Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Iraq War Continues

You have to admit, John Kerry is the best man to make the "we were against it before we were for it" argument to Congress.

The administration would like a new authorization to use force against ISIL. But it isn't necessary to use force:

On Tuesday, Mr. Kerry made clear the administration considers the Islamic State, which has captured large swaths of Syria and Iraq, to be a branch of al Qaeda operating under a different name. He said that means Mr. Obama already has powers to go after them under the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs, so even if Congress doesn’t act, the president will continue to pursue the war.

“The fact is that we’re going to continue this operation, because the president and the administration are absolutely convinced — and I respect your opinion — [that] we have the authority,” he said.

Huh, so the war in Iraq is legal in part based on the 2002 resolution that relied on so-called "lies?"


I actually agree that the legal authority already exists. Although a case can be made for needing one to rally the country.

But I'm a knuckle-dragging conservative. Who knew how nuanced I've been all these years? Gosh darn it, I think I can actually feel the hope and change fundamentally transforming me!

Actually, I'm not sure why the administration needs any explicit Congressional authorization, given their past theories.

UPDATE: Eric at Learning Curve has an interesting overview of the legal framework involved in the current fight.

One thing that I find really interesting about the current fight against ISIL is how it almost imperceptibly moved from a humanitarian mission to save people in Iraq under threat by ISIL, by dropping food and medicine to them; to a bombing and advisory campaign that spans Iraq and Syria.

How solid does the administration judge the legality if it had to do that?

Or was that based on public perception issues alone? Just ease us into war (boil the frog slowly?) and nobody will complain--or notice?

More broadly, I have to wonder if the more expansive view of presidential war making power is actually accurate, but that our changing reality has made that power real when in the past it was mostly theoretical.

After all, if the president had broad war making power but our military was a small navy and an even smaller regular army backed by militias--as it was at the time of our founding and for a long time after that--what could the president do with his power?

In that case, Congressional power of the purse was necessary to create the navy and army that the president can use, effectively putting severe limits on the expansive presidential power to use the military.

That explains how the president could use the Navy and Marines against pirates and the French with no declaration of war at all.

And it explains how the Marines could long be viewed as the State Department's army, fighting for us in levels below declared war, especially in Latin America. That history seems to live on with Marines providing the backbone of security for our embassies abroad and those new reaction forces.

Now, of course, with a powerful standing military (with an air force and space force, too) deployed globally, the presidential power to wage war comes into real conflict with the Congressional power of the purse.

No longer is Congressional spending needed to embark on war--it is needed to continue a war that a president can begin with the military already paid for by past legislative action.

Interesting debate. One doubts that Putin is pondering anything similar about his use of force over in the Kremlin.