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Senators Respond to Trump's Unauthorized Military Strike on Syria by Trying to Give Him Even More War Powers

This new proposed bipartisan authorization seems more like a blank check for war.

Syria war protestersMichael Candelori/ZUMA Press/NewscomNo, President Donald Trump didn't have authorization to order a military strike on Syria. No, Congress will not hold him accountable for bombing Syria anyway. Not only has Congress largely abandoned its duty to grant or deny the president permission to wage war, but a bipartisan bill was introduced this week that would pretty much let him engage in war as he pleases.

Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and former vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine (D-Va.) teamed up to introduce a new Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). Both Trump and former President Barack Obama have been criticized for using the AUMF signed after 9/11, which was theoretically supposed to authorize the fight with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, to justify all sorts of military interventions in the Middle East. The Obama and the Trump administrations have argued that the 2001 AUMF covers everything from military actions in Libya and Syria to drone strikes in Yemen and Somalia.

Corker and Kaine's AUMF is supposed to address this imbalance between what the 2001 bill actually authorized and how it has been used. Unfortunately, their "authorization" is virtually a blank check. It gives the president permission to keep on doing what he's doing, it expands the number of terrorist groups the White House may use the military against, and it allows the president to add both new "associated" terrorist groups to the AUMF and even entire new countries where anti-terror operations will happen, beyond Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen.

In other words, it resolves the problem of unauthorized military actions by retroactively authorizing them and future strikes as well. It does not have any sunset clause, instead requiring the president to submit a report every four years with a proposal to repeal, modify, or leave the AUMF in place. There will be congressional review for the addition of new countries, and lawmakers can remove authorization to strike in new countries should they choose to do so. But otherwise this is, in practical terms, permission to send the military wherever the president pleases. (Among this new AUMF's co-sponsors, by the way, is outgoing Arizona GOP senator and Trump critic Sen. Jeff Flake.)

Gene Healy and John Glaser of the Cato Institute are not happy with this bill. They wrote a commentary for The New York Times arguing that the AUMF should instead be repealed and not replaced at all:

As we have painfully learned, war often spawns new threats. The Islamic State had its origins in the Sunni insurgency that rose to fight American forces in Iraq. As early as 2006, the National Intelligence Estimate on Trends in Global Terrorism found that the Iraq war had "become the 'cause celebre' for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement." In the seven countries that the United States either invaded or bombed since Sept. 11, the number of individual terrorist attacks rose by an astonishing 1,900 percent from 2001 to 2015. If anything, open-ended war in the Middle East has made us less safe, not more.

Presidential war undermines fundamental values of our representative democracy. "In no part of the constitution," James Madison wrote in 1793, "is more wisdom to be found than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department"—were it otherwise, "the trust and the temptation would be too great for any one man."

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) warned on Fox News that this new AUMF will expand the president's power. This morning Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) tweeted that he doesn't support the new plan either:

The White House, meanwhile, thinks it already has all the authority it needs to wage war how it chooses. It has not yet taken a formal stance one way or the other on the new AUMF.

Photo Credit: Michael Candelori/ZUMA Press/Newscom

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  • Eidde||

    "Senators Respond to Trump's Unauthorized Military Strike on Syria by Trying to Give Him Even More War Powers"

    It's a Snap!.

    (Too loud for work)

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Posted a different version of this I see.

  • Eidde||

    The cover version had too many half-nekkid women.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    Just a few more commonsense tweaks to the unitary powers of the prez are needed. Turns out that spending $750T +/- on guns isn't as easy as you'd think. I mean, they can't just outright prop up the price of GBU-43/Bs like they do with milk and butter, amiright? That would be outrageous.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    It appears the Axis of Evil's got nothing on the good ole USA.

    Go ahead, Mr President, kill whomever you like, whenever you like, for as long as you like. Great plan!

    Bottom line, until the average man on the street gives a shit, the government has set itself up for perpetual war. The draft, while an abomination to liberty, had some ancillary benefits.

  • Eidde||

    But look at the wars which got fought with a draft.

    Yes, there's WWII, the Good War, but there's also WWI, the War to End War. When Hollywood was looking for a historical villain from WWI (in Wonder Woman), the best it could come up with was Ludendorff.

    (The Young Turks would have made great villains, but I don't know if Hollywood has the balls)

  • Cynical Asshole||

    When Hollywood was looking for a historical villain from WWI (in Wonder Woman), the best it could come up with was Ludendorff.

    That's because all anyone remembers about the Kaiser is that people used to wear onions on their belts, which was the style at the time, and the only thing you could get was those big yellow ones on account of the Kaiser.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Young Turks wouldn't be recorded by Rod Steward for a good half a century after the war.

  • Rev. Arthur Ꮮ. Kirkland||

    Well, isn't that because by modern standards, the US was on the side of the bad guys in WWI, but we couldn't have Steve Trevor be on the side of the bad guys?

    [Austria-Hungary/the United States], victimized by a terrorist attack, issued demands to the state that harbored the terrorists, [Serbia/Afghanistan]. [Serbia/Afghanistan] refused to comply, and [Austria-Hungary/the United States] responded by going to war against the harboring state.

    In response to this justified action, a Russian autocrat mobilized his forces against the country victimized by terrorism. The ally of the victimized state mobilized in response, and requested a guarantee that its neighbor wouldn't attack while it was busy assisting its ally against a Russian autocrat seeking to protect terrorists. The neighbor instead took the aggressive action of mobilizing its military. Then a huge racist empire joined in on the attacks on the victim of terrorism and its ally. Finally, the US President, who previously re-segregated the Federal Civil Service and who invaded Mexico over a mere misunderstanding in which no one was hurt, blatantly aligned the US with the racist empire in violation of the international standards of conduct for neutrals, over the objections of his progressive Secretary of State.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "It does not have any sunset clause, instead requiring the president to submit a report every four years with a proposal to repeal, modify, or leave the AUMF in place."

