Executive Power

War Worries Transcend Trump

Even the president’s buddies understand the threat posed by the unconstrained use of military force.

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Matt Gaetz's campaign website features press quotes describing the Florida Republican as "Trump's best buddy," "Trump's ultimate defender," and "the Trumpiest congressman in Trump's Washington." Gaetz clearly was not driven by hatred of the president when he voted for last week's House resolution against an unauthorized war with Iran.

Although it may be hard to believe in these hyperpartisan times, Gaetz, a self-described "constitutional conservative," was defending a principle he thinks is more important than loyalty to one man or one party. He was standing up for the legislative branch's long-neglected but crucial role in deciding when the country should go to war.

The nonbinding House resolution, a response to the Trump-ordered drone attack that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani as he was leaving the Baghdad International Airport on January 3, "simply seeks to reclaim some of the Article 1 authority that we've ceded to the Executive over the past 20 years," Gaetz's office explained. "It states that only Congress has the authority to declare war, and that Congress has not authorized military force against Iran."

As Rep. Justin Amash (I–Mich.), a former Republican who also supported the resolution, pointed out, "Matt Gaetz hasn't changed his position on war powers. He had the same position when President Obama was in office. It's the constitutionally conservative position."

Gaetz's consistency did not win him any points in the White House. A "senior White House official" told The Washington Post the Trump administration would punish Gaetz's "super uncool" position by cutting off all contact with him.

Gaetz praised the president's "mindful restraint" after Iran responded to Soleimani's death with a nonlethal barrage of missiles aimed at Iraqi military bases where U.S. troops are stationed. But the strike against Soleimani, coupled with the administration's shifting rationales for it, understandably raised concerns that the United States was about to become embroiled in yet another foreign conflict with no clear goal or end.

National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien initially said the operation was covered by the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq (AUMF). Since Soleimani had helped Iran-backed militias kill U.S. troops in Iraq, that suggestion was superficially plausible.

But the 2002 AUMF, which authorized the president to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq" and "enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq," was aimed at a regime that no longer exists. And now the Trump administration was using that seemingly obsolete authorization to kill a senior official of a different country, which the United States surely would view as an act of war if the positions were reversed.

"They have justified the killing of an Iranian general as being something that Congress gave them permission to do in 2002," observed Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.), another Trump ally who shares Gaetz's concern about the erosion of congressional war powers. "That is absurd."

The Trump administration also said killing Soleimani was necessary to prevent an "imminent" attack against the United States that he was planning, which pretty much everyone agrees would fit within the president's war powers. But the administration provided no evidence, even in private briefings of legislators, that such an attack was in the offing, let alone that killing Soleimani prevented it, and Trump reportedly approved the assassination last June, making the claim of an imminent threat hard to swallow.

Last Friday, Trump suggested there was specific intelligence indicating that Soleimani planned to attack four U.S. embassies, a claim contradicted by Defense Secretary Mark Esper. But never mind. "It doesn't really matter," Trump tweeted on Monday, "because of his horrible past!"

Despite lingering questions about the legality and wisdom of killing Soleimani, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) warns that legislators who raise those issues are "empowering the enemy." Yet members of Congress have a constitutional duty to ask those questions, and failing to do so empowers one person to launch wars that affect all of us.

© Copyright 2020 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. “The nonbinding House resolution”

    So, virtue signaling. Great.

  2. “War Worries” =TDS.
    Seek treatment.

    1. Have faith in the Lord and ye shall be blessed.

  3. Photo caption:
    Thought bubble: “C’mon, c’mon, I put that spider in the microwave for a tremendously long time. Let’s go, right at his stupid forehead. Right now….Aaaand shoot!”

    1. Yet another example of why leftists can’t meme.

      1. Their constant sour rage and impotence ruins any potential for humor.

  4. When Trump delays military aid to foreign countries, you accuse him of election interference.

    When Trump chooses to kill a terrorist with drones after years of provocations and military attacks against our ships and aircraft (instead of sending troops into a country and work towards regime change), you accuse him of war mongering.

    The kind of rationalizations you people come up with for Orange Man Bad are just astounding.

  5. Why can’t the congress just give all war powers to our god-king Trump so that he can use his infinite wisdom to make war whenever he feels like without constraints?

    1. He’s not a god-king! He is to addressed as Our Lord and Savior.

    2. Or he could just operate within the bounds of the authorizations Congress gave him?

      Which he did with killing Soleimani. So your hyperbole is both misplaced and stupid.

    3. Why can’t the congress just give all war powers to our god-king Trump

      Probably because Trump doesn’t want them. He is the least interventionist president since Carter.

