Yemen

So Much for the Anti-War President

As a candidate, Trump promised to end pointless Middle Eastern wars. He just vetoed a resolution to do exactly that.

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As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump promised to put some reasonable limitations on how the United States conducted its post-9/11 wars across the Middle East.

"The legacy of the Obama-Clinton interventions will be weakness, confusion and disarray, a mess," he said in April 2016, during his first major speech about foreign policy. "We've made the Middle East more unstable and chaotic than ever before."

Since taking office, Trump's track record has been decidedly mixed. He launched missiles into Syria. He ordered American troops home from Syria. He then reversed himself and sorta-kinda agreed to keep them there for a while longer.

But on Tuesday night, Trump unambiguously backed Forever War. He vetoed a congressional resolution that would have ended American military involvement in the Yemeni civil war—a conflict that has killed an estimated 50,000 people (scores more have died in a famine triggered by the conflict) without having any significant bearing on U.S. national security.

"This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future," Trump said in a statement. The congressional resolution is unnecessary, Trump says, because "the United States is not engaged in hostilities in or affecting Yemen."

That's being too clever by half. Yes, there are no American troops fighting on the front lines in Yemen, but the Trump administration has been providing logistical support and intelligence to the Saudi-backed coalition that's fighting the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. American-flown planes are being used to refuel Saudi aircraft in mid-air, for example. Trump's own veto statement belies the internal contradiction, with its nod to American "service members" who are very much participants in the bloody, seemingly intractable conflict.

The resolution calling for an end to that military support, sponsored by Rep. Ro Khanna (D–Calif.), says "the activities that the United States is conducting in support of the Saudi-led coalition, including aerial refueling and targeting assistance, fall within" the authority of the War Powers Act of 1973. That law was passed in the closing stages of the Vietnam War, with the intention of preventing a president from getting America into another years-long conflict without congressional authorization (please, hold your laughter).

The resolution cleared both chambers of Congress with bipartisan approval, but not a veto-proof majority in either. (Notably, libertarian-leaning Rep. Justin Amash (R–Mich.) voted "present" on the resolution in the House due to concerns over how it might expand congressional authorization for other Middle Eastern wars.)*

On Tuesday, Amash took to Twitter to explain that the resolution was unnecessary anyway—Trump does not have the authority to commit U.S. forces to the Yemeni civil war in the first place

Still, it's something of an accomplishment, since this is the first time a congressional resolution invoking the War Powers Act has reached the president's desk.

But that won't be enough until America has a president actually willing to rein in America's foreign military excursions—instead of merely promising to do so to get elected.

*CORRECTION: This post has been updated to correct the fact that Amash voted "present" on the resolution, and to add his tweet.*

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  1. I think Rep. Amash is on the right track – it’s not good enough to say the President can start a war and then we see if Congress can find a veto-proof majority against the war.

    Under the Constitution, if the Pres wants a war, he’s supposed to tell Congress, which then decides whether to declare war. Unless there’s what the Founders called a “sudden attack” – and in the nuclear age we know what *that* means – which the Pres is empowered to repel.

    1. Truman claimed the power in 1950.
      Not going to the bookshelves now to give page cites, but IIRC Taft pushed for at least post-facto congressional approval for the commitment of US troops in Korea. Taft (and we) lost.
      “Police action”, something, something, UN, something, something…

    2. Since the Constitution does not define what DoW is, an AUMF might be constitutional sufficient. Congress was notified and agreed to some kind of military intervention.

      I personally, think DoWs should require 2/3 or 3/4 Congressional majority and have an end that is specified. In WWII, the DoW was the unconditional surrender of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany. All Americans had a good idea when WWII could end.

      1. Actually the declarations authorized for the war to a successful termination, the surrender terms were not part of either. Unconditional surrender was only imposed on Imperial Japan as presidential policy.

  2. Next stop – Iran! USA USA!

  3. “the Saudi-backed coalition that’s fighting the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.”

    It’s a proxy war. If our side doesn’t win then the other side does. And we can’t let that happen no matter what the cost.

