I think it says somewhere in an important federal document Congress has the power to declare war. The constitutional scholar currently occupying the White House should know this. While President Obama could pull a Bush and pretend moving into Syria is covered under the broad authorization given to President Bush for his War on Terror, I think most Americans will not accept this conclusion.
Conservative memories are even more selective than average people, when it comes to the subject of the actions of their leaders. Conservatives and their leadership have been foursquare in favor of every military adventure the US has embarked upon; with the exception of every military adventure initiated by a sitting Democratic president. At least, this is the way it has been since Jimmy Carter authorized the rescue operation in Iran that ended in disaster.
Americans never were in harm’s way militarily in Libya, the military action that the world just came out of. I heard more neocon whining than I care to remember on that subject. Whining about Obama cowardly allowing the French to lead the fight in Libya, as if France didn’t have stakes in seeing the unrest in North Africa settled. As if all of Europe didn’t have higher stakes in the Arab Spring not devolving into chaos than the US did. Obama wisely refused to put Americans into harm’s way in that conflict. Conservatives wanted Obama to do more in Libya. They wanted him to do more right up until the #Benghazi attack, when they suddenly decided it was bad to have Americans in harm’s way and how did Obama allow this to happen?
I floated the question of impeachment when President Obama first announced intentions to intervene in Libya. When he then allowed France to use our facilities to intervene in Libya under UN sanction, I still wasn’t happy about it, but with American servicemen out of harm’s way, it was a moot point. we were not at war, the EU was, using NATO resources that they help pay for. I cared not one bit when Gaddafi got what was coming to him. Like Bush I’s buddy Saddam Hussein, I was unmoved by his suffering at the hands of his people. Dictators sign up for being torn limb from limb by their own people when they become dictators in the first place. I don’t shed tears for dead dictators.
IF Obama goes into Syria with our forces and doesn’t consult Congress, it’s likely an impeachable act. The vast majority of Americans have found their antiwar sentiments again; they are war weary now. Liberals put Obama into office with the understanding he was going to end the wars Bush started. Liberals and antiwar types mistakenly believed this could be done instantly after Obama was elected, and then punished him for not achieving the impossible by not going to the polls in support of a Democratic legislature in 2010.
The limited strikes they are discussing, designed to degrade the Syrian government’s ability to use chemical weapons (if it’s such a big deal, where were the voices of dissent when Bush I coordinated with Saddam to use them on Iranian forces?) will be essentially no different than the hundreds of drone strikes we’ve conducted in countries we aren’t at war with. The lines of what is or isn’t war are blurred, but even Jefferson himself did not consult Congress before sending the navy to Tripoli to deal with the pirates, and they invaded Libya. Congress should be given the chance to weigh in, but only the military and intelligence forces know whether actions in Syria can be conducted without starting a wider war on one hand, or are necessary to prevent further casualties including possible American casualties, on the other.
The blanket allowance that the President could pursue a war on terror was used to go into Afghanistan and then congress confirmed that that SAME allowance would apply to Iraq. Bush II followed the exact same course that Obama will be forced to pursue, eventually. First assert that actions are covered, and then punting to Congress for confirmation, which they will give. W was going into Iraq anyway, because he demonstrably manufactured excuses to go. The same can not be said of President Obama.
In any case, the vast majority of Americans (as polls show) would be opposed to the move to open a wider war in Syria. Most of those people are demonstrably liberal. I invite you, dear reader, to join them.
Editor’s note 2019.
The Obama Regime.
That’s what he called it. The Obama regime. He said it with so much venom that I did a double-take. Really? Regime? The Obama regime? Why so much hatred for Obama? He wasn’t a Republican, my antagonist of the moment, with all the delusions being a member of that party carries with it. No, he was one of those anarchist happy go lucky, everything is roses in the natural world kind of guys. He just made his presidential hatred list this way,
…although he did concede that Trump was really in a different scale of worse, even for a loathsome president. It still baffled me. No really, why is Obama so bad that you would spit at him like that? I linked Obama Best President Since Eisenhower just to show how I saw the man as president. I mean, you don’t believe the #Benghazi bullshit, you aren’t a delusional birther like the Birther-in-Chief, you don’t think that the attorney general committed any crimes. What, exactly, do you think Obama did that is so bad as to make his presidency a regime?
Libya. Libya was his reason. Libya? I asked him. That French run ouster of Muammar Gaddafi? Obama’s war, he said. Frankly, the hatred for Obama blew my mind. I started to write a separate article on the subject, but then I stumbled across the above reply to Robert Reich that I had written in reflection on the potential war in Syria with the Libyan experience fresh in memory. So I am appending this note to those reflections. Perhaps this will morph into another article eventually.
The three articles that he produced to prove his point are as follows, with my comments. The Guardian article Libyan bombing ‘unconstitutional’, Republicans warn Obama is based on a single related quote from legislative Republicans that mischaracterizes what occurred in Libya. I would point to everything that Republicans did before or since and ask them to characterize their behavior as substantially different in any way from Obama’s. It wasn’t. In fact, compared to Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds in Syria, Obama’s allowing NATO to conduct the EU’s war was perhaps the epitome of discretion. The Republicans seem to have little problem with Trump’s behavior, so I’m sticking with hypocrisy as the definition of their behavior.
The second was this New York Times op-ed penned by Bruce Ackerman Legal Acrobatics, Illegal War. Well, it’s an opinion piece, for starters. Not a report of facts. Which is the main problem with the op-ed. It’s an opinion about an interpretation of facts on the ground that isn’t necessarily true. Obama allowed NATO forces to be used against Libya, absent US leadership. He did not conduct a war in Libya without authorization. If you clarify what the objection is, the objection vanishes. If there was a problem present, the problem was the existence of NATO. I’m pretty sure NATO won’t survive the current president’s tenure. If so, the problem is solved. It isn’t, however, Obama’s fault that the gray area existed to be taken advantage of.
The third article was another Guardian piece 41 men targeted but 1,147 people killed: US drone strikes – the facts on the ground. I’ve said several times over the years, we will rue the day we ever put ordinance on drones and used them as weapons of war. Shades of the Terminator aside, we are simply waiting now for drones to be used against Americans, probably civilians, and then we’ll have another Geneva Convention where we will pretend we didn’t start this problem but we’ll help stop it now. This is the one point of legitimate criticism that could be leveled against Obama. But even that point has be leavened with the knowledge that if we hadn’t used drones we would have had to send in strike teams to do the dirty work. There would have been fewer deaths of innocent civilians, but we would have lost a lot more of our own soldiers.
The third article, just for the sake of observation, isn’t about Libya. But since Obama followed the exact same rules as Bush II did in that instance, it also isn’t something that he can be singled out as doing all by himself. The continuing drone war is an aftereffect of allowing the war criminals from the Bush II administration to fly free. Not pressing for prosecutions of the war criminals? Something else Obama could be blamed for. I mentioned that in the Obama Best President Since Eisenhower article.
I don’t consider myself knowledgeable enough to have a valid opinion about whether drones were worth the cost in human lives, or will be judged as the correct thing to do by future historians. I can only go by what we have experienced in our brief lives, and the injustice that war itself represents, even though war is the last, desperate act to find justice. Ask the Kurds if the US not putting boots on the ground in Syria, in front line combat, was the right thing to do. Knowing what we know now in 2019. If there are any of them left to ask, that is.
The tragic end of the Syrian civil war may well be the last thing that Obama can be blamed for, in the long run. Could any of us have known how this would turn out five short years ago? Could we really?