      The only people talking war are the DNC and their media propagandists, like Sullum. And of course their just doing it as scare tactics.

  6. Gaetz deserves every bit of criticism for his blasphemy after all the shit he said about Georgia Governor Brian Kemp appointing Kelly Loeffler to fill Johnny Isakson’s seat over Doug Collins.

  7. So many issues transcend Trump. The voters understand that. Journalists are the only people that don’t understand that, because they’re all useless hacks.

  8. No matter what President Trump claimed, his actions were constitutionally justified by the authorization Congress gave to previous presidents to invade and occupy Iraq. He was acting by way of his powers as Commander-in-chief on the basis of an authorization he already had. If Soleimani didn’t want to be targeted by the Commander-in-chief, then he shouldn’t have made war against American soldiers in a war zone, within which the Commander-in-chief has been authorized to act by Congress.

    If Trump’s action on Soleimani is vulnerable to criticism, it’s on the basis of whether it was in the best interests of the United States. There are millions of things the president can do that are both perfectly constitutional and not in the best interests of the United States. Claiming to be putting “America first” makes Trump especially vulnerable to such criticism. We can talk about why what he did wasn’t in the best interests of the USA just like we can talk about why the Green New Deal and Medicare for All are not in the best interests of the United States.

    Pretending that everything the president does that we don’t like is unconstitutional is a great way to wear the argument out. Beware the story of the boy who cried wolf. Save the constitutional arguments for when the president does something unconstitutional, and remember that reality has a decidedly libertarian capitalism bias.

    It is generally true that when we find the legitimate solutions to our problems, they tend to be libertarian and capitalist. Focus on what’s really in the best interests of the United States, and not only will you find yourself advocating libertarian capitalism almost all the time, you’ll also find legitimate criticisms of Donald Trump.

    1. No matter what President Trump claimed, his actions were constitutionally justified by the authorization Congress gave to previous presidents to invade and occupy Iraq.

      Mike Lee and Rand Paul disagree.

      1. “Lee said it is “not acceptable” for officials from the executive branch — whether it be Defense Department, the CIA or the White House — to tell the Senate that they can’t “debate and discuss the appropriateness of military intervention against Iran.”

        “It’s un-American, it’s unconstitutional, and it’s wrong,” he added.”

        That piece you linked reads as if they were upset about what senior White House officials said–rather than that the strike itself was unconstitutional.

        Additionally, someone might argue that the reason Lee and company are proposing this resolution is to limit Trump’s actions against Iran (even within Iraq?) specifically because what Trump did was constitutional without a congressional resolution prohibiting it.

        Imagine Congress had explicitly declared war against the government of Vietnam. Nixon still would not have been authorized to attack targets along the Ho Chi Minh trail when they were in Cambodia or Laos, but if the Cambodian military or Laotian military had ventured into Vietnam, in that scenario, and attacked U.S. troops, Nixon would have been authorized to order strikes against those Cambodian or Laotian military units when they were within the borders of Vietnam. Whether President Nixon should have expanded the war to include other countries is a question that can only be answered within the scope of U.S. interests, but there wouldn’t have been any question about whether President Nixon was allowed to exercise his powers as Commander-in-chief within the boundaries of a country in which he was authorized by Congress to wage war.

        Again, President Trump is authorized to conduct war in Iraq, and if foreign countries don’t want to make themselves targets of the U.S. military within Iraq, they would be well advised not to venture within the borders of Iraq and attack the U.S. military–which is exactly what Soleimani did.

        Don’t let your desire to avoid war with Iran make you stretch the unconstitutional argument so far that the Commander-in-chief no longer has the authority, in your world, to order strikes against those who are waging war against the United States in a war zone that has been authorized by Congress. Not only does stretching that argument so far hurt the unconstitutional argument generally (when we might need to use it in the future to oppose a war that is legitimately unconstitutional), it’s also unnecessary. You can disqualify the argument for war with Iran on the basis that it isn’t in the best interests of the United States–on a perfectly legitimate basis.

      2. Neither actually cite or present a legal argument there. On fact they resort to a vague purpose of the bill and not the actual words of the bill. Laws are as written, not as what a signer desires them to be.

  9. Paul said it is egregious that the administration is using a 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Saddam Hussein after 9/11 to justify attacks on Iran in 2019. “That is absurd. That’s an insult,” he said. Both senators said they would support some form of war powers resolution limiting the president’s ability to take action without congressional approval.

    1. You may be shocked to learn this… paul is wrong sometimes. He is more angry that Congress writes shitty bills which is why he discusses the purpose of the AUMF and not the language.

