Obama Changes Tune On His War-Making Powers
On Sunday, ABC News quoted President Obama as saying that while he will seek congressional affirmation, he still maintains the authority to launch a strike alone. The president noted: “[W]hile I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective.”
However, both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden previously interpreted the Constitution in a manner that would make any U.S. strikes in Syria illegal without congressional approval.
Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, states, “Congress shall have the power…to declare war.” Legal scholars have long debated whether the stipulation means Congress must approve every use of military force abroad or whether the president maintains the flexibility to use force as long as hostilities do not become a “war,” a word that itself has many definitions.
Constitutional framer James Madison wrote that the phrase “make war” was changed to “declare war” at the Federal Convention of 1787 to give the president the ability to repel a sudden attack but not to commence war without the explicit approval of Congress.
Obama and Biden have both publicly agreed with this interpretation. In a speech on the Senate floor on July 30, 1998, Biden lectured that only one constitutional framer, Pierce Butler of South Carolina, thought the president should have the power to initiate war. Biden concluded that under the Constitution, the president could not use force without prior authorization unless it was necessary to “repel a sudden attack.”
Obama concluded similarly in a 2007 interview with the Boston Globe, stating that “the president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
Syria Strike Will Rest On Controversial R2P Doctrine
The military doctrine that will be used to justify any U.S action in Syria is fraught with constitutional problems, according to a book released this week.
The doctrine, known as “Responsibility to Protect,” or R2P, was crafted by controversial figures. It seeks to minimize the sovereignty of nations, says this columnist’s new book, Impeachable Offenses: The Case to Remove Barack Obama from Office.
The book examines the R2P doctrine in the context of its use in 2011 to depose Libya’s Moammar Khaddafi. The U.S.-NATO Libya bombings have been widely regarded as a test of R2P.
The doctrine is a set of principles, now backed by the United Nations, based on the idea that sovereignty is not a privilege but a responsibility that can be revoked if a country is accused of “war crimes,” “genocide,” “crimes against humanity,” or “ethnic cleansing.”
The term “war crimes” has, at times, been used indiscriminately by various UN-backed international bodies – including the International Criminal Court, or ICC – to describe Israeli anti-terror operations in Gaza.
Billionaire George Soros’s Open Society is one of only three non-governmental funders of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, the main body behind promoting the doctrine.
The R2P center’s patrons include former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former Irish President Mary Robinson, and South African activist Desmond Tutu. Robinson and Tutu have made solidarity visits to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip as members of a group called The Elders, which includes former President Jimmy Carter.
The Carr Center for Human Rights Policy had a seat on the advisory board of a 2001 commission that originally formulated R2P. The center was led at the time by Samantha Power, who is reported to have heavily influenced Obama in the lead up to the decision to bomb Libya. Power, wife of Obama’s former regulatory affairs director, Cass Sunstein, serves as U.S. ambassador to the UN.
Also on the advisory board of the commission that founded R2P was Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa as well as Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi, a virulent denier of the Holocaust who long served as the deputy of late Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasir Arafat.
The co-founder of the R2P doctrine is Ramesh Thakur, an activist who recently advocated for a “global rebalancing” and “international redistribution” to create a “New World Order.” In a piece in the March 2010 issue of the Ottawa Citizen newspaper, Thakur wrote: “Toward a new world order, Westerners must change lifestyles and support international redistribution.”