"The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."
- Senator Barack Obama, 2007
- Senator Barack Obama, 2007
It's like groundhog day. Eerily reminiscent of Libya, we are now well past sixty days of combat actions in Syria with our Constitution and law thrown out the window. Airmen are now taking part in combat actions in Syria that are in direct violation of the laws of the United States.
Let's break it down, it's not difficult.
War is one of those things that we call, in technical terms, a "really big deal." As such, our Constitution requires Congress to declare war in Article 1. Our founders realized that war was one of those things that should likely be debated and discussed and then authorized by the representatives of the people prior to being executed. You know, because in those days prior to routine and regular wartime action like those in Brave New World or 1984, war was something that had a ring of importance and gravity to it. Not because early Americans had nuclear weapons, or chemical weapons, or anything like that, but because they had this thing called "principle."
Today, war is just another television show displayed to us over a cable news network and we have become used to it as an entertainment source. But our Constitution, unlike our collective morality, has not changed and as far as that document is concerned, war is still a big deal, killing people and their children is still a big deal. Most importantly sending our children to die over there, as far as our Constitution is concerned, is still a very big deal.
Why is war a big deal? Well, it tends to be very expensive both in terms of taxpayer money and taxpayer blood, and if not well thought out it tends to create even more war and less security, which drives even more taxpayer money and even more taxpayer blood. War can have negative consequences like, for example, losing. But even winning can be disastrous for a nation, as the history of Rome demonstrates. Yes, even a "kick ass" Team America nation can be conquered from within when its bombs are "smarter" than its people and when it is unable to keep from being infiltrated and owned by those who wish for that nation's demise from the inside. Or when infiltrated by those who might not have that exact goal, but who don't mind if it happens so long as their multi-national profits increase. Ding, ding, ding, that's a hint.
Regardless of how a nation might suffer from its foreign policy and its addiction to war, if you are in the war business, it can really add a boost to those profits. Just ask Dick Cheney. Or perhaps two time Medal of Honor winner, General Smedley Butler.
For example, consider Iraq which was once led by a pro-western suit-wearing strong man who could have made the cover of Puppet Regime Dictator magazine for his ability to, more or less, advance stability in the middle east region. He ruled with an iron fist, quelled sectarian violence, and best of all he was secular and was not beloved by jihadists. But in a stroke of pure insanity (or very intelligent corruption), we went to war with a country that posed no threat to the United States despite lies about possible mushroom clouds and later the standard "ooops, my bad" excuse. What did we get for our money and our blood? We got a country filled with jihadists and we created a real threat to the United States that did not exist before.
The same thing happened in Libya. A secular, pro-western dictator was deposed and the country was replaced by religious extremists. This not only shows a pattern that might benefit those profiting from war (or trying to bring down the United States from the inside), but it also shows the importance of debate and discussion and authorization of war in Congress. As an aside, can you remember why we went to war in Libya? Why we needed to? Yeah, nobody else can, either. Meh, war.
Despite personal opinion, I do not care why Americans send me to war as a professional military officer. I'm a stick to be swung in service to my nation, I'm not the hand that swings me. But that hand needs to follow our law. Otherwise, it is not an American hand, and so any American stick should know better than to budge.
Our Constitution requires approval for war from Congress, and does not vest king-like powers to the executive. The American people are to have a voice in where their tax money is spent, and what is done in their name. Americans have in the past been overwhelmingly against action in Syria.
And yet combat operations in Syria are all over the news. One might be tempted to ask how it can be that Americans have not learned their lesson from Iraq or from Libya, or how one tragedy in another nation could make them forget why they were so adamantly against action in Syria. One might even suggest that if American stupidity was an energy source, it would be so sustainable that it would put Elon Musk out of business. But that viewpoint assumes that Americans want military action in Syria now. And they may now want it after media has bombarded them about the latest tragedy in Paris, and after Facebook memes about kicking ass have circulated with all the careful thought of a Toby Keith song. Americans might actually now want combat action in Syria. It's possible they do, but if that's the case, why have their representative in Congress not authorized these actions?
Regardless of what Americans want, after watching the video above of retired four-star general Wesley Clark (who recently advocated for concentration camps in America for Americans who are "disloyal" in their speech, oh my!) one has to wonder if what Americans want is really even a factor anymore among those in the war and government business. I mean, does what Americans want truly even matter as far as their government is concerned? Whatever the answer to that question, the views of the American public should matter.
The Constitution requires a declaration of war, but it also gives Congress the power to make laws necessary and proper for bringing into execution their power to declare war. That's the last power granted to Congress in Article 1. Congress executed that power by passing the War Powers Resolution.
The War Powers Resolution states that in addition to war being authorized if Congress declares war, it can also be authorized if Congress passes an authorization (like the AUMF that authorized actions against Al Qaeda). The War Powers Resolution also says the President can take military action unilaterally, in certain conditions, for up to sixty days. After sixty days the President must cease such actions unless given a Congressional declaration or authorization for war, or he or she can extend it an additional 30 days but only in the extreme case that the U.S. is under attack such that Congress is physically unable to meet.
We are way past sixty days of combat action in Syria. There is no authorization nor declaration for war, and Congress can physically meet. Congress, in fact, does physically meet and even funds actions in Syria despite it not authorizing those actions.
Why do they do this?
Perhaps one should ask previous Senator Hillary Clinton, as just one example, who voted for military actions in Iraq that turned out to be predictably disastrous to American interests and who, during her presidential campaign, apologized for her wrongful vote to authorize that foolish war. She apologized for her vote, but then went on to support and help orchestrate the unconstitutional combat action in Libya after losing her presidential race. It's amazing what gets excused with a simple "oops, my bad." Still, I would imagine she is hardly the only politician who would prefer not to be held responsible for an incredibly damaging decision like authorizing expensive unnecessary combat actions that make America less safe and result in the deaths of America's sons and daughters, even though those actions are profitable to certain industries and their lobbyists which fund political campaigns.
Yet again, those who pickle America's airpower are put in a tough spot because of the lack of character from those above them. Airmen are placed yet again in the position of either having to execute unlawful orders or having to refuse unlawful orders at their own peril.
Given the disease I have witnessed in our officer corps for nearly two decades, and the larger disease within our nation, I do not expect to see any officers honor their oaths by refusing to violate our laws and the will of the American people. They will goosestep right into Syria while singing "America Fuck Yeah" until America is just a footnote in the annals of history.
Our officer corps isn't even close to professional enough to do what it promised before God and taxpayer. And America is, and will continue until its ultimate demise, to pay the price.
It's a sad reality.