SOTU: Obama Requests Authorization for War He Is Already Fighting

The president doesn't make the case for taking out ISIS


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In his State of the Union address, President Obama asked Congress to authorize him to use military force against ISIS terrorists—even though lack of authorization hasn't stopped him yet.

He prefaced this request with remarks about how successful his foreign policy has been so far:

Instead of Americans patrolling the valleys of Afghanistan, we've trained their security forces, who've now taken the lead, and we've honored our troops' sacrifice by supporting that country's first democratic transition. Instead of sending large ground forces overseas, we're partnering with nations from South Asia to North Africa to deny safe haven to terrorists who threaten America. In Iraq and Syria, American leadership?—?including our military power?—?is stopping ISIL's advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group. We're also supporting a moderate opposition in Syria that can help us in this effort, and assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism. This effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will succeed. And tonight, I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL.

What Obama didn't do, however, was explain why Congress should grant him authorization. He did not lay out a vision for defeating ISIS—or at least, not one that's remotely realistic. And he painted an all-too cheery picture of the situation so far. Airstrikes against ISIS in Syria have not deterred the terrorist organization from conquering large swaths of territory. The supposedly moderate Syrian rebels are a disorganized and untrustworthy bunch, and we have to crush ISIS without accidentally empowering dictator Bashar al-Assad.

The president's legal mandate is as confused as his battle strategy. Why should Congress grant him authorization to do the things he is already doing? If Congress weighs intervention, and decides against it, will Obama desist? If authorization is irrelevant to our current bombing campaign and logistical support for rebel fighters, does that mean the president would treat actual authorization as a mandate to up the ante?

Ilya Somin of the Cato Institute and George Mason University—a supporter of military action against ISIS—put it this way:

Like Obama, I believe there is good justification for military action to prevent ISIS from consolidating its control of large parts of the Middle East, and from committing further barbaric atrocities. I therefore hope Congress does pass the AUMF.

But after-the-fact authorization is not enough to cure the president's repeated violation of the constitutional requirement that the initiation of war requires ;advance congressional approval. As then-senator Obama put it in 2007, "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." Sadly, the war against ISIS is not the first time that Obama undermined his own constitutional principles on this score. He previously did it by launching a military intervention in Libya in 2011. As prominent liberal constitutional law scholar Bruce Ackerman points out, Obama's violations of the Constitution in this respect go far beyond anything done by George W. Bush. Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine has also stated that lack of congressional authorization makes the war against ISIS "illegal."

If going to war with ISIS is in the best interests of the U.S., then Obama should make that case to Congress and the American people. Instead, he is content to disregard the Constitution and invite Congress to rubber-stamp his indiscretions—even as he refuses to explain why this next great battle for civilization in the Middle East is any more worthwhile than the last one.

NEXT: Obama's 2015 SOTU: Magical Pain-Free Prosperity For Everyone!

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  1. Derp gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Derp Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.

    A SOTU summary in the form of song:

    1. You are too few to guard against the Derp Walkers. Tony, shreek and Tulpa gather as we speak.

  2. Out of the few in Congress who might have had the stones to oppose such an authorization back in the summer, how many in Congress will actually vote against it now that the war is already a fait accompli and has been going on for months? Wouldn’t that be “admitting defeat,” “not supporting the troops,” or some other nonsense?

    1. Why dont we just let them take over the area? the reason the middle east isnt a threat, has never been a threat, and cant put up resistance to our military through conventional means is because just like all other governments, running a society takes up resources. you have to appease your basic constituents enough to prevent insurrection and to ensure a steady supply of cannon fodder for your war. Islamic nations never represent a real threat just like the NorKs cant because socialism prevents greatness.
      the best way to combat terrorism is to arm the public (to the teeth), sure anyone could be a terrorist, but also anyone could be an armed and willing citizen to take said terrorist out before they can accomplish anything.
      there is no reason for war, unless in the defense of self.

      1. ^ This ^

        Such a good point and no one brings it up, but it happens everywhere in the ME. Remember when Hamas took over Gaza? They had to switch from fighting their Fatah brothers to running a small state. I read an interview where one Hamas politico was actually complaining about how hard it was to arrange trash pick ups in each neighborhood. The horror!

      2. We tried that already. Letting the Taliban run Afghanistan led to thousands of dead Americans. Letting Hamas run the Gaza Strip has lead to on-off war with Israel. We’ve put up with this BS long enough.

  3. Imagine if we had stayed out from the beginning and let Assad win. The place would be peaceful now and Christians and Jews there relatively safe.

    1. Assad would not win and he probably can’t win. Assad largely created ISIS btw.

  4. Reason left out that Iraqi forces are taking back territory and the Kurds are too, and they are taking back Kobane thanks in part to US airstrikes. Such an obviously good idea.

  5. No he isn’t. He is looking for Congress to limit his ability to fight so he can blame them for doing nothing. All you need to do is look at all the President’s statements over the past month and it is crystal clear fight Muslims is the last thing he wants to do. From day one, this administration has been obsessed with convincing the Muslim world they need not worry about the US and how we will react if they choose to kill others.

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