The lead story today in Ezra Klein's WP Wonkbook is about presidential power to wage war. There is a lot of confusion about that as history is uneven in interpretation and action. Congress has done as much to confuse the issue as to clarify it. That is par for the course.
You can shop around the internet for various legal scholar opinions as I did. I like this one: http://www.libertyclassroom.com/warpowers/.
Tom Woods is characterized as a libertarian. When it comes to understanding Constitutional powers, as an analyst, I like to strip away extraneous ideas and to focus on specific intent. I have no problem referring to a libertarian to accomplish that because I believe that is a helpful filter.
“Thomas E. Woods, Jr., is the New York Times bestselling author of 11 books. A senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Woods holds a bachelor's degree in history from Harvard and his master's, M.Phil., and Ph.D. from Columbia University.”
He writes that “the War Powers Resolution of 1973 gives the president the power to commit troops anywhere he likes for 90 days.”
“The War Powers Resolution of 1973 gives the president the power to commit troops anywhere he likes for 90 days.”
The War Powers Resolution is incoherent. Section 2(c) provides that the president’s power to initiate military action is limited to “(1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.” But at the same time, it authorizes the president to introduce military force for up to 90 days for any reason at all, which is obviously unconstitutional.
Some voters elected President Obama because they appreciated that he is a Constitutional lawyer and presumably knows the law as well as anyone. The trouble is that the Constitution and laws that make it a living and breathing document is written by people who are fallible and imperfect. We create our own confusion which is why it must be revisited all of the time.
As Ezra Klein writes today:
“In 2007, then-candidate Barack Obama told the Boston Globe, “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.”
Six years later, President Obama believes he does 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. He’s just not going to do it this time. Instead, he’s going to Congress to ask for permission he does not need.
The ambivalence towards the president’s war powers hasn’t left anyone particularly happy.”
The issue isn’t about making people “happy” as much as it is about clarifying our understanding about the law and who is in charge here.
Using the system that Dr. James Rodger and I published in Smart Data, Enterprise Performance Optimization Strategy © 2010, Wiley Publishing, we suggest starting with defining outcomes.
In the instance of Syria, what are the desired outcomes from the U.S. point of view? How would the desired outcomes be achieved? What is the U.S. responsibility and contribution toward achieving them? (if any)
That is where we should begin this discussion.