One Year Later: Still No Vote

 

WarIn case you missed it, this past weekend marked one year of America’s latest war. The intervention in Syria/Iraq began a year ago.

It’s not a real war, right? Sure, America’s military is killing people. Sure, it’s cost more than $3 billion. Sure, we spend $10 million every day. Sure, seven Americans have died so far. But it’s not really a war, right?

Of course it’s a war. It’s denying reality to say otherwise. The Third Iraq War. The War Against ISIS. Operation Inherent Resolve. (That we don’t even have a name for this war is very telling). The collective agreement among the press, the political class, and people on the both left and right, to refuse to even acknowledge that we’re at war does not change that fact.

We are in the midst of a national scandal. It’s more important than Hillary Clinton’s email server. It’s more important than anything Donald Trump says.

The national scandal is that nobody ever voted for this war. One man, Barack Obama, decided on his own to start a war. Congress, the body responsible for declaring war, and, barring that, maybe voting on it, refuses to do so.

Once again: The United States has been at war for a year and there hasn’t even been a vote in Congress. Can we at least have a damn vote on it?

The whole point of having a president, a Congress, and a Constitution, is that one man shouldn’t have all the power. The most important power, the power to make war, the power over life and death should not lie in the hands of one man!  

If this were anything else, education subsidies, anything, Congress would decry the imperial presidency and threaten to sue. And yet, here we are.

So I pose these questions:

Why are you okay with this?  Shouldn’t Congress at least vote on this war?  Is this limited government to you?

There are 86 comments.

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  1. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    We have a foreign policy that’s having enormous repercussions on millions and millions of people in the region — and as Fred points out, on our own citizens and our own military — but we’re not having a debate, as a country, about whether our strategy makes sense or is apt to work. Congress is the obvious place to have such a debate.

    Congress though will not come up with a global strategy for us. When has the congress ever come up with such a thing in the entire course of our nation? It has always been the job of the executive to craft such ideas. Congress can scrutinize them and has, but devise them? Our problem is that Obama has no vision. The man only reacts to events. He seems incapable for realizing that he can move them or that they move because of what he does and does not do. He is a spectator. Which is not something a good president should be.

     In my view — for reasons I can detail elsewhere — ISIS is indeed a huge threat.

    I would love to get the Claire run down of the ISIS threat, so if you take requests for your pieces I would like to put one in for this. I agree with you that ISIS is a very large threat, that will one day drag us into a full on war in the Middle East. The question is will it be on our terms or theirs.

    • #61
  2. BThompson Inactive
    BThompson
    @BThompson

    This is the simplistic demagoguery that constitutes foreign policy analysis from libertarians. It’s utterly facile and selective in its description and examination of the context. People don’t trust libertarians on matters of national security and this is a grade A example of why that is.

    • #62
  3. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Zafar: (Also – why did they want it?  That’s one thing that makes absolutely no sense.)

    A few points — I’ll get to your question in a roundabout way. There already was an insurgency and civil war underway. It’s fully possible — even likely — that the situation we’re now seeing in Libya would have been the outcome with or without intervention.

    There’s no reason to think Libya would now be stable had Qadhafi prevailed — or that Qadhafi would have prevailed, for that matter. Qadhafi was a large source of the instability that led to the insurgency. I’m sure this weighed heavily in British and French strategic thought. The internal repression and brutality of Qadhafi’s regime was on a par with Saddam Hussein’s. Qadhafi meddled (in a deeply destabilizing way) in the Maghreb and West Africa, which no doubt factored heavily into French decision-making. And he was, of course, a sponsor of international terrorism — targeting Americans and Europeans. I have to assume British calculations were deeply affected by the memory of Lockerbie, just as American decision-makers would be by the memory of September 11. (Many American servicemen died in the Lockerbie attack, too.) The disaster in Libya wasn’t caused by taking out Qadhafi, per se; it’s more accurate to say that it was caused by Qadhafi — in that he, more than anyone, was responsible for the collapse of the Libyan state (or the failure to build one in the first place).

    I assume that both the French and the British were unprepared for the speed at which these events happened — as were Americans — and simply thought, “First thing is we need to keep Qadhafi from massacring everything in his path; we’ll figure out what to next after that.” I assume they didn’t have a plan for the postwar reconstruction of Libya. It would be very improbable to think that anyone, anywhere, had a plan for such a thing: I can’t think of anyone who was fully aware (or who said so, publicly, anyway) that the Arab states were on the verge of imminent, full-on collapse.

