FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

War Powers and the War on Terror

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.

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
John Feffer
‘Get Me Outta Here’: Trump Turns the G20 into the G19
Domenica Ghanem
Is Bush’s Legacy Really Much Different Than Trump’s?
Peter Certo
Let Us Argue Over Dead Presidents
Christopher Brauchli
Concentration Camps From Here to China
ANIS SHIVANI
The Progress of Fascism Over the Last Twenty Years
Steve Klinger
A Requiem for Donald Trump
Al Ronzoni
New Deals, From FDR’s to the Greens’
Gerald Scorse
America’s Rigged Tax Collection System
Louis Proyect
Praying the Gay Away
Rev. Theodore H. Lockhart
A Homily: the Lord Has a Controversy With His People?
David Yearsley
Bush Obsequies
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail