Congress must explicitly authorize Obama’s war against ISIS

posted at 10:01 am on September 11, 2014 by Noah Rothman

What started as a trickle is starting to feel like a flood. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are demanding that President Barack Obama seek their explicit approval for a new war in the Middle East, and it would be shortsighted for the president to ignore them.

The first and most salient reason why the president should seek out a congressional vote on a resolution authorizing force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is that no such authorization currently exists. Though it remains on the books, the White House considers the 2002 Iraq resolution authorizing force to be defunct and has requested that it be repealed. It would be a perversion of the 2001 AUMF, which allows the President of the United States to attack al-Qaeda, to use that as authorization to attack the Islamic State. These terrorist organizations are two completely distinct entities and, at times, even adversaries.

Moreover, the president’s current justification for expanded “sovereignty strikes” in Iraq is particularly flimsy. The threat ISIS poses to American diplomatic and military assets in Baghdad and Erbil originally justified limited airstrikes, but using that logic to justify strikes on ISIS positions around strategically key sites like the Haditha Dam (The administration claims that the dam’s bursting could create a biblical flood which would eventually swamp the Green Zone in Baghdad) strains credulity.

Obama’s administration claims that the Constitution provides the president with the authority he needs to execute strikes in Syria, but the president did not believe he had that authority one year ago. When he sought strikes on targets in Syria in 2013, the president insisted that Congress would need to explicitly authorize that action. Today, Obama says he would welcome a congressional “buy in” in support of airstrikes inside that sovereign country, but his hand will not be stayed if that tacit consent is not forthcoming.

The plan, as they say, never survives first contact with the enemy. American men and women will be going into harm’s way, and it will serve the president well to have the backing of the legislature if and when U.S. service personnel face resistance. Obama reportedly plans a campaign against ISIS which could last, by the White House’s estimates, up to three years. If the president seeks to bind future congresses and presidents by his decisions today, he should have the backing of the people’s representatives.

There are global implications associated with this campaign, too. Bashar al-Assad’s government has said it will regard any Western strikes inside his country as an act of war against Syria. Moscow has warned America to move cautiously while it contemplates attacking forces inside its client state. “This will complicate international operations and will pose problems for Russia as well as for many other countries respecting international law, including China,” Russia’s United Nations ambassador said on Wednesday. If Obama is to upend the geopolitical order, as he should, Congress should be on record supporting or opposing that action.

It is not merely posterity which demands Obama seek authorization for a new war in the Middle East, but also many in Congress. Bipartisan leadership in the House and Senate thus far appear inclined not to push the issue of a resolution authorizing force before November, but many members are making it clear they want a vote.

“It is my view that the president possesses existing authorities to strike ISIL in the short term, but that a prolonged military campaign will require a congressionally approved Authorization for Use of Military Force,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) in a statement.

“The American people must be assured that we are not pursuing another open-ended conflict in the Middle East, and I will not give this president — or any other president — a blank check to begin another land war in Iraq,” the embattled Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) echoed.

“We are really going to war,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) agreed, calling it a “constitutional necessity” for Congress to authorize a new campaign against ISIS. “We can take this up, should take this up, in Congress.”

Many Republicans share their Democratic colleagues’ apprehension.

On September 8, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) joined nine of his fellow members when he introduced a resolution authorizing the use of force against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. “This resolution authorizes the use of force for a definite period and requires President Obama to develop and share his strategy with Congress and the American people,” Issa said in a statement. His colleague in the upper chamber, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), also offered a resolution authorizing the use of force against ISIS.

“I think the president should come to Congress and ask for the authorization for the use of force,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) asserted. “I don’t think he’s going to ask for that, and I’m dismayed by that.”

Other members of Congress including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Rand Paul (R-KY), and Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), John Garamendi (D-CA), and Walter Jones (R-NC) have added their voice to the chorus of those calling for a vote on a resolution.

The White House and more than a few Democrats would prefer not to have to wrangle over a contentious vote authorizing a new war in the Middle East right before a midterm election. Some are suggesting that authorization in the form of funding for the next campaign (funding which the president already has) should be included as part of a continuing resolution which keeps the government open through next year. That’s not going to be good enough for many.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) told the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Thursday that he would welcome a CR which includes support for the war against ISIS, but that is only the first test Congress must pass. “The second larger test is a broader authorization for the use of military force against ISIS, in Iraq and Syria, however we come to define it,” he said.