    My guess would be that they didn’t fully understand that what they were in fact looking at was the complete disintegration of the Libyan state. The French were quickly ensnarled in Mali as a consequence, and so couldn’t devote any resources to trying to stabilize Libya.

    What I assume they (and we) were trying to achieve by topping Qadhafi was to avoid the outcome we’ve seen in Syria. What French, British and US policymakers should have foreseen — given the experience of Iraq — is that decapitating this kind of regime comes with a high risk of creating a dangerous power vacuum, not an instant liberal democracy. Failing to do so — as in Syria — risks precisely the same thing.

    I suspect both French and British planners believed — deep down — that the US would indeed lead the effort to stabilize a post-Qadhafi Libya. I don’t think anyone at that point fully calculated that no, the US wasn’t prepared, wasn’t willing, and wasn’t able.

    • #63
  4. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: I suspect both French and British planners believed — deep down – that the US would indeed lead the effort to stabilize a post-Qadhafi Libya. I don’t think anyone at that point fully calculated that no, the US wasn’t prepared, wasn’t willing, and wasn’t able.

    Which really puts the blame squarely on the gold epaulets of His Excellency Colonel Obama.

    • #64
  5. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    BThompson:This is the simplistic demagoguery that constitutes foreign policy analysis from libertarians.

    It’s demagoguery to think that one man shouldn’t decide war and peace?

    • #65
  6. BThompson Inactive
    BThompson
    @BThompson

    Fred Cole:

    BThompson:This is the simplistic demagoguery that constitutes foreign policy analysis from libertarians.

    It’s demagoguery to think that one man shouldn’t decide war and peace?

    The war was underway before Obama decided to do anything about it. They were killing US citizens and destabilizing the country we had liberated and were responsible for helping rebuild. ISIS threatens our allies and our interests in the region, including a NATO member. It’s not as if had the US stayed out of the conflict there would somehow be peace or the world or the US would be better off. It is obvious that allowing ISIS to go unchecked will only result in evermore disastrous and chaotic consequences for the region and the US. Most importantly, if you look at polling, the US public supports intervention against ISIS. To pretend that Obama is some warmonger run amok is ridiculous. I’m second to no one in decrying the extraconstitutional and undemocratic character of this administration, but to pretend that commanding the armed forces should be the purview of the congress is complete nonsense.

    • #66
  7. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    I’m not even talking about commanding the armed forces.  I’m not talking about the merits of the war.  Obviously Congress would vote for it.  I’m not even trying to make an anti-war point here.

    All I want is for someone other than one dude to decide this.  This is the whole freakin’ point of having a Congress.  All I want, all I could reasonably ask for, is for them to vote on it.

    But to even suggest that it’s appropriate for Congress to even vote on wars is somehow “simplistic demagoguery”?!

    • #67
  8. BThompson Inactive
    BThompson
    @BThompson

    Fred Cole:All I want is for someone other than one dude to decide this. This is the whole freakin’ point of having a Congress. All I want, all I could reasonably ask for, is for them to vote on it.

    But to even suggest that it’s appropriate for Congress to even vote on wars is somehow “simplistic demagoguery”?!

    Arguing that a president could initiate a use of force on this scale on a whim is simplistic and unserious. The only reason that Obama has been able to use this force is because of the AUMF and the history of congressionally approved military engagement in the region as well as the obvious support he enjoys from the congress and the American people. If he tried to do this against serious opposition of the congress and the voting public, he would encounter both political and legal roadblocks.

    • #68
  9. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    I suspect both French and British planners believed — deep down – that the US would indeed lead the effort to stabilize a post-Qadhafi Libya. I don’t think anyone at that point fully calculated that no, the US wasn’t prepared, wasn’t willing, and wasn’t able.

    Yes, isn’t that the lesson Obama has taught everyone in the middle east? From the Arab Sunnis of Iraq, to the Israelis, to the Saudis, to the Iranians. American won’t be there to do what you expect them to do and need them to do, maybe not even what we promised to do.

    • #69
  10. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Fred Cole:I’m not even talking about commanding the armed forces. I’m not talking about the merits of the war. Obviously Congress would vote for it. I’m not even trying to make an anti-war point here.

