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?

Published in Foreign Policy, Military
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  1. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

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

    Seems so me to me.

    But even if it isn’t, why not clarify things?

    • #31
  2. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Ball Diamond Ball: Yes, and the Air Force was an offshoot of the Army, and has been trying to kill off the Army (and for that matter the Navy) ever since.

    The Luftwaffe couldn’t bomb the English into submission and the U.S. Chair Force isn’t doing so hot against ISIS, either. My fear is that they’ll call the Marines (as usual.)

    • #32
  3. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Valiuth:  The president has ordered the army to engage a quasi stateless enemy (at least that is how we publicly define them for better or worse), congress does not object and the president has not needed to ask for separate funds because it seems to be all part of the army budget. Silence implies consent. Congress can act when it chooses to to stop Obama. They don’t feel we should stop. Frankly many feel he should if anything do more, but alas you can’t force him to do that.

    So you think wars should be fought like that?  One man decides?

    If war is the most important thing the state does, what other broad powers do you want to assign to one man?

    • #33
  4. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Austin Murrey:Fred, to my mind, is making an emotional appeal: there’s something profoundly wrong with ongoing military operations outside of express Congressional approval. I happen to agree with him and think it’s antithetical to my ideal of a limited government. I also think the vote has not been taken for cowardly reasons, as I stated.

    To my mind, this question (To vote or not to vote) is completely independent of whether it’s the correct decision to fight ISIS.

    But not only has Congress not voted, but there hasn’t been a serious debate.

    • #34
  5. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Taking a somewhat different track:

    Tuck: “(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.”

    Read very literally, the resolution explicitly states that any international terrorist, anywhere, committed to any cause, is fair game and implies that the same goes for anyone who aids them.

    That is, shall we say, insanely broad.

    • #35
  6. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    Are we at war with ISIS? Not really. A few airstrikes, with no risk of being shot down, a small group of advisors, and paying for some supplies for hapless fighters isn’t war. And that’s why Americans don’t care. Start sending ground troops and they’ll care. Start losing F-16’s to SAM’s and they’ll care. “War” means Americans getting shot at and dying.

    • #36
  7. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    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.

    • #37
  8. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Douglas:Are we at war with ISIS? Not really. A few airstrikes, with no risk of being shot down, a small group of advisors, and paying for some supplies for hapless fighters isn’t war. And that’s why Americans don’t care. Start sending ground troops and they’ll care. Start losing F-16′s to SAM’s and they’ll care. “War” means Americans getting shot at and dying.

    A few?

    One year, thousands of sorties, $3 billion spent, seven dead Americans.

    If seven isn’t enough to actually count as a war, how many dead Americans do you need before it counts?

    • #38
  9. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    EJHill:

    Ball Diamond Ball: Yes, and the Air Force was an offshoot of the Army, and has been trying to kill off the Army (and for that matter the Navy) ever since.

    The Luftwaffe couldn’t bomb the English into submission and the U.S. Chair Force isn’t doing so hot against ISIS, either. My fear is that they’ll call the Marines (as usual.)

    No, we’ve been assured that there will be no boots on ground.  Whew!

    • #39
  10. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    The way I see it, the thing was intentionally vague so as to give play later on.  We are seeing the absolute lack of GOP spine play out in a literalist defense of a spongy document.

    I don’t have a problem with loose authorizations for politicians (given other pieces are working, which they are *not*), so long as those are translated into tight goals for the military, which they are not.

    So the little details may be this and may be that, but the big picture is this thing is going to get a lot of Americans killed, and it will all be Bush’s fault.  Of course.

    • #40
  11. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    Fred Cole:

    A few?

    One year, thousands of sorties, $3 billion spent, seven dead Americans.

    If seven isn’t enough to actually count as a war, how many dead Americans do you need before it counts?

    The money spent is irrelevant in the minds of Americans. And who are the seven? Are you counting the Americans killed fighting for ISIS? The civilians they’ve beheaded? I’m unaware of uniformed military personnel killed in combat against ISIS, but if you can’t point ’em out to me, please do so. Still, no, Americans wouldn’t consider seven guys killed war. They didn’t consider four guys killed in Benghazi war, either. Numbers matter in these things. And for the record, since ISIS has of yet not attacked the US, I don’t think we should be involved, period, so I’m not rah-rah for an ISIS war myself.

