The war that Congress won't declare

The administration has at least done the minimum. And if the administration isn’t pushing, it’s at least in part because this Congress has demonstrated that it will discard settled norms in foreign policy—witness the genuinely shocking attempt to sabotage the Iran deal by writing to the Iranian leadership while negotiations were still pending. Right now, that deal is the administration’s top priority.

Congress is abdicating an important role. Congress always prefers to remain mum about a war until it sees whether it’s going well, but the Constitution doesn’t have a “wait for the polls” clause.

But this war is already too wide to be proceed any further without a serious discussion of the aims and dangers of the effort. American soldiers, whether they are “advisers” or “embeds” or anything else, are at risk, and beyond that, international stability is at stake. There are institutional reasons why the two branches are content to make war-and-peace decisions in silence. But we the people don’t have to accept that. We can insist that Congress take this matter up, and we can also insist that they treat this life-and-death issue as if they were grown-ups.