    All I want is for someone other than one dude to decide this. This is the whole freakin’ point of having a Congress. All I want, all I could reasonably ask for, is for them to vote on it.

    But to even suggest that it’s appropriate for Congress to even vote on wars is somehow “simplistic demagoguery”?!

    Of course for all the scorn we like to heap on Obama I doubt he alone makes the decision though he alone may bare all the responsibility for it. He does have advisers, there are the Join Chiefs. No decision in our government is really made by one man.

    In many ways I wonder just how much wiser two men are than one? Two or more men might very well talk themselves into actions that an individual, alone, would not contemplate. From the stand point of democracy and good governance what we need in the system isn’t multiple inputs into a decision but a viable feedback mechanism that will either support or reject these decisions.

    The question we might wish to ponder is can congress still stop the presidents war making if it would so choose?

    I for one have not seen evidence to suggest they can’t.

    • #70
  11. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Fred Cole:But to even suggest that it’s appropriate for Congress to even vote on wars is somehow “simplistic demagoguery”?!

    Well, your suggestions have been a bit on the “haranguing at length and repeatedly” side.  Meek is not you.

    • #71
  12. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Valiuth: Yes, isn’t that the lesson Obama has taught everyone in the middle east? From the Arab Sunnis of Iraq, to the Israelis, to the Saudis, to the Iranians. American won’t be there to do what you expect them to do and need them to do, maybe not even what we promised to do.

    No, that’s too facile. This is what the United States has taught the Middle East. We invaded Iraq on the basis of faulty intelligence. (I believe that this is indeed precisely what happened.) No one in the region will ever fully trust the United States’ intelligence assessments again: that’s just too much of a mistake for people ever to forget. Obama has greatly compounded the impression that we’ve got no idea what we’re doing, but the responsibility is very broad. The invasion of Iraq in conjunction with the 2008 financial crisis reduced American status from near-mythical hyperpower to “still a very powerful nation, but definitely not one we fully trust.”

    • #72
  13. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Valiuth: Yes, isn’t that the lesson Obama has taught everyone in the middle east? From the Arab Sunnis of Iraq, to the Israelis, to the Saudis, to the Iranians. American won’t be there to do what you expect them to do and need them to do, maybe not even what we promised to do.

    No, that’s too facile. This is what the United States has taught the Middle East. We invaded Iraq on the basis of faulty intelligence. (I believe that this is indeed precisely what happened.) No one in the region will ever fully trust the United States’ intelligence assessments again: that’s just too much of a mistake for people ever to forget. Obama has greatly compounded the impression that we’ve got no idea what we’re doing, but the responsibility is very broad. The invasion of Iraq in conjunction with the 2008 financial crisis reduced American status from near-mythical hyperpower to “still a very powerful nation, but definitely not one we fully trust.”

    Sorry, but we were no longer an exceptional country halfway through the Clinton years.  I keep trying to find an article where a former leader of Singapore or South Korea lays into Clinton for letting America become “just another country”.  Wish I could find it.

    • #73
  14. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Klaatu:

    …All presidents have inherent Article II power to wage war.

    Thanks, I was just logging in to do this to Fred’s comment.  He’s got a peculiar mix of pseudo-facts and baseless assertions…

    But I will note that article II gives the president the power to wage war, but not to start it.  That’s still reserved to Congress, which did so in this case.

    “The provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power to Congress, was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons. Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood.” – Abraham Lincoln

    I may not like the way Obama’s running this operation, but he’s clearly got the authority to do it.

    • #74
  15. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Tuck:

    Klaatu:

    …All presidents have inherent Article II power to wage war.

    Thanks, I was just logging in to do this to Fred’s comment. He’s got a peculiar mix of pseudo-facts and baseless assertions…

    Which ones are pseudo-facts?  Which are baseless assertions?

    • #75
  16. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Fred Cole:

    Which ones are pseudo-facts? Which are baseless assertions?

    Pseudo-facts:

    1. ISIS had nothing to do with 9/11.

    …3. ISIS has renounced all allegiance to al Qaeda.

    …4. In locations where al Qaeda and ISIS co-exist (Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc.) the two organizations are at war with eachother.

    Baseless assertions:

    1. In light of the above mentioned facts, do you consider it intellectually honest to continue to use the 9/11 authorization against ISIS?