It is politically savvy of Democrats and Republicans to be concerned about the implications associated with a vote to authorize a new war. We have seen this movie before, and it is perfectly reasonable to believe that this campaign will evolve and grow less popular over time. It does appear that a consensus is beginning to form around the notion that Congress should assert its constitutional authority and sanction this fight. Obama would be wise to consent to allowing this new and likely long campaign to be backed by the elected representatives of the people.

The president may be able to resist the forces of history and the cries of the members of Congress for a time, and he may be able to pursue a campaign against ISIS without an explicit authorization for that action. If he fails to at least seek that authorization, however, it seems clear that it won’t be long before Obama regrets that decision.


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Comments

He should ask for authorization, how many would vote no?

major dad on September 11, 2014 at 10:05 AM

Obama’s worthless plan is no good to the core.

No one in their right mind should ok a real bad plan.

Obama is a rain drop in a sea of islamic terror.

Force him to fight or let him fail alone.

We are all on Flight 93 now.

We need a plan that will not end U.S. up crashed and dead in a islamic feild of terror.

Get it together and lets roll.

First on the list is fight Obama.

APACHEWHOKNOWS on September 11, 2014 at 10:07 AM

As much as I dislike this administration and figure they will screw this up like they have everything else. 0bama needs to ask for authorization, and the congress must grant it.

cozmo on September 11, 2014 at 10:07 AM

Good News, Barack. Just because Congress authorizes something doesn’t mean you actually have to do it … you’ve been doing everything without their authorization so you needn’t worry now …

clippermiami on September 11, 2014 at 10:08 AM

Unfortunately, Obama flunked history.

Or at least his actions are consistent with one who flunked history – since we don’t have his transcripts, we have to go on his actions.

Steve Eggleston on September 11, 2014 at 10:10 AM

Bipartisan leadership in the House and Senate thus far appear inclined not to push the issue of a resolution authorizing force before November, but many members are making it clear they want a vote.

Those “bipartisan leaders” aren’t leaders. They’re just cowards with titles. That they are so politically motivated as to weaken the very institution they serve (Congress) is incredibly craven. In the best of times, Congress isn’t popular. But these people should rise above their concerns with their popularity and their political fortunes to do the right thing. That they don’t seem to recognize what “the right thing” is extremely telling.

Bitter Clinger on September 11, 2014 at 10:11 AM

But Democrats don’t want to go on the record. Votes like this are used against members of Congress for the rest of their careers no matter which way they vote. Remember, these are not leaders, they are power seekers looking for ways to fatten the wallets of themselves and their loved ones.

Cindy Munford on September 11, 2014 at 10:11 AM

No, he doesn’t. He just has to claim that this is a continuation of the Iraq War.

Of course, he would have to admit the truth — that said War never ended…

unclesmrgol on September 11, 2014 at 10:11 AM

So now even Rothman is baiting Congress to cover for Obama? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA……Let Obama and his Liberals fight ISIS, those representatives of MUSLIM LOVE.

Realdemocrat1 on September 11, 2014 at 10:12 AM

APACHEWHOKNOWS on September 11, 2014 at 10:07 AM

its in the obama regimes rules of engagement that we must wait until American blood is shed on our soil before stirring to real action.

renalin on September 11, 2014 at 10:13 AM

He should ask for authorization, how many would vote no?

major dad on September 11, 2014 at 10:05 AM

Too busy golfing to do that; it would require spending time convincing Congressional Dems to annoy their peacenik base right before an election. And he doesn’t talk to Republicans at all. If Pelosi and Reid don’t do it, it won’t happen.

Fenris on September 11, 2014 at 10:13 AM

Code Pinko, MorOn.org, please answer the blue phone.

Bishop on September 11, 2014 at 10:13 AM

But Democrats don’t want to go on the record. Votes like this are used against members of Congress for the rest of their careers no matter which way they vote. Remember, these are not leaders, they are power seekers looking for ways to fatten the wallets of themselves and their loved ones.

Cindy Munford on September 11, 2014 at 10:11 AM

Truer words were never spoken.

Fenris on September 11, 2014 at 10:17 AM

A broad coalition of NINE countries?

NINE????

Realdemocrat1 on September 11, 2014 at 10:17 AM

Get the dang authorization

You campaigned on decimating al qaeda so how can hour justify using that aumf

Oh I forgot ‘I won’

cmsinaz on September 11, 2014 at 10:21 AM

Who thinks Obama is capable of coaching a JV team?

