War Powers and the War on Terror

by Sen. Russell Feingold

President Bush used strong rhetoric in his State of the Union address last month to describe our fight against terrorism. But to back that rhetoric with constitutional might, the president must also honor the terms of the War Powers Resolution, which requires the president to do more than outline his global military objectives with tough-talking generalities.

In his State of the Union speech, Mr. Bush raised the ante against Iran, Iraq and North Korea. Some in the Bush administration have suggested that the military campaign may also one day expand to Somalia, or that we may need to move beyond military training in the Philippines. Given the global reach of the terrorism threat, our armed forces may indeed need to broaden their theater of operations. But under our Constitution and the War Powers Resolution, the president and Congress must first agree on any such expanded military engagements.

The president has already shown respect for the War Powers Resolution by asking for the consent of Congress before ordering U.S. military troops into Afghanistan, a constitutionally mandated step that his most recent predecessors ignored. The Joint Resolution adopted by Congress and signed into law by the president last year provides the president with statutory authorization to use all necessary and appropriate force against those responsible for the September 11 atrocities. This includes authority to prevent future attacks by responding with force against any nations, organizations or persons responsible for planning, authorizing, aiding or harboring the terrorists who were responsible.

But to preserve our constitutional framework and the popular resolve that has lent so much to our success to date, the president should acknowledge that the authorization does not give him a blank check. As laudable as it might be for the U.S. to root out all bad actors around the globe, such action is outside the scope of the use-of-force resolution that Congress passed, and beyond our financial means.

The War Powers Resolution recognizes the shared constitutional responsibilities of both the president and the Congress to make critical decisions concerning our military commitments. The Resolution calls for more than a one-time authorization from Congress. By recognizing Congress as custodian of the authority to send our troops into battle, the War Powers Resolution demands regular _ and meaningful _ consultations between the two branches of government to sustain or expand our military engagements.

In dividing war powers authority, the Framers of our Constitution recognized that national unity of purpose would be essential to any war effort, and that our national unity could be strengthened by dispersing authority between the two democratic branches of government. The separation of powers in this area forces us to develop a broad national consensus before placing Americans in harm’s way.

And the effectiveness to date of our military campaign in Afghanistan demonstrates that our nation and our military operate at the zenith of moral, political and military might when they act under constitutional authority and with a defined democratic mandate.

So to honor the War Powers Resolution, the president owes Congress a candid discussion about our long-term plans in the Philippines, and a more detailed explanation of his rationale for focusing America’s attention so pointedly on Iran, Iraq and North Korea in his State of the Union address.

Such dialogue and cooperation preserve our constitutional structure, and increase the moral authority of the president to act forcefully.

Given the unprecedented nature of the threat confronting us, we must ensure our most powerful and constitutionally unified response to the new threats confronting us at home and abroad.

Russell Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, is a member of the United States Senate.

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees.

Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
Philippe Marlière
Class Struggle at Air France
Binoy Kampmark
Waiting in Vain for Moderation: Syria, Russia and Washington’s Problem
Paul Edwards
Empire of Disaster
Margaret Knapke
These Salvadoran Women Went to Prison for Suffering Miscarriages
Cesar Chelala
The Perverse Rise of Killer Robots
Halyna Mokrushyna
On Ukraine’s ‘Incorrect’ Past
Walter Brasch
Mass Murders are Good for Business
William Hadfield
Sophistry Rising: the Refugee Debate in Germany
Christopher Brauchli
Why the NRA Profits From Mass Shootings
Pete Dolack
There is Still Time to Defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Andre Vltchek
Stop Millions of Western Immigrants!
Dave Lindorff
America’s Latest War Crime
Ann Garrison
Sankarist Spirit Resurges in Burkina Faso
Cesar Chelala
The Perverse Rise of Killer Robots
Franklin Lamb
Official Investigation Needed After Afghan Hospital Bombing
Linn Washington Jr.
Wrongs In Wine-Land
Charles R. Larson
Prelude to the Spanish Civil War: Eduard Mendoza’s “An Englishman in Madrid”
October 08, 2015
Michael Horton
Why is the US Aiding and Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Genocidal War in Yemen?
Ben Debney
Guns, Trump and Mental Illness
Pepe Escobar
The NATO-Russia Face Off in Syria
Yoav Litvin
Israeli Occupation for Dummies
Lawrence Davidson
Deep Poverty in America: the On-Going Tradition of Not Caring
Thomas Knapp
War Party’s New Line: Vladimir Putin is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
Brandon Jordan
Sowing the Seeds of War in Uruguay
Binoy Kampmark
Imperilled by Unfree Trade: the TPP on Environment and Labor
John McMurtry
The Canadian Elections: Cover-Up and Steal (Again)
Anthony Papa
Coming Home: an Open Letter to 6,000 Soon-to-be-Released Drug War Prisoners From an Ex-Con
Ramzy Baroud
Listen to Syrians: The Media Jackals and the People’s Narrative
Norman Pollack
Heart of Darkness: A Two-Way Street
Gilbert Mercier
Will Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite Militias Defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq?
John Stanton
Vietnam 2.0 and California Dreamin’ in Ukraine
William John Cox
The Pornography of Hatred
October 07, 2015
Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Witness to a Troubled Saint-Making: Junipero Serra and the Theology of Failure
Luciana Bohne
The Double-Speak of American Civilian Humanitarianism
Joyce Nelson
TPP: Big Pharma’s Big Deal
Jonathan Cook
Israel Lights the Touchpaper at Al-Aqsa Again
Joseph Natoli
The Wreckage in Sight We Fail To See
Piero Gleijeses
Cuba’s Jorge Risquet: the Brother I Never Had
Andrew Stewart
Do #BlackLivesMatter to Dunkin’ Donuts?
Rajesh Makwana
#GlobalGoals? The Truth About Poverty and How to Address It
Joan Berezin
Elections 2016: A New Opening or Business as Usual?
Dave Randle
The Man Who Sold Motown to the World
Adam Bartley
“Shameless”: Hillary Clinton, Human Rights and China
Binoy Kampmark
The Killings in Oregon: Business as Usual
Harvey Wasserman
Why Bernie and Hillary Must Address America’s Dying Nuke Reactors