      1. He wants our troops to be authorized to defend themselves in a war zone. but not when they’re attacked by people from certain countries in that war zone?

        It is necessary for someone to make those kinds of judgement calls, but the person who gets to make them isn’t in the Senate. That’s the role of the Commander-in-chief, and if Paul wants to make those judgement calls, then he needs to run for President of the United States and win.

        “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States”

        —-U.S. Constitution, Article II

        Congress has the power to declare war.

        They do not have the power to make war, which is part of the President’s powers as Commander-in-chief.

        If Ron Paul or Leo Kovalensky II or Ken Shultz or JesseAz or Jacob Sullum don’t like the way the president makes war, there’s an election for president every four years, and we can vote against the current president on that basis. There’s your constitutional limit on the president’s power to hit Soleimani within an authorized war: If the voters don’t like what the President did, they can run for the office themselves, vote for someone else, and/or persuade their fellow Americans to do likewise.

        There is no good reason to pretend constitutional behavior is unconstitutional, certainly not just because we don’t like it. Just because I don’t like Butternut squash is no reason to pretend it’s communist.

        1. He wants authorization from Congress for the President to expand a war to a government official of a country that we’re not at war with.

          And get out of here with that election crap. “Elections have consequences” is a fine way of saying that because someone if elected they can do whatever they want. Congress was supposed to authorize war for a reason and you know it.

          Congress has the power to declare war. They do not have the power to make war, which is part of the President’s powers as Commander-in-chief.

          Oh that’s rich. By that logic, Trump could bomb Iran or even China single-handedly? Sure, just notify Congress in 48 hours, right? Just as the founders intended it!

          The President has the authority to execute a war that has been declared by Congress. The President most certainly doesn’t have the power to “make war.”

          What a fine view of limited government you’re pushing here Ken… all in the name of defending Trump?

          1. You have very low reading comprehension.

          2. None of these objections make sense, and, no, this isn’t in the name of defending Trump. In case you haven’t been paying attention (you obviously haven’t grokked anything I’ve written in this thread), this is all in the name of criticizing Trump.

            I opposed Trump’s strike on Soleimani on the basis that it was not in the best interests of the Untied States to risk a war with Hezbollah and Iran, and the bullshit constitutional argument is detracting from that argument significantly.

            Ever see Shikha Dalmia make an open borders argument that’s so bad and nonsensical that it actually hurts the argument for open borders? Ever see Boehm make a pro-trade argument that’s so bad, it actually hurts the argument for international trade?

            That’s what’s happening here. Your argument against this strike is so bad, using it in a case in which the argument against the constitutionality of the action doesn’t even apply, that you’re probably hurting the willingness of persuadable people to consider the constitutionality argument when it’s used legitimately in the future.

            Meanwhile, the constitutionality argument is unnecessary. The argument against risking a war with Iran because doing so isn’t in the best interests of the United States is legitimate, persuasive, and something you already believe. Why not go with that argument instead? Why hurt the argument against risking war with Iran by covering it neck deep in a bullshit argument about its constitutionality?

            1. All of these arguments are valid, including the lack of Constitutionality. Rand Paul knows that. Mike Lee knows that.

              If we don’t defend every incursion on the Constitution on those grounds, then how can we ever expect to scale back Presidential power?

              Let me ask you this…. Was Obama’s excursion into Libya constitutional?

            2. If you’re saying that the President is Constitutionally authorized to unilaterally strike a member of a government we’re not at war with, then we probably don’t have much common ground to debate on here.

              1. Congress passed the AUMF that includes going after countries that meddle, so 100% legit.

                1. +100

                  Leo gets butthurt when Trump puts America first and it makes President Trump more popular.

              2. If you’re saying that the President is Constitutionally authorized to unilaterally strike a member of a government we’re not at war with

                Was he on an official diplomatic mission with the Iraqi government? No. Was he meeting with Iraqi government officials? No. Was he meeting with members of Iranian organizations covertly? Yes. Had he engaged in hostile activities against the U.S. in the past? Yes. Was he the head of an officially designated terrorist group (Qods Force)? Yes. Then he wasn’t an Iranian government official when he was on that visit…he was a terrorist, and the President had fully authority via the AUMFs of both 2001 and 2002 to take him out.

                Something you may be unaware of is that a large proportion of the terrorists we kill in Iraq are not Iraqi citizens. They’re citizens of foreign countries (and sometimes militaries) that travel to Iraq to wage war on us. When they’re in Iraq, they’re legally considered legitimate targets under the AUMF whether we’re at war with their respective countries or not, unless they are on official diplomatic or governmental business, which Soleimani was not.