Realdemocrat1 on September 11, 2014 at 10:22 AM

ISIS is not Muslim????

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahahahahahahaha

Realdemocrat1 on September 11, 2014 at 10:23 AM

Great! This will be an exhibition of political correct warfare in the extreme.

Jackson on September 11, 2014 at 10:26 AM

Let’s get those rats on record for impeachment if he doesn’t.

crrr6 on September 11, 2014 at 10:27 AM

Those “bipartisan leaders” aren’t leaders. They’re just cowards with titles. That they are so politically motivated as to weaken the very institution they serve (Congress) is incredibly craven. In the best of times, Congress isn’t popular. But these people should rise above their concerns with their popularity and their political fortunes to do the right thing. That they don’t seem to recognize what “the right thing” is extremely telling.

Bitter Clinger on September 11, 2014 at 10:11 AM

Amen.

As to your specific point about weakening the very institution they serve, people should remember that actual members of Congress (the inane Sheila Jackson Lee, for example) started discussing the idea of crafting executive orders for Obama to sign.

These people are gutless, and primarily motivated by self-preservation.

Aizen on September 11, 2014 at 10:29 AM

He should ask for authorization, how many would vote no?

major dad on September 11, 2014 at 10:05 AM

If I were in Congress, I would vote no. Not because I don’t think ISIS (sorry, _SIS so I am not racist) doesn’t need to be destroyed, it DOES need to be destroyed, but because I have no confidence that Obama will carry out any sort of action with the military that will JUSTIFY the cost in the inevitable American casualties that will happen conducting it.

Obama won’t fight this action in a way that justifies putting the lives of American soliders on the line.

ConstantineXI on September 11, 2014 at 10:29 AM

It would be a perversion of the 2001 AUMF, which allows the President of the United States to attack al-Qaeda, to use that as authorization to attack the Islamic State. These terrorist organizations are two completely distinct entities and, at times, even adversaries.

That argument is a perversion, Noah, but perversion of reality is what I expect from you.

Dusty on September 11, 2014 at 10:29 AM

(the inane Sheila Jackson Lee, for example) started discussing the idea of crafting executive orders for Obama to sign.

These people are gutless, and primarily motivated by self-preservation.

Aizen on September 11, 2014 at 10:29 AM

The irony of course being, that indeed, it IS Congress’s job to craft “orders” for Obama to sign. Except that they are called LAWS then…

I guess watching the schoolhouse rock “I’m just a bill” cartoon (which describes the process of how laws are made in such a way even Obama might be able to understand it) would be asking too much of her.

ConstantineXI on September 11, 2014 at 10:32 AM

The trouble is that by the time Congress does it they will have added on $100 billion in non-war authorization pork for Congress members.

albill on September 11, 2014 at 10:33 AM

the branches of gov’t have devolved from ‘separate and co-equal’ to a colluding mess resembling a grade school kickball game where the only important thing is being picked to play and the score is only important if it helps you stay there. sad and pathetic

smitty41 on September 11, 2014 at 10:34 AM

He’s got a pen and a phone.
He can do whatever he wants.

Galtian on September 11, 2014 at 10:34 AM

Obama’s worthless plan is no good to the core.

[APACHEWHOKNOWS on September 11, 2014 at 10:07 AM]

I haven’t seen a post on what his plan is, so I don’t know. I’m waiting for Ed to summarize it.

I’m surprised the post is not up yet.

Dusty on September 11, 2014 at 10:35 AM

Wars such as those that the likes of Udall would “buy into” are always open-ended, aren’t they?

Sting on September 11, 2014 at 10:36 AM

unclesmrgol on September 11, 2014 at 10:11 AM

He could use the 2001 AUMF. It requires a broad reading but not so broad as to laugh at.

Dusty on September 11, 2014 at 10:39 AM

I guess watching the schoolhouse rock “I’m just a bill” cartoon (which describes the process of how laws are made in such a way even Obama might be able to understand it) would be asking too much of her.

ConstantineXI on September 11, 2014 at 10:32 AM

Obama might understand that cartoon but I think it would still be way over Sheila’s head.

