Posted by Curt on 14 February, 2015 at 8:16 am. 8 comments already!


Andrew C. McCarthy:

On Wednesday, President Obama proposed for Congress’s consideration an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). The jihadists are already being fought — albeit not nearly vigorously enough — under existing AUMFs. So Obama’s proposal, which would gratuitously repeal one of the prior AUMFs, is unnecessary. It is, in addition, so pathetic a concoction of lawlessness and aimlessness that, in a healthier political climate, Congress would not give it the time of day.

The document defies the reality of war. Phrased as a license for the “limited” use of force, it suggests that lawmakers should delegitimize combat even as they authorize it. The president would have Congress limit the duration of combat (to three years), as if war came with an end-date. He’d have Congress limit the means of combat (no ground forces), as if war could be scripted to suit the Left’s anti-war sensibilities.

But, for a moment, let’s put aside the reality of the long war. Obama’s proposal could not even deal with the reality of Wednesday. Just as Congress received it, Obama’s new defense secretary was conceding that the president’s retreat from Afghanistan would have to be postponed because of Taliban advances; while in Yemen — that Obama-touted counterterrorism “success” story — Iran-backed jihadists seized the U.S. embassy after American diplomatic and military officials were forced to flee.

In fact, less than 24 hours after Obama suggested that Congress should forbid him from using ground troops against Islamic State terrorists, Islamic State terrorists were busy capturing a western Iraqi town just 13 minutes away from the base where 320 U.S. Marines are on the ground, training hapless Iraqi forces. Forget ground forces to defeat ISIS; the way Obama is managing things, we may need ground forces just to rescue our ground forces.

Still, it is not enough to say that in a time of real peril we have a president whose delusions are as impenetrable as they are dangerous. The proposed AUMF would continue Obama’s fundamental transformation of America by upending the Constitution’s national-defense framework.

The American Revolution succeeded against long odds, and the Framers knew that America’s survival was no sure thing. Powerful European nations remained an existential threat; along the Maghreb, radical Islam besieged American shipping, so vital to commerce. Confronting the reality of this dangerous world, the Framers vested all executive power — explicitly including commander-in-chief power over the armed forces — in a single official, the president.

The Framers were leery of a too-powerful presidency. They considered alternative models: variations on a parliamentary system that would conjoin executive and legislative powers, or the possibility of dividing executive power among ministers and privy councils. Ultimately, however, they settled on a single executive, for three reasons.

First, a unitary president could act with dispatch, in a way a committee-type arrangement could not. If the nation were threatened, a president could bring all necessary power to bear instantly.

Second, though the presidency had to be formidable to fulfill its national-security mandate, it could be checked in war-fighting just as it was checked in the domestic sphere: by making sure executive and legislative powers were kept separate. The latter were denied to the president: Only Congress has the power to declare war (which formally invokes the law of armed conflict that governs relations between belligerent nations), and only Congress can appropriate the public funds necessary to sustain military campaigns. But Congress was denied any executive power: Only the president is authorized to make command decisions, including those regarding deployment of the armed forces.

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