Monday, September 02, 2013

"history defying"

It has always seemed pretty evident to me that the original idea behind Article I, Section 8, Clause 10 was that while the President gets to command the armed forces, Congress decides the countries in which the U.S. initiates hostilities. So while all modern Presidents (including Obama himself when he ordered interventions in Libya) have endorsed a more expansive "The President Can Order the Slaughter of People in Any Foreign Nation Whenever He Wants, So Fuck You Congress" theory of presidential power, asking Congress to endorse a military adventure in Syria seems much more consistent with the history and language of the Constitution than people are giving him credit for now.

It's not about the legal justification for bombing Syria, Obama's decision is more about providing political cover for what is increasingly looking like an unpopular choice. Which is a good thing. Congress should be asked to endorse every new military adventure, no matter how limited. Presidents have avoided doing so because they don't want to have their hands tied on the international stage, and Congress has largely let presidents get away with it because they don't want to take on the responsibility. But it is supposed to be Congresses responsibility. Whatever selfish reasons Obama has for throwing this to Congress, I'm glad he's doing it.

I also hope it creates a real precedent. Maybe just maybe the Iraq debacle has changed the politics of this country enough so that presidents will be wary of the blame for things that go wrong and not just anxious to hog the credit for what they assume will be a glorious victory. Or maybe not. But it would be nice if at least one good thing could come out of that disaster.

(via Memeorandum)