Bitter Clinger on September 11, 2014 at 10:39 AM

Obama creating the caliphate one country at a time. Syria you’re next. God help us all from this evil.

txhsmom on September 11, 2014 at 10:40 AM

[albill on September 11, 2014 at 10:33 AM]

If ever there was a reason to not want Congress to get involved, that would be at the top of the list.

An excellent point. Thank you for thinking of it.

Dusty on September 11, 2014 at 10:41 AM

The irony of course being, that indeed, it IS Congress’s job to craft “orders” for Obama to sign. Except that they are called LAWS then…

I guess watching the schoolhouse rock “I’m just a bill” cartoon (which describes the process of how laws are made in such a way even Obama might be able to understand it) would be asking too much of her.

ConstantineXI on September 11, 2014 at 10:32 AM

It’s also an oxymoron, when you think about it. I mean, for a member of Congress to talk of putting together a bill for a president to sign that explicitly goes over Congress’ head…?

Yeah, Sheila isn’t too bright.

Aizen on September 11, 2014 at 10:45 AM

If the CAUF is ‘defunct’ then it needs no repeal.

If it is active and actionable, then it needs to be repealed.

Or you can get a peace treaty or an ongoing peace process leading to a finalization of Iraq and simply sign off on that and hand it to the Senate to agree to it.

ISIS is not a Nation State, so asking Congress to do something to authorize attacks on it means that they must deploy their Private War powers delegated to them via the Law of Nations for Piracy. That is a much broader option as it can be made global and Congress can also set up a system for volunteer citizens who wish to go armed to seize ISIS material and the vessels transporting them as goods taken via the Private War powers. That would be a full-spectrum approach that gives the President public forces to deal with the nasty, fighting side of ISIS and citizens who meet qualifications can then go after the support infrastructure of ISIS and start making sure that anyone sending or even just transporting arms to them pays a high price for doing so. Best part is that we wouldn’t have to pay those citizens a dime to do it: their reward is the value of whatever they seize or they can keep it for personal use. Privateers are not mercenaries, they don’t get paid for the job… just act as the repoman with a bit more teeth and ability to auction stuff off.

Unfortunately that takes intelligence backed by a historical outlook and actual knowledge that there is a DIFFERENCE between the Public and Private War powers. None of which is present in the Executive nor Legislative Branch, although I bet the Admiralty Courts could quickly get up to speed on verifying takings. Easy to set up those courts on American soil which can be at various land holdings the US owns, Embassies or ANY US VESSEL AT SEA. The first cargo carrier that loses a ship or aircraft, trucks or trains or any other conveyance to this will then realize that the easy money isn’t worth it. Too bad no one actually knows the Constitution or the extra-constitutional works referenced within it. Sad that. Might learn something if you did that, and that is just not in the cards with our modern Elites.

ajacksonian on September 11, 2014 at 10:45 AM

I think most Americans are for launching a major air campagne against ISIS. I also think directly arming the Kurds, for now at least, is a good move.

However the rest of this plan is going to be a mess. The weapons and money we give the FSA, a sunni run operation, could just easily end up in AQs hands, or be used to fight Israel, or even fight America. We know that FSA is allied with AQ. We know they have attacked Christians and other infidels in Syria.

Also what is our move if we end up fighting Assad, considering we will be arming the FSA, and Russia tries to draw us deeper into this war by really arming and assisting Assad. It would make Putin’s life easier in Ukraine by distracting America in Syria. I doubt Obama or the “McCain’s republicans” have clue one how respond except throw more men, money, and weapons into the FSA hole.

We need a real debate on this and a honest one over Islam’s role in all this.

William Eaton on September 11, 2014 at 10:48 AM

ISIS claims statehood. It controls specific territory. It exercises authority over the inhabitants of that area. It has a military with identifiable formations. It has declared war on the United States and killed American citizens. This IMO means that Congress can and should declare a state of war between the United States of America and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Nothing less is acceptable.

xkaydet65 on September 11, 2014 at 10:51 AM

This would be a war against a group that you’ll never be able to sign a peace treaty with or force upon it new leadership and make a new, friendlier regime out of. The way it will”end” is when the group re-brands itself and begins calling itself something other than whatever the enemy is called on the war declaration.

In that regard, it may have made more sense to get the declaration of war against Assad since it is a nation you’d effectively be warring with.

Had there not been a lapse in the wot effort, it would seem pointless to get another congressional vote. It only ends with Islamic jihadism being eradicated, and that won’t happen. It is a war against an idea.