    Given the “facts” you claim aren’t…

    2. Considering that this is a brand new war, shouldn’t there be a vote?

    6. If it can be stretched to cover ISIS, isn’t this actually a blank check to conduct war?

    7. Do you consider it appropriate to grant any president a blanket war authority

    Your key point appears to be that ISIS has spun off from al-Qaeda, so it’s a new war.  This is a pretty ridiculous standard by which to operate, as it grants the termination of a war effort to the marketing department of the enemy.

    • #76
  17. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Fred Cole:

    Tuck:I think Klaatu’s right on this. There’s no end-date to this:“AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE AGAINST IRAQ RESOLUTION OF 2002

    It’s actually worse to use the 2002 resolution. That one had to do with removing Saddam Hussein.

    Another pseudo-fact.  I posted and quoted above the relevant part of the authorization.  It was not limited to Hussein, but included all international terrorist groups, including—but not limited to—the one responsible for 9/11.

    “(2) acting pursuant to this joint resolution is consistent
    with the United States and other countries continuing to take
    the necessary actions against international terrorist and
    terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations,
    or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the
    terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.”

    Your argument is not supported by the facts, Fred.  I suggest you start reading the original material, rather than just rely on emotional instincts about what they said.

    ISIS is al-Qaeda in Iraq.

    • #77
  18. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Tuck:Pseudo-facts:

    1. ISIS had nothing to do with 9/11.

    There is no psudo.  ISIS did not exist until 2003.  Period.

    Claiming ISIS had anything to do with 9/11 is, frankly, a lie.  It’s a lie used to trick people.  Shame on you for perpetuating it.

    …3. ISIS has renounced all allegiance to al Qaeda.

    There is nothing pseudo about it.  Al Qaeda disavowed ISIS in 2014.  The two organizations fight eachother.

    …4. In locations where al Qaeda and ISIS co-exist (Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc.) the two organizations are at war with eachother.

    Also true.  ISIS is fighting the local branches of al Qaeda in Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.  They’re fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan too.

    Baseless assertions:

    1. In light of the above mentioned facts, do you consider it intellectually honest to continue to use the 9/11 authorization against ISIS?

    Given the “facts” you claim aren’t….

    Except that they are.  Again: ISIS did not exist until 2003.  It’s like saying that ABC and NBC are the same company because once upon a time, the one split off from the other.

    • #78
  19. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Fred Cole: …There is no psudo. ISIS did not exist until 2003. Period….

    Fred, here’s what your argument boils down to: We declared war on Baathist Iraq and al-Qaeda in Iraq.  They’ve changed their name.  Therefore the war is over.

    It’s akin to the little kid who covered his eyes and thought he was invisible.

    Of course ISIS existed before 2003.  They just had a different name.

    Here’s a long account of the ins and outs of ISIS’ history.  Assuming everything in this article is true, then ISIS is what’s left of Al-Qaeda in Iraq and Saddam’s Baathist army.  Exactly the people we authorized the President to wage war against.

    • #79
  20. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Fred Cole: Claiming ISIS had anything to do with 9/11 is, frankly, a lie. It’s a lie used to trick people. Shame on you for perpetuating it.

    Misrepresenting someone’s statements is also a lie, Fred.  That’s what you’re doing here.  I’ve twice quoted the section of the authorization making clear that we did not limit action to the terrorist group that was responsible for 9/11.

    For you to continue to assert this is dishonest.

    Please stop, as spreading misinformation is also against the CoC.

    • #80
  21. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Islamic State Suspected of Using Chemical Weapon, U.S. Says: Militants likely used mustard agent on Kurdish forces in Iraq, officials say

    • #81
  22. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Oh. Your point in posting that is … ?

    • #82
  23. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Fred Cole:Oh. Your point in posting that is … ?

    “Whereas the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001,
    underscored the gravity of the threat posed by the acquisition of
    weapons of mass destruction by international terrorist
    organizations;”

    • #83
  24. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    I don’t know what to even say, Tuck.  I can’t possibly disagree with you, you’ll claim I’m violating the CoC.

    • #84
  25. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Fred Cole:I don’t know what to even say, Tuck. I can’t possibly disagree with you, you’ll claim I’m violating the CoC.

    Surely you can do better than that, Fred.

    • #85
  26. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    Some writers for The Atlantic share your concerns:

    One Year into the War That Congress Won’t Declare

    Here’s How the Supreme Court Could Make Congress Own the War on ISIS

    • #86
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