    • #41
  12. billy Inactive
    billy
    @billy

    Fred Cole:

    Frank Soto:The fact that there is no widespread complaining about this fact tells you how such a vote would have panned out.

    So if everybody agrees on something, the Constitution and the idea of check and balances don’t matter?

    Fred, haven’t you noticed a pattern over the last 6 years?

    The Constitution doesn’t matter even if everybody doesn’t agree.

    • #42
  13. Klaatu Inactive
    Klaatu
    @Klaatu

    Okay. So, just so we’re clear on things:

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

    Al Qaeda did and ISIS is an offshoot of al Qaeda.

    2. ISIS started as an offshoot years later, then became its own organization.

    3. ISIS has renounced all allegiance to al Qaeda.

    In this case, the sins of the father are visited upon the son.
    Until it renounces its jihad against us, their allegiance is of no relevance.

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

    As I stated earlier, internecine squabbles do not alter the threat to U.S.

    Your interpretation the broadest possible reading of a war authorization from 14 years ago. Let me pose a few questions:

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

    Completely, for the reasons stated above

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

    Your premise is false. This is simply a new phase in the long war

    3. Do you want to grant Barack Obama the broadest possible interpretation here?

    I wish to grant the President the most reasonable interpretation in defending the nation.

    4. What other statutes do you want to grant Barack Obama the broadest possible interpretation on?

    Again, your premise is false. This is by no means the broadest possible interpretation, it is the most reasonable.

    5. Do you consider your argument consistent with the Constitution and/or the notion of limited government?

    Yes

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

    No

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

    All presidents have inherent Article II power to wage war.

    • #43
  14. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Fred Cole:

    Valiuth: The president has ordered the army to engage a quasi stateless enemy (at least that is how we publicly define them for better or worse), congress does not object and the president has not needed to ask for separate funds because it seems to be all part of the army budget. Silence implies consent. Congress can act when it chooses to to stop Obama. They don’t feel we should stop. Frankly many feel he should if anything do more, but alas you can’t force him to do that.

    So you think wars should be fought like that? One man decides?

    If war is the most important thing the state does, what other broad powers do you want to assign to one man?

    I think our problem with ISIS isn’t that we are fighting them it is that we are fighting them poorly. But lets set that aside.

    Congress can flex its muscle here, and has flexed its muscle with respect to Obama engaging in hostilities. Are we all forgetting Syria? We did not go after Assad when he crossed “the Red Line”. Because congress rebelled, demanded a vote and that vote would probably have come out against the administration.

    I think we elect presidents precisely so that they can decide such things and we elect congress to review their actions. It might be nice to have some open vote of confidence in our actions here but I don’t think it is necessary.

    • #44
  15. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Douglas:  And who are the seven? Are you counting the Americans killed fighting for ISIS? The civilians they’ve beheaded? I’m unaware of uniformed military personnel killed in combat against ISIS, but if you can’t point ‘em out to me, please do so.

    They’re all non combat incidents. According to Military Times, here is a list of American who died in Operation Inherent Resolve:

    Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Devon J. Doyle June 16, 2015

    Army Pfc. Monterrious T. Daniel June 12, 2015

    Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan D. Burris May 21, 2015

    Air Force Tech. Sgt. Anthony E. Salazar April 13, 2015

    Air Force Capt. William H. Dubois December 1, 2014

    Marine Lance Cpl. Sean P. Neal October 23, 2014

    Marine Cpl. Jordan L. Spears October 1, 2014

    Some of you may think that these dead Americans somehow don’t “count”, but they died in a non-declared war that Congress never voted on, and that we don’t even have a name for.

    • #45
  16. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    While I am not bothered by our lack of formal war declarations against ISIS, and I don’t think Obama has overstepped himself in this action, I think there is one aspect of Fred’s thrust that I take very seriously. This whole process reeks of passivity which I fear engenders both in the decision makers and the populace a kind of complacency about the situation.

    We have sent of our mighty army to quell some brigands in a distant desert. No one feels a need to debate or dissent because it is not an important matter. It is not a serious war, it is not even a skirmish. This kind of mindset I think is inherently dangerous and leads to things such as Custard’s last stand, or the conquest of Mosul. We, I think are seriously underestimating our enemies here because they are such petty little savages, and I think we do it at our own risk and to their benefit.

