Obama Repeating Bush's Iraq Folly

Same playbook


U.S. politicians are exploiting the gruesome beheadings of two American journalists to whip up war fever against ISIS, the "criminal gang," masquerading as an organization of devout Sunni Muslims, that controls large parts of Syria and Iraq. The American propaganda campaign seems to be working if recent polls are accurate.

No decent person is anything but appalled by those executions. But are they grounds for the United States to go to war?

No, they are not. Barack Obama says his job is to protect Americans wherever they are, but he doesn't cite the source of this power. No such power is implied in the president's oath of office, which obligates him only to "faithfully execute the Office of President" and to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution."

Article II of the Constitution vests the "executive power" in the president, but that just means he has the power to execute laws passed by the legislative branch. There is no blank-check language about protecting Americans, particularly outside the country.

Section 2 of that article of course says the president is "commander in chief" of the armed forces, but no matter how many times the war party repeats that phrase, it cannot be reasonably interpreted as unilateral power to take the country to war. Article I reserves the power to declare and finance wars to Congress alone.

True, since the end of World War II, presidents have assumed the unilateral power to make war, and most members of Congress have been more than happy to defer. But this does not mean that we who understand the danger of autocracy should acquiesce.

Obama says he can go to war against ISIS anywhere without "authorization" from Congress. (No one in government or the media uses the word declaration.) In his interview on Meet the Press, Obama said,

I'm confident that I have the authorization that I need to protect the American people. And I'm always going to do what's necessary to protect the American people. But I do think it's important for Congress to understand what the plan is, to have buy in, to debate it.

But understanding, buying in (whatever that means), and debating are not the same as authorizing through a declaration of war. Just because most members of Congress would hate to sign off on a years-long, offensive war less than two months before an election, that's no excuse for Obama to exercise autocratic powers.

Note that Obama speaks of protecting the American people. He means Americans both abroad and at home. Americans of course are free to travel anywhere. If the U.S. government is to have the power to protect or avenge them abroad, it will have to be able to exercise military power globally. Such imperial power, which the government has long exercised, should disturb peace- and freedom-loving Americans precisely because it creates the potential for perpetual war, invites retaliatory terrorism, and requires high government spending and borrowing.

It may be taken for granted that a president can go to war when an American is killed overseas, but that kind of power is too dangerous to accept meekly. Americans, especially war correspondents, should be on notice that they travel at their own risk. This may sound callous, but the alternative is a global empire that we cannot afford either in blood or treasure.

What about protecting Americans at home? Here the irony of Obama's position is striking. U.S. intervention in the Middle East is what endangers Americans at home. Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda hit Americans here because for many years the U.S. government had perpetrated and supported violence against Arabs (Palestinians, Iraqis, Egyptians, Lebanese and others) — and it still does.

No Al Qaeda affiliate existed in Iraq before George W. Bush launched his invasion and occupation in 2003. ISIS is an offshoot of al-Qaeda, and its execution of the two journalists was retaliation for recent U.S. bombings in Iraq. No doubt those murders were intended also to goad Obama into sending American forces, which would boost ISIS's recruitment and prestige. Bin Laden did the same thing, bragging he would bleed the United States bankrupt through long years of war. He succeeded.

Hold on tight: Obama is about to replicate Bush's folly.

This article originally appeared at the Future of Freedom Foundation.

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  1. Richman versus Obama on Iraq


    1. You’re stealing my line, but I support it in this case.

      Carry on

  2. Here’s a question: If you found out U.S. defense contractor execs and ISIS leaders were strategizing together, how surprised would you be?

    1. Add in the Democrat party election advisors who hope to get eight good weeks out of this war before the shit, once again, hits the fan.

    2. Most defense contractor execs are retired military. Many were generals. I somehow doubt they would be selling weapons to people who would use them to kill American soldiers.

      1. All those shiny Benzes and Beemers I see driving down the Dulles Toll Road every day say otherwise.

    3. I’d be *very* surprised.

      Yeah, I heard this from my psycho UAW Health and Safety rep this AM. My safety engineer and I have adjusted our tinfoil hats accorinngly.

  3. Obama Repeating Bush’s Folly in Iraq

    1) RACIST!
    2) I blame Bush
    3) RACIST!
    4) Look, over there, a chicken!

  4. They say that the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing but expecting to get different results. And here we are.

    1. Bah! We just do it harder this time. Getting 10,000 American solider killed and occupying them for 16 years will do the trick.

      1. They’ve got the right people in charge now. It will be totally different.

        1. I’m sure shrike will be on the front line with his Stutterin’ Obamamouth Fleshlight.

          1. “It’s totally better than BOOSH because NO BOOTS On THE GROUND!!!!”
            /Shreeky derp

            1. Yes.

              EXACTLY THE SAME! EXACTLY!!!

              Well, except for the $2 trillion and 150,000 troops that is.


              1. Hope.And.Change.

                Not Plus la Change, Plus la Meme.

  5. the “criminal gang,” masquerading as an organization of devout Sunni Muslims, that controls large parts of Syria and Iraq

    Nonsense. ISIS is a genuine expression of orthodox Islam.

    Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi holds a PhD in Islamic Studies. He is much more qualified to determine what is commanded, forbidden, and permitted under sharia law than US Presidents and secular intellectuals.

    I understand that secular intellectuals don’t approve of ISIS. But their insistence on multiculturalism does not empower them to redefine the defining characteristics of other cultures.

    1. It’s more complex than that. ISIS is a genuine expression of Salafism, which rejects everything in Islamic thought that happened after the second generation following Muhammad.

      Salafism goes back a long ways, but it’s always been an extreme position and not widely adopted. Moreover, even with the Salafist school, there are vast disagreements on whether to, and how to, engage the infidels (including non-Salafist Muslims).


    Restart a nice Iraq war, set up the Iraqi New Deal and then carve up Syria to make an Armenian homeland.

  7. carve up Syria to make an Armenian homeland.
    Can we send the Kardashians there?

  8. Obama is moving in 150,000 combat soldiers in Iraq to reshape the Middle East for democracy and Christianity?


    I call bullshit.

    1. He’s citing the same AUMF.

      And by the way, he had 150k soldiers there for most of his first term – until the Iraqi gov told him to leave.

      Hope and Change.

    2. Obama left Iraq in 2009 as promised? Must have done that right after Gitmo was closed.

      Still hopin for the change.

    3. PB how can you show your face here. Your guy is now into his sixth year bombing and killing people with our military and you are still making excuses. You are truly a whore!

  9. Needs moar Jooos.

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