    1. Sarc? I hope.

      1. It’s not sarcasm when the other side is the Iran-Qatar-Erdogan-Assad coalition.

      2. Hyperbole more than sarc.

    2. PEOPLE WAKE UP HERE: We back the Saudis because they continue to accept US Dollars for their oil & that helps to keep the US Dollar as the world’s reserve currency & that is why Trump wants to continue this! If the world moves away from the fiat dollar we are in Deep Doo Doo!

      It is the same reason HildaBeast & Obummy pushed hard for NATO to murder Qaddafi who was trying to create a Pan-African currency backed by gold & that would’ve screwed up things for the fiat US dollar as well. So, they lied about there being a humanitarian crisis there & a stable nation was destroyed!

      Bush #2, Obummy, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Clinton, Trump, Pompeo, Hagel, Mattis, Panetta, et al. are all WAR CRIMINALS!!!

  4. As civil wars tend to be it is messy and complicated. Other sides have gotten involved which prolongs the whole slaughter.

    Generally one side does not give up until utterly defeated. I do not understand it but civil wars tend to be the hardest to untangle. Perhaps because there are so many factions and no clear leadership.

    What I gather is that it has resulted in a humanitarian crises. The war has destroyed the basics of life, water, food, medicine, there is a cholera outbreak which happens in these situations.

    People can get soldiers dying by fighting. We glorify it even which is terrible but we do. We cannot tolerate what really happens. It is at that point.

    There have been attempts at cease fires and negotiation. We all know in the history of war it often fails.

    So what to do. Von Clausewitz, read something recently, wrote about how a weaker adversary can win against a stronger one by wearing them down. Increasing cost until it is no longer worth it. Something like that, it was about Vietnam.

    It would not cause harm to push the Saudis and other parties to try and negotiate something. There is little downside to that. The US has leverage there. A lot of leverage.

  5. You seriously think that Iran invading Saudi Arabia would not have far reaching consequences to the global economy?

    Because that’s basically what this comes down to. If the rebels win, it means Iran has a beachhead to attack/invade Saudi Arabia.

    1. Why our government is involved is immoral. Beachhead. Talk with the USMC they can do a beachhead in Yemen any time they are ordered to.

    2. Beachhead? Reminds me of another theory with dominos in Vietnam. That did not end well. This will likely end no better.

  6. Wait a second…the War Powers Act is supposed to rein in an unauthorized Presidential war by allowing Congress to adopt a resolution ending the war – which can then be vetoed and rendered meaningless by the very same President who is purportedly being reined in? I think I am on the verge of seeing the flaw in this scheme…

    1. Following the Constitution may not get you to where you are trying to go.

    2. Congress can override the veto. It’s just a higher bar.

    3. @Number 2: No, the War Powers Resolution provided that presidents coukd initiate wars withOUT prior approval but that such conflicts had to get congressional approval within 90 days or they had to end. (Which is why the Grenada and Panamaa invasions were both comparatively short.)

      Doing it that way gets round the veto problem. But there’s a catch. Somebody has to actually enforce those rules.

      There have been various attempts to get the courts to do so but they have repeatedly thrown out any and every attempt, sometimes on legal standing grounds (that is, the right to sue; even soldiers and members of Congress have fall foul of that one) and the political question doctrine. The result is that the president wins by default and the particular war that was challenged continuea.

      The Syrian war was the latest to be challenged in court. It ended in a disgraceful farce when the DC Court of Appeals sat on the case for nine months, just long enough for the appellant to leave the Army, which then gave the judges the excuse they seemed to be searching to dismiss the case.

  7. While Trump’s anti-war record isn’t perfect, it is still better than the
    “Peace Prize” winning Presidents unending wars. Maybe if Trump had been more consistent in starting and continuing wars he would have won a Peace Prize too!

    1. The standards are always lower for Trump.

      He doesn’t have to be held to any objective standard. Only to be barely not as bad as anyone preceding him.

      1. No you’re just stupidly obsessed with crying about him.

        1. Remember how harshly Reason reacted to every time Obama inserted us into a war?

          Yeah, me neither.

          1. Yeah, anyone who read Reason back then does remember that actually

  8. Yes, the executive is going to jealously protect its constitutional authority to conduct foreign policy against legislative intrusion. Giving aid to one side in a war while not being at war has been a thing since Roosevelt’s Lend-Lease program.

