Saturday, August 31, 2013

Syria: Obama wants War, defers to Constitution.

The United States Constitution is clear that Congress is the only body that has the power to enact war. Then in 1973, Congress passed and was signed into law legislation commonly known as the War Powers Act which gave the President limited powers to engaged American Armed Forces into conflict without prior Congressional approval.

The caveat to this lies in Sec 2 subset C:

The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant 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.

Today, President Obama came out to announce that after seeing the evidence - yesterday presented by
Secretary of State John Kerry - that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had crossed the line in using chemical weapons against his own people. The United Nations earlier today held a press conference that discussed the time table of the assessing the samples taken from Syria in regards to the use of chemical weapons. Now, the UN Inspector did state that the results will in no manner determine who used chemical weapons; rather it will simply confirm the use of the chemical weapons.

In his address today, President Obama made it clear he is prepared to go to war despite the fact that he wouldn't put "boots on the ground" or it wouldn't be "an open time table." Trouble is Mr. President that you don't have the power to engage Syria on your own. The War Powers Act, see above, is very clear that an imminent danger or a national emergency exists that will result in an attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions or armed forces.

That said, Syria is not a colony of the United States nor do we have armed forces on the ground there either. While the use of chemical weapons appears conclusive the deliverer of those weapons is still open for debate. I know some will point to the evidence that Secretary of State Kerry spoke about the other day but we must look at the Arab League source with a grain of salt.

I applaud President Obama for finally recalling his Constitutional law classes  when he said, "under the Constitution, the responsibility to declare war lies with Congress." I also agree with President Obama that the use of chemical weapons on ones own people is an "assault on human dignity." But I don't agree with, "It also presents a serious danger to our national security. It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons." Why is that many in the East, namely the Middle East, hate the West and namely the United States? Because we use our imperial might to right wrongs that WE feel exist.

No one will deny the use of chemical weapons is bad. The trouble is that Syria is mired in a Civil War and with war comes a natural "assault on human dignity". As Gen. Patton famously coined, "War is Hell!" Now, the United States should do everything diplomatically that we can to help bring an end to the Civil War; diplomatically not military.

Reactions on MSNBC after the speech today had a number of people surprised that President Obama would defer to Congress. It is President Obama's Constitutional duty to defer to Congress. Now the question is: What will President Obama do if Congress doesn't give him authority to engage in war?


**** I had to revise my original post to replace Vice President Biden with Secretary of State Kerry - I was watching the reply when typing with VP Biden in the background. I apologize for the oversight. ***