                Your argument is ignoring all of this because you want to go with a simplistic ideological argument about war with Iran that has no bearing on the situation. As a result, you’re wrong.

                1. Exactly.

                  As a I wrote above:

                  “President Trump is authorized to conduct war in Iraq, and if foreign countries don’t want to make themselves targets of the U.S. military within Iraq, they would be well advised not to venture within the borders of Iraq and attack the U.S. military–which is exactly what Soleimani did.”

                  Soleimani buried hundreds of American heroes in Arlington by killing them in Iraq, and he was in Iraq at the time he was hit. He was a legitimate target who had recently ordered an attack on Americans that killed an American contractor in Iraq.

                  The question isn’t whether what Trump did was acceptable. The question is whether what Trump did was smart.

                  1. ” The question is whether what Trump did was smart”

                    Agreed.
                    And your question has been answered in the affirmative

              3. then we probably don’t have much common ground to debate on here.

                When you ignore the relevant facts that don’t fit your ideological argument, you’re not debating with anyone. You’re preaching at them, dishonestly.

          3. “If Trump’s action on Soleimani is vulnerable to criticism, it’s on the basis of whether it was in the best interests of the United States. There are millions of things the president can do that are both perfectly constitutional and not in the best interests of the United States. Claiming to be putting “America first” makes Trump especially vulnerable to such criticism. We can talk about why what he did wasn’t in the best interests of the USA just like we can talk about why the Green New Deal and Medicare for All are not in the best interests of the United States.”

            —-Ken Shultz

            If you read that statement and still came away with the assumption that I’m writing all of this to defend Donald Trump, then you may have Trump Derangement Syndrome, by which I mean, you may not be able to see issues objectively when Trump is in the picture, and you may imagine that every issue is pro-Trump or anti-Trump.

            This is why I made reference to Nixon to demonstrate the same principle.

            If Congress authorized Trump to invade and occupy Syria like we did in Iraq, doing so would still not be in the best interests of the United States.

            Congress constitutionally authorized Bush Jr. to invade and occupy Iraq, but doing so was not in the best interests of the United States.

            If Bill Clinton had been authorized by Congress to invade and occupy Rwanda, doing so would still not have been in the best interests of the United States.

            The powers the president exercised in the Soleimani strike were within the scope of his powers as Commander-in-chief regardless of whom is president, and the legitimate criticism is whether what we did by risking war with Hezbollah and Iran was in the best interests of the United States regardless of whom is president.

            If you can’t think of any reasons why going to war with Hezbollah with little hope of victory or any kind of upside is undesirable for the United States, then think harder.

            1. Ken, the USA is already at war with Hezbollah.

              I tried to find a citation of one of the many times Iran has declared war with the USA and its been #MemoryHoled

              1. They declare war on the U.S. five times a day.

                They’ve actively avoided hitting American targets since elements of what eventually coalesced into Hezbollah hit our Marine barracks back in 1983. If we targeted Hezbollah directly ourselves, that would change. We don’t want that to change.

                There is no upside to going to war with Hezbollah. No way of winning short of nuclear attacks, and nothing to gain by winning. That isn’t just my estimate. Israel has repeatedly invaded southern Lebanon in pursuit of Hezbollah, and has repeatedly withdrawn because that wasn’t in their best interests either–and they’re the one Hezbollah rains rockets down on on a regular basis. If it isn’t in the best interests of Israel to go to war with Hezbollah, despite them being the victims of Hezbollah’s direct attacks, why would it be in our best interests to go to war with Hezbollah, when they’ve actively avoided targeting Americans specifically for more than 35 years?

                Fighting a war against Hezbollah and Iran would make Iraq look like a walk in the park, and there would be even less to gain from winning.

                1. What do you think Hezbollah’s capacity to wage war on the US is right now?
                  A third of their fighters have died in Syria, where they’re still bogged down.
                  They can’t pull people away from Israel.
                  War with Hezbollah is an irrational fear right now.

                  As far as not targeting Americans, they did have some involvement with the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing and they do provide training and weapons to other hezbollahs, including Kataib.

      2. paul is wrong sometimes

        Sure. I won’t dispute that. Trump is wrong sometimes too.

        In a battle of Rand Paul or JesseAz and Ken Shultz to define the boundaries of what a Republican president can do, I’ll probably listen to Rand Paul more 99% of the time.

        Rand has shown some principles in his career, aside from just defending whatever Trump does.

