to war", without Congressional declaration, when that state is "in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay" to take military action.
"The Congress shall have Power...to declare War...To raise and support Armies...To provide and maintain a Navy...To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces."
Respecting the current situation, Obama can certainly not reasonably or honestly declare he is dealing with any emergency situation affecting the lives of Americans domestically, since he was quite clear in the interview:
"I want everybody to understand that we have not seen any immediate intelligence about threats to the homeland from ISIL."
While Obama did say he viewed the Islamic State advance into northern Iraq and the Kurdish region, for example towards the city of Arbil, as an emergency situation, where the lives of American personnel (military and diplomatic) were threatened, that threat has supposedly been managed, with IS fighters pushed back by American airstrikes and counterattacks from Peshmerga militia.

So, even if there is a need, as Obama says, for the Islamic State to be confronted, and degraded, and ultimately destroyed, that is an argument Obama needs to make to Congress, and any resulting war to achieve those ends needs to be authorized by Congress, not just asserted as being authorized by President Obama.

Many of Barack Obama's defenders in the past few weeks have talked about what a welcome change it is to have a President taking slow and deliberate steps towards taking any necessary military action. Obama has been so slow in committing himself to a strategy to defeat Islamic State, even Democrats have begun criticizing his lack of apparent urgency.

But here is another consideration:

If Obama is so careful and deliberate about going to war, then he should recognize that idea is already built into the American constitutional system. It involves a President going to Congress to ask for authority to go to war. Obama says he does not need to do this, that his authority is somehow inherent in the Constitution, under the idea of protecting and defending the American people. However, the Constitution says nothing about this. It does say he is supposed to protect and defend the Constitution. It is Congress, not the President, that is supposed to be the deliberative authority in determining whether or not the United States should go to war.

If the President refuses to acknowledge this fact, and subverts the role of Congress in this matter, he should be impeached.

Comments