Buddahpundit on September 11, 2014 at 10:55 AM

No plan is Obamas plan.

APACHEWHOKNOWS on September 11, 2014 at 11:05 AM

The vote for funding should be interesting. Won’t that be the same as backing the plan?

Cindy Munford on September 11, 2014 at 11:21 AM

Isn’t this one of those wars on the credit card the Lefties found soooo distasteful when Dubya was in?

formwiz on September 11, 2014 at 11:28 AM

The King doesn’t need permission from the peasants.

Just ask President Jarrett.

GarandFan on September 11, 2014 at 11:52 AM

Paging Cindy Sheehan & Medea Benjamin to the white courtesy phone for a message.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!

D-fusit on September 11, 2014 at 12:40 PM

Wait…now we should arm a group of people who aren’t technically their own country?

Col. North, your assistance is need on the white courtesy phone.

LoganSix on September 11, 2014 at 12:42 PM

Any strike in Syria is unconstitutional.

weedisgood on September 11, 2014 at 1:15 PM

“President Barack Obama told congressional leaders on Tuesday he has the authority to carry out his planned strategy against ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria without authorization from legislators, but he asked for their support to show the nation was united.” CNN

Like I said in the other thread, as soon as Obama said:

“Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are,” that is as clear a statement that he will not do anything as you will ever hear.

If he goes to Congress and gets approval, then people will expect him to use it. If he doesn’t get approval, in a month or two he can blame our gosh darn separation of powers for his inaction.

“As president, I have tried to close Gitmo,” Obama said. If I remember correctly, and I do, he made it clear he closing Gitmo as well.

Whatever he says will happen, expect the opposite. In his own way, he was honest about his need for Congressional approval. He doesn’t need it because he doesn’t plan on doing anything.

sgmstv on September 11, 2014 at 1:32 PM

There is just so much bs the American people will accept.

Obama has no more slack.

APACHEWHOKNOWS on September 11, 2014 at 1:51 PM

Obamas plan is “no plan”.

APACHEWHOKNOWS on September 11, 2014 at 1:52 PM

obama doesn’t want his D-rats on record, voting for the war on terror, ahead of Nov.

Schadenfreude on September 11, 2014 at 1:57 PM

ISIS is not a Nation State, so asking Congress to do something to authorize attacks on it means that they must deploy their Private War powers delegated to them via the Law of Nations for Piracy. That is a much broader option as it can be made global and Congress can also set up a system for volunteer citizens who wish to go armed to seize ISIS material and the vessels transporting them as goods taken via the Private War powers.

Unfortunately that takes intelligence backed by a historical outlook and actual knowledge that there is a DIFFERENCE between the Public and Private War powers. (…) The first cargo carrier that loses a ship or aircraft, trucks or trains or any other conveyance to this will then realize that the easy money isn’t worth it.

ajacksonian on September 11, 2014 at 10:45 AM

This.

Let the terrorists wonder who’s after them. Where the next attack on them might come from. There are plenty of Americans (and others) who would love to contribute their own force, without having to join a formal Army and then be mis-deployed.

ReggieA on September 11, 2014 at 2:08 PM

Were I congress, I would like a much more detailed explanation than ‘I am going to authroize stikes against a non-government entity/force in another country without coordinatig with that government (which I wanted to bomb about a year ago) – without either UC Congressional or U.N. approval – in hopes that these pin-prick stikes both in and outside of that country will eliminate the ISIS threat.

Just a week or so ago this man, claiming to have been caught flat-footed by ISIS (which has been proven to be a LIE), declared he had NO PLAN (or idea) to deal with ISIS. NOW, OPENLY, he declares his plan consists of bombing….and nothing specific. And after using our military to help al Qaeda take over their own country (Libya), after helping the Muslim Brotherhood take over the government of our Ally Egypt, and after writing and submitting an editorial in an Israeli newspaper praising Hamas’ President during the month Hamas fired over 1,000 rockets into Israel, Obama NOW borrows a line from Bush post-9/11/01 by declaring he will not allow terrorists who threaten us to have a ‘safe haven’ anywhere in the world. (Anyone who believes that shi’ite raise your hand…) Does that SOUND like someone who knows what they [email protected] they are doing or has a solid trust-worthy plan that does not need authorization (and scrutiny)?!

easyt65 on September 11, 2014 at 2:18 PM