Congress Disturbed By Trump’s ‘Act Of War;’ Demand Long Term Plan For Syria
Unfortunately, the procedure by which the United States goes to war has become very ambiguous. Though the Constitution states that “Congress shall have power to … declare War” it does not clearly state how it ought to go about using that power. On well over 100 occasions a sitting president has taken military action without officially calling it a ‘war’ and without asking Congress for an Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF). Though such actions are often controversial, they are still fairly common throughout American history.
For instance, back in 2013 when Barack Obama was president, many objected to the actions he took in Syria. They did so for exactly the same reasons some are taking issue with President Trump’s actions on a Syrian air base today. That is, because they believe the Constitution demands that Congress weigh in on all acts of war and help to set the goals, scopes and time and resource limits for the conflict.
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At least two members of Congress tweeted a quote from James Madison which explains the reasoning behind this nuance of American military policy:
“Those who are to conduct a war cannot…be proper or safe judges, whether a war ought to be commenced, continued, or concluded.”
—J. Madison https://t.co/Uo1ppBgeIT
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) April 7, 2017
In fact, this seems to have been the reason Donald Trump opposed former President Obama’s actions in Syria 4 years ago:
What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2013
One could easily ask the same question to Trump’s administration. The US missile attacks carried out over Al Shayrat airfield in Syria did cost millions, were largely symbolic and were done without official approval from Congress.
Some Republicans had to do an about-face on the issue, including Mitch McConnell, who seems to be quite comfortable arguing the exact opposite points he argued only a few years ago when his political opponents had most of the power. While others joined Democrats in expressing concerns about the attack, Trump’s plans for Syria and his willingness to act unilaterally.
Just because Congress left, doesn’t mean we can’t return. This is an emergency. Call us back to debate an AUMF. pic.twitter.com/If3MBmLsg6
— Congressmember Bass (@RepKarenBass) April 7, 2017
We’re heading rapidly toward another Middle East war with no strategy, no clear time frame or cost, and no authorization from Congress. pic.twitter.com/KKHAxhaJuH
— Tom Udall (@SenatorTomUdall) April 7, 2017
Syria is a microcosm of many problems around the world we have to solve militarily & diplomatically. Bashar al-Assad must go. pic.twitter.com/zLxK8VY0km
— David Perdue (@sendavidperdue) April 7, 2017
— Martin Heinrich (@MartinHeinrich) April 7, 2017
This is an act of war. Congress needs to come back into session & hold a debate. Anything less is an abdication of our responsibility. https://t.co/GvHML3ByeI
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) April 7, 2017
The President needs Congressional authorization for military action as required by the Constitution.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) April 7, 2017
In other words, given Trump’s performance on other matters Congress is at least less willing to simply rubber stamp anything the administration feels like bombing. And some have even speculated that the gesture was simply intended to make Trump seem to be at odds with Putin, without actually removing Assad.