  9. Did Trump ever say he was “anti-war” in the naive pacifist sense Reason promotes? Rather than being less inclined to throw US troops into combat situations?

  10. Trump is a warmonger because he didn’t end one of the seven wars started by a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

    1. +100

    2. “But what about him!”

  11. I’m blown away that a student able to earn $5519 in a few weeks on the internet…. So I started—>>

  12. I’m blown away that a student able to earn $5519 in a few weeks on the internet…. So I started—>> http://www.Geosalary.com

  13. So Much for the Anti-War President
    As a candidate, Trump promised to end pointless Middle Eastern wars. He just vetoed a resolution to do exactly that.

    Trump is not “Anti-War” and never said he was. He also didnt immediately withdraw all US troops from battle, which illustrates why he is not “Anti-War”.

    Trump has not started any new conflicts that were not started by Bush and/or Obama.

    Congress is playing a bullshit political game with US military troops and Boehm fell for it…AGAIN. If Congress was serious about ending current combat operations, they would pass a veto-proof bill to end military operations in Niger, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, and Somalia.

    1. That presumes Congress has a veto proof majority in favor of the bill.

      1. You’d think this is something that they could conceivably get enough Congresscritters on board to override the veto, considering the questions regarding the strategic necessity of continuing to support the operation. It’s not unprecedented for a resolution that didn’t have enough votes for veto override initially to accumulate the requisite number later on to do so.

        This is just the kind of issue that the Dems and NeverTrump Republicans should be banging the gavel on, rather than holding out pathetic hope that Mueller or the various state district courts will give them something in the next year and a half to impeach Trump on.

        1. The NeverTrump GOP is the last group who is likely to support a non-interventionist policy. The Dems have a majority but they do not have a likely veto proof majority. Just like the GOP Congress under Obama. This is what happens under gridlock.

          1. ” The Dems have a majority…”

            But they don’t have an anti-war majority.

            Their behavior under Obama showed us that.

            1. That is what I am trying to point out.

              1. Oh I get that, I’m just trying to amplify the point that, if your goal is less war, Trump remains the best option because neither party alone is majority so. And even in combination they are not, which tells you that support for ‘less wars’ is actually quite low in both parties.

                Like it or not Trump is the toughest kid in this chess club.

          2. The NeverTrump GOP is the last group who is likely to support a non-interventionist policy.

            True, but they’re also just as likely to reflexively oppose anything Trump does out of pure TDS. You’d think the Dems would be smart enough to leverage that.

      2. That presumes Congress has a veto proof majority in favor of the bill.

        No it doesn’t. It says it right there. They don’t have a veto-proof majority because they’re playing a bullshit political games.

    2. Agreed. This was a poison pill against Trump, while Congress carefully ignores its own mandate.

  14. “He vetoed a congressional resolution that would have ended American military involvement in the Yemeni civil war—a conflict that has killed an estimated 50,000 people (scores more have died in a famine triggered by the conflict) without having any significant bearing on U.S. national security.”

    Far as I can tell, this is horseshit.

    The significant bearing on U.S. national security is that the Saudis (and their proxies) are fighting Iran’s proxies. If you don’t think Iran presents a “significant” threat to U.S. national security, then you’re being willfully obtuse. They’re a state sponsor of terror with both a WMD program that violates the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and an active space program that has already successfully launched multi-stage rockets into orbit that could be easily converted to use as ICBMs.

    Meanwhile, what is meant when Boehm says “American military involvement”? What does he mean by that? Does he mean that the U.S. taxpayer is paying for Saudi Arabia’s war against Iran? I don’t see any evidence of that being true. There was a time when the U.S. was helping Saudi Arabia by refueling planes, but that ended a long time ago. Is Boehm talking about the U.S. granting Saudi Arabia’s request to purchase hundreds of billions worth of military hardware from American defense suppliers? That doesn’t cost the U.S. taxpayer any money either. What is Boehm talking about when he’s talking about ending “U.S. military involvement”? In what way is the U.S. “involved”?

  15. Is there anything more naive than my fellow libertarians who believe that the clear alternative to neocon foreign invasions is the peace and security that comes from being a non-threat? Is there anything more naive than anyone–libertarian or otherwise–who believes that American security interests can be best secured by pulling our pants down, grabbing our ankles, and showing state sponsors of terror that we present no threat to them?