    If the new AUMF simply replaced the old one and added a sunset clause, I'd probably support it for that reason alone.

    Like I keep saying, the test of a real constitutionalist is someone who insists on maintaining the integrity of the Constitution--even when it leads congress to exercise its enumerated powers in ways they oppose.

    Certainly, just because giving the president a blank check to wage war is a bad thing, that doesn't mean it isn't a good thing if he's getting a congressional authorization.

    I suppose if there's a silver lining in this, it's that Trump has proven to be quite the pragmatist. If we had a neocon in the White House and she were given a blank check to wage war, she'd enthusiastically send ground troops in to occupy Syria rather than collaborate with Putin.

    If we have a congress that will authorize the president to do anything he or she wants, it would behoove us to vote for a president who does not want to invade, occupy, and rebuild Syria.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I like that you said neo-con and said "she". Nice.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Scott, the Constitution specifically enumerates the power to declare war to Congress. If Congress is giving war powers to the president, isn't that exactly what is supposed to happen?

    I am a stickler, so I want all military action to be in the form of a declaration of war which would include a specific end point of the war. This has not been done since WWII, so at least we get a AUMF.

    If you want to argue that only a DOW allows Trump to bomb Syria- fine, I'm with you.

    If you want to argue that any attack in Syria is unauthorized at any time- I am not with you.

    If you want to argue that attacks in Syria are violations of NAP- fine, I'm with you.

  • Curt||

    I don't think he's arguing against Congress's ability to write a AUMF. He's pointing out that this proposed version is awful and blank check to let president do whatever he wants.

    Seems to be pretty clear to me.

  • ||

    Before sarcastically observing that anti-war protesters are back in vogue, note that these folks did protest during the Obama administration, too.

    So, I don't have to hesitate when sarcastically noting that I couldn't stand it when these folks kept getting violent and shutting down Clinton rallies then.

    *files renewal to authorize militant use of sarcasm*

  • BYODB||

    Of course, they were protesting that Obama wasn't using enough hellfire missiles but that's really beside the point...

    /sarc

    From watching the news, one would not know there were 'war protestors' from circa 2009 up until the Trumpocalyse. Even the nightly troop deaths disappeared from the news once the chosen one took office. No more soldiers died, ever, after Obama was President according to the nightly news.

  • silver.||

    It was that Nobel Peace Prize. The Messiah oozes pacifism. He's a hypnotist that puts everyone in a perfectly peaceful state, like the reavers from Serenity.

  • Curt||

    "It gives the president permission to keep on doing what he's doing, it expands the number of terrorist groups the White House may use the military against, and it allows the president to add both new "associated" terrorist groups to the AUMF and even entire new countries where anti-terror operations will happen, beyond Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen."

    At that point, why even bother listing those 7 countries? If Prez can unilaterally add more, why write the list in the first place?

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    They don't want him backsliding and removing countries. That way lies madness.

  • Curt||

    Good point.

  • Eidde||

    How about this: Have Congress declare war on each and every other country. Keep these declarations in a clerk's office with instructions to officially present them to the President as and when he requests them.

    "Give me the Canada one."

    "Here ya go, Mr. President."

    "I'll just add my signature...so long, hosers!"

  • silver.||

    Well... I guess it passes Constitutional muster.

    Should be fine! What else is the president's pen good for?

  • jcw||

    Don't worry guys, at least this isn't a crisis.

  • BYODB||

    But haven't we been assured by those few leftists that visit Reason that Democrats will certainly vote to give Trump less war powers?


    Oh, right, I forgot. They're a party of progressives, and as such they can't vote to reduce the power of the king. They're physically incapable of figuring out the problem isn't necessarily Trump, but the last 100 years of their preferred outcomes.

  • Eidde||

    Also, they merely *authorized* Trump to wage war, which as I understand it means they reserve the option to criticize specific wars Trump gets into using this authority.

  • silver.||

    Give the baby a paperclip, stick him in front of a power outlet, and wait for the laughs!

  • BYODB||

    Of course! That way they can have their cake and eat it too!

  • Eidde||

    The alt-text is clever, but let's tweak it a little:

    "Thank goodness for a Republican administration, I was feeling lonely all out by myself with these antiwar signs!"

  • Brandybuck||

    I see the anti-war movement isn't entire dead after Obama tried to smother it with a pillow...

  • Freelancelot||

    There was no "unauthorized" military strike by President Trump. You left-wing libertarians are just going to have to suck it up and heed the wisdom of Mark Levin on this matter.

  • Eidde||

    I'm guessing he said something nice and complimentary?

  • Freelancelot||

    Congress "declares war" by appropriating the funds for waging said war or military actions. If those funds have been appropriated in advance, then the President is already authorized to take military action.

  • pemaintoto||

    Hanya sedikit lagi tweak yang masuk akal untuk kekuatan kesatuan dari prez yang diperlukan. Ternyata menghabiskan $ 750T +/- untuk senjata tidak semudah yang Anda bayangkan. Maksudku, mereka tidak bisa langsung menaikkan harga GBU-43 / Bs seperti yang mereka lakukan dengan susu dan mentega, amiright? Itu akan keterlaluan.

  • code_monkey_steve||

    "... beyond Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen."

    "You said 'Syria' twice."
    "I like Syria."

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  • prediksi hk||

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