    I think getting the congresses expressed approval in this case is mostly a matter of formality and show. But, we should not underestimate the need for such actions to build up our resolve and sharpen our focus. On Dec 8th 1941 I think FDR could have ordered the full on invasion of Japan had it been possible with or without congress and no one would have objected. But, a formal declaration served as a means to rally our people as much as approve the action.

    • #46
  17. Klaatu Inactive
    Klaatu
    @Klaatu

    Some of you may think that these dead Americans somehow don’t “count”…

    Who thinks that?

    • #47
  18. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    Fred Cole:

    Frank Soto:The fact that there is no widespread complaining about this fact tells you how such a vote would have panned out.

    So if everybody agrees on something, the Constitution and the idea of check and balances don’t matter?

    How are the checks and balances not working?  Congress can check the president, and isn’t, because they feel he is acting correctly.  What on Earth is the problem?

    Do you believe a vote is required?  If so, could you please explain?  If you believe a declaration of war is required, may I direct you back to my original comment where I disagreed with that premise.

    • #48
  19. Indaba Member
    Indaba
    @

    Look…I am still in shock over Libya and Obama taking the lone wolf decision to take out the great leader, Gadhafi. What was with that? Why not nip down south and kill Mugabe too? I just could not get the timing? Did you Americans get an explaination for why?

    • #49
  20. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Klaatu:

    Some of you may think that these dead Americans somehow don’t “count”…

    Who thinks that?

    Well, I’ve already heard that it isn’t really a war.  I was just heading off the claim that these casualties don’t count because they’re non-combat deaths.

    • #50
  21. Klaatu Inactive
    Klaatu
    @Klaatu

    Well, I’ve already heard that it isn’t really a war. I was just heading off the claim that these casualties don’t count because they’re non-combat deaths.

    Servicemen die during training as well and I’ve never once heard someone say they didn’t count because of it.

    • #51
  22. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Austin Murrey:

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

    No, Yes, No.

    I think the reason they don’t want to vote is because they’d have to go on record one way or another and if there’s one thing this Congress and the previous one (mainly the Senate, but I digress) agree on it’s avoiding votes they have to explain to the electorate.

    If they vote for it then it’s harder to blame Obama if things go pear shaped.  But if they vote against it, then it’s harder to keep up the hawkish image.  Better not to talk about it at all….

    • #52
  23. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    Ball Diamond Ball:

    Frank Soto:

    If the GOP wants to risk a shutdown, and lose the next set of elections, guaranteeing such funding will be replaced later, than it most certainly does.

    Gee, why doesn’t Obama risk this with a veto? It could be made to happen, you know, but not with this defeat-minded loser mentality.

    You’re neglecting the part where we have tried shutdowns before, and we get hammered in the polls while the democrats don’t.

    We empirically know the outcome of this tactic.

    • #53
  24. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Valiuth:While I am not bothered by our lack of formal war declarations against ISIS,

    I am, although I agree essentially with the Frank’s legal and constitutional arguments. The problem is that this is no way to fight a war. We have no strategy; we’ve certainly had no national debate; we have not formally stated the aim of this war. Obama says it’s to “degrade and destroy ISIS,” but the actions he’s taking in this context make no sense — and may well cause ISIS to spread or worsen the refugee crisis. (Like this decision, although there are some small factual mistakes in that piece.)

    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.

    What seems to me to be going on is that Obama is responding to a vague public demand to “do something” about ISIS, but people aren’t hearing a real debate about why something should be done, what the risks of doing “something” are, and what, realistically, it would take to achieve what is — so far — an unstated goal. In my view — for reasons I can detail elsewhere — ISIS is indeed a huge threat. It can’t be dislodged by air power alone, although air power would certainly be a useful start, and there’s no one on the ground with whom we could work effectively enough to obviate a very serious commitment of US ground forces — and this for a very long time. To think otherwise is fantasy. If we’re not serious about dislodging them, we need to ask ourselves whether we can live with the Caliphate, and speak publicly about the risks this would pose and whether we’re prepared to accept them.

    Of course these question should be debated publicly in the media and, properly, in Congress — our debating body. Fred is right on the deepest of principles here — decisions about war and peace are the biggest decisions we make. And this is a real war — because ISIS is now, alas, a real state. If we intend to fight a war, we have to fight it as a war, not a “special operation.”

    and I don’t think Obama has overstepped himself in this action, I think there is one aspect of Fred’s thrust that I take very seriously. This whole process reeks of passivity which I fear engenders both in the decision makers and the populace a kind of complacency about the situation.