    Proxy wars are often the alternative to actual U.S involvement, and the one that the Saudis are fighting is especially to our advantage because they’re fighting our enemies–and, far as I can tell, it isn’t costing us a dime. There may be a time when it behooves American security to join or actively support Saudi Arabia’s fight. If and when that happens, it will only be because they’ve failed without our involvement. Anyone who’s rooting against the Saudis out of the hope that the U.S. doesn’t become directly involved is completely missing the point. If you don’t want the U.S. to become involved directly in fighting Iran and its proxies, then you better hope the Saudis are wildly successful.

    1. You’ve got it backward. Saudi Arabia is a far greater threat to American security than Iran.

    2. Talk about “horseshit” and “naivete!” Let’s be real, Abrams – the only person you’re fooling is yourself. To the rest of us, your half-assed rehashing of Hasbara/neocon talking points and the Domino Theory sounds like it comes from a died-in-the-wool warmongering chickenhawk!

      Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s clarify a few things: using the Saudis as a proxy (and more accurately, to prolong petrodollar hegemony) isn’t costing YOU a dime or one drop of blood. Middle Easterners (and God forbid, US soldiers)…not so much. Taxpayer expenses are, of course, likely obfuscated within black budgets, but that’s besides the point when you can print all the money you like via the Fed.

      Moving on, there’s a solid counterargument that OUR government is a state sponsor of terrorism. How many coups and insurrections have we fomented/are fomenting (e.g., Venezuela)? How many puppet regimes have we installed? How many hundreds of thousands of people have we written off as mere “collateral damage?” Now, answer those same questions of Iran. The simple fact is, Iran doesn’t constitute anywhere near the threat to us that we (and Israel & Saudi Arabia) pose to it. Which do you think is more likely – Iran invading the US, or the US invading Iran? That’s what I thought.

      Avoiding quagmires, death and destruction is not “bending over and grabbing your ankles,” if for no other reason than we still have the world’s largest, most far-reaching and most expensive military AND a considerable nuclear deterrent, to boot.

      These never-ending Middle East adventures are bleeding us dry. What roles do you think defense contractors, transnationals and lobbyists like AIPAC play in our Sandbox adventures? If you think Iran constitutes a “significant” national security threat to the US, you’re being willfuly obtuse.

  16. […] in Yemen. “Since taking office, Trump’s track record has been decidedly mixed,” notes Reason‘s Eric […]

  17. I cannot understand the desire to get into a war with Iran, either directly or by proxy. The war with Iraq has been nothing but a quagmire. We won the war but lost the peace. We are mired down in Afghanistan. Adding war with Iran will just make things worse. It is time that we get serious about peace in the middle east and that should start with these proxy wars.

    1. Who is talking about war with Iran? I see only one downside in offering support (not troops or a bombing campaign) in the Yemen war. The downside is the humanitarian crisis. The US should support any and all ceasefire proposals and aid campaigns. However, as long as there is fighting going on, this country has a clear, strategic interest in who wins, or at least in who doesn’t lose.

      1. Blowback should be another concern. Our assessments of what is in our strategic interest is almost always wrong in the long run. Or the benefits are far outweighed by unforeseen consequences. We saw it as in our strategic interest to overthrow Mossadegh and support the Shah in Iran for decades, I think few today would say that we made the right choice, yet at the time I’m sure all involved assumed they were making the right choice.

  18. […] Yemen. “Since taking office, Trump’s track record has been decidedly mixed,” notes Reason‘s Eric […]

  19. I don’t think anyone has a right to criticize Trump over is actions regarding foreign wars. He is the first president in decades who has not actually started any wars.
    Why were the press not giving Obama the same sort of criticism when he destroyed half of the ME.

    1. Because the enlightened one was doing that for their own good. You have to do that kind of thing for people who don’t understand their own best interests.

  20. Why am I not surprised? Oh yeah, because I never fell into the delusion that Trump was anti-war. You really think he would have the support he does among Republicans if he was anti-war? The only time a Republican is against a war is when a Democrat is waging it.

  21. “on Tuesday night, Trump unambiguously backed Forever War.”

    On 4/17/19 Boehm pants shittingly put another nail in the coffin of his credibility.

