Once again we are on the path to significant military action against a country in the Middle East and once again it looks like the intent of the Constitution will be ignored. President Obama will begin military action against a Syria without Congressional approval even though there will be plenty of time to get it. There is no hurry, hard deadline or ticking clock. This is not an emergency.
Obama has not called Congress back into session for an official declaration of war in accordance with the War Powers Clause of the Constitution nor is there any indication that Congress leaders even want to fulfill their Constitutional responsibility by ending their summer recess early.
Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman made it clear Boehner only wants to be consulted.
The president is commander-in-chief. With that power comes obligations. One, of course, is to consult with Congress on the options he sees as a viable response. This consultation has not yet taken place, but it is an essential part of the process. And meaningful consultation should happen before any military action is taken.
More than just to Congress, the president has an obligation to the American people to explain the rationale for the course of action he chooses; why it’s critical to our national security; and what the broader strategy is to achieve stability.
Surveys have shown that the American public is hesitant to intervene in Syria. This is understandable, and it underscores the need for the president to fully explain what is at stake and outline why he believes action is necessary.
If U.S. action is imminent, it is our hope that the president doesn’t forget his obligations – to Congress, but, also, to speak directly to the American people.
Notice in his statement there is no reference to Congress voting on this issue or providing authorization. No reference to Congress’s obligation.
Perhaps the most important decision a nation can make is whether or not to attack another country, which is why this power was given to the branch closest to the American people. Congress has effectively seceded this power to the office of the President. The situation has sadly become so common that the scandalous nature of what is happening is barely discussed.
Allowing our representatives to shirk their responsibility creates incredibly unpopular wars.