    Dangerously, dangerously so.

    We have sent of our mighty army to quell some brigands in a distant desert. No one feels a need to debate or dissent because it is not an important matter. It is not a serious war, it is not even a skirmish. This kind of mindset I think is inherently dangerous and leads to things such as Custard’s last stand, or the conquest of Mosul. We, I think are seriously underestimating our enemies here because they are such petty little savages, and I think we do it at our own risk and to their benefit.

    Absolutely agree.

    • #54
  25. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Indaba:Look…I am still in shock over Libya and Obama taking the lone wolf decision to take out the great leader, Gadhafi. What was with that? Why not nip down south and kill Mugabe too? I just could not get the timing? Did you Americans get an explaination for why?

    We helped take out Lybia because Europe wanted it. Obama was dragged kicking and screaming into that one.

    • #55
  26. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Valiuth:

    Indaba:Look…I am still in shock over Libya and Obama taking the lone wolf decision to take out the great leader, Gadhafi. What was with that? Why not nip down south and kill Mugabe too? I just could not get the timing? Did you Americans get an explaination for why?

    We helped take out Lybia because Europe wanted it. Obama was dragged kicking and screaming into that one.

    Bet they’re sorry now!

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

    • #56
  27. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    billy:

    Fred Cole:

    Frank Soto:The fact that there is no widespread complaining about this fact tells you how such a vote would have panned out.

    So if everybody agrees on something, the Constitution and the idea of check and balances don’t matter?

    Fred, haven’t you noticed a pattern over the last 6 years?

    The Constitution doesn’t matter even if everybody doesn’t agree.

    Fred Cole is right — to insist that what is right is right.  Billy is also right — that a piece of paper does not an army make.  Frank is right — that everybody has already weighed in on this to the degree that they care to.

    We are right screwed.

    • #57
  28. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Valiuth:While I am not bothered by our lack of formal war declarations against ISIS,

    I am, although I agree essentially with the Frank’s legal and constitutional arguments. The problem is that this is no way to fight a war. We have no strategy; we’ve certainly had no national debate; we have not formally stated the aim of this war. Obama says it’s to “degrade and destroy ISIS,” but the actions he’s taking in this context make no sense — and may well cause ISIS to spread or worsen the refugee crisis. (Like this decision, although there are some small factual mistakes in that piece.)

    I agree this is no way to fight a war, but I think much hope in this respect is gone with Obama in charge. For him to admit that ISIS is a threat and enemy worthy of that level of concentration and scrutiny would be to admit that his policies have so far been amazingly naive. For all his faults with respect to Iraq at least Bush saw that he had gone wrong and put forth his great effort to alter his strategy and tactics to correct this. Obama I believe seeks to run out the clock, so that whatever else happens will not happen on his watch. Congress can not run a war even and it can not make the president execute it competently. This is our problem and what makes the debate question currently irrelevant.

    • #58
  29. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Frank Soto:

    Ball Diamond Ball:

    Frank Soto:

    If the GOP wants to risk a shutdown, and lose the next set of elections, guaranteeing such funding will be replaced later, than it most certainly does.

    Gee, why doesn’t Obama risk this with a veto? It could be made to happen, you know, but not with this defeat-minded loser mentality.

    You’re neglecting the part where we have tried shutdowns before, and we get hammered in the polls while the democrats don’t.

    We empirically know the outcome of this tactic.

    I would invite my esteemed colleague’s attention to the excellent counterweight to the convenient prevailing wisdom on the 2013 shutdown by ACM: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/361655/art-impossible-andrew-c-mccarthy

    No doubt you have seen it, but it re-reads quite well.

    • #59
  30. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Zafar:

    Valiuth:

    Indaba:Look…I am still in shock over Libya and Obama taking the lone wolf decision to take out the great leader, Gadhafi. What was with that? Why not nip down south and kill Mugabe too? I just could not get the timing? Did you Americans get an explaination for why?

    We helped take out Lybia because Europe wanted it. Obama was dragged kicking and screaming into that one.

    Bet they’re sorry now!

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

    I don’t quite know either. I think some of it was that they feared it would devolve into a quagmire which would spew forth untold numbers of desperate Muslim refugees. Which I realize is very ironic. I also think they feared and felt that Gadhafi would butcher all the rebels and they didn’t want to see that.

    • #60
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