  22. I wasn’t aware that this resolution was something that the President could veto. That seems like a structural failure of the system. I think it would be a really interesting court case if the Legislature challenged it.

    1. Given that the resolution states “Congress hereby directs the President to..” I’d say it is something that a President could veto.

      1. (Absent Senate passage of the same bill I’m not sure it is something that any President need veto.)

  23. […] war in Yemen. “Since taking office, Trump’s track record has been decidedly mixed,” notes Reason‘s Eric […]

  24. Does Trump not have an (R) after his name? Oh, he does? Then you should know he could rape a thousand babies and burn all of Asia to the ground, and freethinking libertarian peaceniks would defend him.

    1. Like the left did with Obama because of the D after his name?

      1. I thought his foreign policy was relatively restrained.

        1. More so than Obama? Or Johnson (another D, you brought out the letter war)? Are you seriously that delusional?

        2. The guy who said “I don’t need an authorization of force” to send the military into battle in Libya, after years of the Left bitched that even that fig leaf constituted an illegal war?

  25. […] Yemen. “Since taking office, Trump’s track record has been decidedly mixed,” notes Reason‘s Eric […]

  26. Soul crushing, neocons are the #1 enemy

  27. […] troops from all conflict zones,” noted WaPo this morning, reporting on Trump’s veto. At Reason, Eric Boehm wonders how “anti-war” President Donald Trump arrived at a moment when he’s waging war […]

  28. Donald Trump, like many of his predecessors, expressed a disinterest in war, but found that war is interested in him whether he likes it or not.

  29. Iran is an enemy of the United States, and of free people everywhere. Fighting them, via proxy, is just fine with me.

    1. Doc we have talked before. All due respect.

      War by proxy or any other means is the worst possible outcome.

      You and I cannot prevent everything only deal with it. This is a difficult thing on a basic human level.

      I have no real answer. Primum non nocere. Beyond that I do not know much.

      Nice to see you here.

  30. September 2020 sounds like the perfect time for the Trump administration to launch a war against Iran.

  31. […] all conflict zones,” noted WaPo this morning, reporting on Trump’s veto. At Reason, Eric Boehm wonders how “anti-war” President Donald Trump arrived at a moment when he’s […]

  32. […] Source: So Much for the Anti-War President – Reason.com […]

  33. When America put Trump in office many of us were seeking a world where the leadership in Washington would focus on bringing both jobs and money home rather than squandering it on foreign wars. Simply put, Trump did not come across as a warmonger during the presidential campaign.

    David Stockman, who served as a Republican U.S. Representative from the state of Michigan and as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan, contends that President Trump has become a hostage of those occupying the very swamp he promised to drain.

    http://brucewilds.blogspot.com/2018/04/silly-us-we-thought-we-were-voting-for.html

    1. Yes, something is clearly going on here. Even Trump’s response to the bill that is the subject of this article gives the sense that he is getting some information that not even Congress is privy to.

    2. p.s. We saw the same type of change once Obama entered office (and began getting intelligence briefings).

    3. Stockman is a loon, but I wish he were still directing the budget.

  34. This website seems like a random story generator now — there’s no rhyme or reason to the order of the stories, or any indication of when they were posted.

    1. It’s much more difficult now to trot from tree to hydrant to bush, making a deposit here, a deposit there, in an orderly and sensible fashion.

  35. Frankly I’m shocked that President Pantone 159 lied about something. It’s hahrible and a disgrace. To be honest, Crooked Hillary should be locked up now. MAGA.

  36. […] REASON: So Much for the Anti-War President. As a candidate, Trump promised to end pointless Middle … […]

  37. […] and that was both houses of Congress told a sitting president that he couldn’t be at war. He vetoed it, but it’s still historic in the sense that it’s never happened […]

  38. […] and that was both houses of Congress told a sitting president that he couldn’t be at war. He vetoed it, but it’s still historic in the sense that it’s never happened […]

  39. […] and that was both houses of Congress told a sitting president that he couldn’t be at war. He vetoed it, but it’s still historic in the sense that it’s never happened […]

  40. […] and that was both houses of Congress told a sitting president that he couldn’t be at war. He vetoed it, but it’s still historic in the sense that it’s never happened […]

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