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The debate we’re still waiting for

Connor Roth | Sunday, September 1, 2013

Throughout the hot summer days, Americans have seen quite a bit of action on the political front. Revelations regarding invasive seizures of telecommunications and metadata collection from the proclaimed “most transparent administration ever,” heated shots fired back and forth within the Republican Party, the nauseating portrayal of Trayvon Martin’s court case and attacks on whistleblowers Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden have certainly provided for a dynamic summer, if it can be described as such without dire solemnity. All of these events have stimulated quite a bit of conversation among the American people, even in the midst of the fiascos we call Miley Cyrus and Amanda Bynes.
But as it usually is in American politics, the times can’t be static for too long. Americans recently discovered that the National Security Administration delved into “love interests” and broke privacy rules “thousands of times” according to an audit published on the Washington Post’s website. But this time, instead of overly intruding on the lives of Americans, the current administration is thinking about getting involved in Syria. The New York Times recently reported that President Obama is considering “limited” strikes against Syria’s current regime, led by President Bashar al-Assad. Not only would that interventionism be foolish, I believe it would also be unconstitutional without the authorization of Congress. Many people have questioned why it’s taken the President so long to call together Congress for a formal debate on Syria, which is quite a legitimate question. Many might point to the pressure particular Congressmen have put on Obama, repeating the fact that a strike invoked by the executive alone would be entirely unconstitutional.
Article one, section eight of the U.S. Constitution reads that, “No State shall … engage in War, unless invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.” The War Powers Resolution of 1973 was an additional law passed to protect the nation from rushing into military excursions, although it has been ignored by Republican and Democratic presidents alike. The Resolution states that if the commander in chief sends troops into action abroad, they must be home within 60 days unless Congress approves of the military force and declares war. Unfortunately, many people read this bill out of context and suggest that the President can send military force abroad at will  and then just get Congress’s approval later. This is an incorrect interpretation of the law. The War Powers Resolution specifically states in section 1541(c) that the executive can only send our troops abroad if one of the three following criteria is met: he receives a Congressional declaration of war, he receives other specific legal authorization or if there is a national emergency caused by an attack on the United States, as happened on Sept. 11. This means that if the President wants to send troops into Syria or simply bomb them from home, he would need Congressional approval before advancing, since there has not been a direct attack on the United States. Unfortunately, the current administration has already drone-bombed Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen, Algeria and Libya, so practicing peace would actually be a new precedent.
On the afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 31, President Obama stated he would call together Congress to discuss and vote on intervention in Syria by Sept. 9 or 10.
It is important to note that the use of chemical weapons by a foreign regime is a legitimate concern. There are times where war is necessary – certainly no people (or an extremely small few) would have protested our involvement in World War II. However, there are serious costs and benefits that we as a country need to measure before continuing our occupation and bombing of the Middle East. People making these decisions need to further consider the CIA’s term “blowback,” describing how aggressive foreign policy can lead to unfavorable consequences.
A new Reuters poll found that only 9 percent of Americans support a multi-national invasion of Syria and only 25 percent would support U.S. intervention, even if it’s proven that Assad used chemical weapons. Clearly the affairs in Iraq and Afghanistan have weighed heavily on our nation not only financially, but mentally as well. Based on the numbers, we can say most people are sick of war and are even more tired of our government attempting to be the policeman of the world. It’s good to see the president follow the Constitution and seek Congress’s approval for an attack, but I’m interested to see what he will do if Congress refuses to give him the authority to strike, but he feels the need to do so anyways. Will he abide by the law?