10 January 2020


Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

House Passes War Powers Resolution


The House of Representatives passed a resolution under the War Powers Act yesterday following the president's order for the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani, head of Iran's Quds Force. The vote was 224-194 with a handful of Democrats voting with the GOP and a few Republicans backing the resolution. The exercise is largely symbolic because, even if it were to pass in the Senate, Mr. Trump would veto it. The Congress needs to use something more powerful to reign him in, like the power of the purse.

The War Powers Act dates from the 1970s and is of doubtful constitutional validity. Basically, it requires the president to inform Congress of any military action within 48 hours of forces being committed, and it requires any such action to end within 60 days unless Congress allows it to go beyond that date.

The world has changed since the Founders vested the power to declare was in Congress. In fact despite being at war for years, the US has not formally declared war since 1941. The Korean War was known as a police action, and Vietnam was apparently a training exercise gone badly wrong. After 9/11, the Congress passed an Authorization for the Use of Military Force [AUMF] to use against Al Qaeda and others who are not nation-states. That means they are not subjects of international law, and therefore, a state of war cannot legally exist between such and the US, or any nation-state.

The Act was an attempt by Congress to claw back some of the power that flowed to the president after World War II when America became a global power with military bases around the world. The fact that the act allows the president to do as he pleases for two months shows just how feeble the act is. Moreover, the carve-out for actions to protect the US from imminent danger is wide enough to send an aircraft carrier through.

One of the ironies about the act is that members of Congress do not really like to vote for or against war. Putting one's legislative fingerprints all over military action is not good for one's electoral career. If one votes for it, one risks taking the blame for the deaths of servicemen and women. If one votes against it, one's patriotism gets called into question. For some reason, the American people never seem to understand that patriotism consists in not getting troops killed.

Be that as it may, if Congress were truly interested in preventing the White House from attacking Iran, it could simply cut off the money. The supremacy of Parliament in Britain was inevitable once Charles I discovered he could not fund things without taxes approved by Commons and Lords.

The trouble with cutting spending on war is that the defense industry has managed to spread its procurement across the country. Every congressional district hosts some sort of military-supporting industry. Cutting off spending is going to upset some members, even if they oppose the specific military action.

Congress would have to grow a backbone to reign in the president, regardless of party. That is unlikely to happen any time soon. As a result, the forever-wars seem to be just that.

© Copyright 2020 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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