        1. Leo tries to do what Lefties do, twist words on paper and say they means something else.

          The AUMF is there for all of to read. I think its hilarious that Congress still wont repeal the AUMF.

          Nobody is buying what you’re selling.

    2. Paul said it is egregious that the administration is using a 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Saddam Hussein after 9/11 to justify attacks on Iran in 2019.

      It’s revealing we didn’t hear this in 2015. Apparently the shelf life of an AUMF is exactly 14 years.

      http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-usa-idUSKBN0OP1YD20150610

  10. And now the Trump administration was using that seemingly obsolete authorization to kill a senior official of a different country, which the United States surely would view as an act of war if the positions were reversed.

    Really? We’re all supposed to pretend killing one official is an act of war but killing 400 soldiers is not. Reason is pretty self-serving in its concern these days.

    Our military is in Iraq because of the AUMF. But the President has the authority and responsibility to defend America, including our servicemen, at every time and place. If the AUMF is rescinded it would only mean we bring the troops home. If Iran attacks them as they are leaving the President would be right to respond with lethal action. The implication we wouldn’t be allowed to is absurd.
    Reason is so caught up in its posturing they can’t understand the most basic issues regarding force defense.

    1. Reason refuses to acknowledge the proxy wars in iraq or the fact of where Soleimani was killed.

      1. Yes. He was there in violation of Iraqi sovereignty waging war against both the Iraqi government and American forces in Iraq.

        Reason acts like he was vacationing in the Swiss Alps or something. Their position on this is grotesquely dishonest.

        1. Its why they are unreason now.

  11. “was aimed at a regime that no longer exists. And now the Trump administration was using that seemingly obsolete authorization to kill a senior official of a different country, ”

    Under what premise was Obama operating then when he was whacking terrorists?

    1. Same as when he was erasing citizens!!

  12. The President’s war powers includes taking actions like this to defend US persons and interests. Congress has the power to declare war. But not all uses of military force amount to a declaration of war.

    Reason has latched onto this idea that any use of military force short of people firing back when attacked requires a declaration or war or authorization by Congress. That is not and never has been what the Constitution means. No court has ever held that it means that, no Congress has ever claimed that it means that, and certainly no President has ever thought it meant that.

    What is annoying about this argument is that it is so wrong and contrary to the intent of the document and the history of how the document has been interpreted that it discredits the entire case for Congress needing to be more assertive with its war powers.

    It is very true that Presidents have engaged in military actions that should have been approved by Congress. Clinton should have gone to Congress before he went to war with Serbia. Obama should have gone to Congress before he went to war with Libya. Those were egregious violations of the Constitution. Drone striking an Iranian general who was waging war against US forces lawfully in Iraq in response to his attacking the US embassy is not. And there is no rational case it is. By pretending it is, reason just discredits the entire argument. Why listen to people who demand Congressional approval for things like Libya or Serbia when they demand Congressional approval for everything?

    1. It’s just their TDS surfacing. They’ll make any disingenuous argument possible to take shots at him because that’s what their bosses and peers want…and they’re good little shills for that paycheck.

  13. But the administration provided no evidence, even in private briefings of legislators, that such an attack was in the offing

    It’s a war zone, not a court of law. The President isn’t required to adjudicate each and every killing of a terrorist in an active war zone where military action is authorized. He’s not required to make an evidential case before killing each and every terrorist. He’s not required to notify Congress before he does so either.

    It’s a judgment call that he gets to make as Commander-in-Chief in places where military action has been authorized by Congress, Soleimani was the head of an officially designated terrorist organization, so killing him was 100% legal. All your quibbling about “but we don’t *really* know if an attack was imminent” is just Monday morning quarterbacking by people who hate the President and don’t want to give him credit for what was, objectively, a good kill on a prolific terrorist.

    1. That makes perfect sense — if you think America rules the world.

  14. This is the US DoW against Japan:
    JOINT RESOLUTION Declaring that a state of war exists between the Imperial Government of Japan and the Government and the people of the United States and making provisions to prosecute the same.

    Whereas the Imperial Government of Japan has committed unprovoked acts of war against the Government and the people of the United States of America:
    Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the state of war between the United States and the Imperial Government of Japan which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and the President is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Imperial Government of Japan; and, to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States

    Notice how it does not prevent the USA from attacking anyone helping Japan or invading any territory that will further the DoW.

    Congress be careful of Declarations of War because the greatest President in US History, Donald Trump, might just execute on that war power.

    1. I would also post the German DoW but Lefties dont need that many nuggies in one day.

  15. Judging by its enduring lack of attention to American imperialism and militarism, Reason has few war worries.

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