Asking for Congressional approval for Iraq & Syria military actions could backfire!
A number of senators and congressmen are urging President Obama to seek congressional authority for our military activities in Iraq and Syria trying to combat ISIS. Obama claims that he already has the authority under his Commander-in-Chief constitutional powers. For sure there is no intention to restrict the President from acting in an emergency to protect the country. But many feel that this power has been abused. And, to be precise, in none of our “wars” since World War II has Congress declared war. In the Vietnam and Bush’s Iraqi “military actions,” our troops were in harms way for more than a decade. So, it is easy to see why many want a congressional resolution giving approval (or disapproval) before another long-term military adventure goes beyond the air strikes already under way. Indeed, in the past few days fifty more American soldiers have landed in Iraq, part of a body of fifteen-hundred announced earlier by the White House. Though we are supposedly not putting any American troops in actual fighting positions, many feel that “mission-creep” has already begun.
Those who are urging that President Obama seek congressional approval for military actions in Iraq and Syria include a strange assortment of bed-fellows. Ultra-conservative and Libertarian Senator Rand Paul, and other isolationist conservatives as well as anti-war liberal Democrats, have joined forces to demand congressional approval in an effort to limit our involvement and prevent U.S. ground troops from involvement. But there is a danger that the strategy will backfire.
The history of military action resolutions of approval should be warning enough. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and that of Bush’s war on Saadam Hussein in search of weapons of mass destruction, granted such wide authority that they permitted a significant enlargement of the scope and length of the Vietnam and Iraqi and Afghanistan wars. These went well beyond the level of military involvement that existed at the time of the resolutions, as the Legislators tried to demonstrate their patriotism in times of crisis. The same expansion of original intent could happen this time as well and those who have serious doubts about our increasing involvement, in what is considered by many to be largely sectarian wars, could see their efforts at restricting U.S. military involvement through congressional resolution backfire. The support for a congressional resolution by well known hawks such as Senator John McCain, should signal “Danger,” if historical precedence doesn’t.