On April 3, President Donald Trump told the nation he was considering pulling U.S. troops out of Syria after Islamic State was defeated, as the President campaigned on not getting the U.S. into unnecessary foreign wars.
“As far as Syria is concerned, our primary mission in terms of that was getting rid of ISIS. We’ve almost completed that task, and we’ll be making a decision very quickly in coordination with others as to what we’ll do… I want to get out. I want to bring our troops home,” Trump said.
This angered many in D.C. as they were hoping for an open-ended conflict and regime change. Then, according to reports, the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against its population again. Before the bodies were even cold, D.C. was blaming the President for the Assad attack and calling for him to take action against the regime. Maybe those wanting the President to act should take a look at the Constitution.
Congress and only Congress has the power to declare war. Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution states: “The Congress shall have power…To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water.” Seems clear, only Congress can declare war.
This begs the question, why are members of Congress asking the President to go to war with Syria, for which there is no authorization, without doing its constitutionally mandated job? A search on Congress.gov shows there is no bill calling for war to be declared on Syria or the regime of Bashar al-Assad. A few bills calling for going after Islamic State in Syria, but conducting regime change in Damascus. Not one Member of Congress, from either side of the aisle, complaining about the President’s possible withdraw from Syria, has introduced legislation making regime change legal. If you believe in the mission so much, shouldn’t you put your money your mouth is?
An argument can be made the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) covered the President’s actions against Islamic State. The AUMF authorized the use of the military by the President to pursue terrorist organizations that planned authorized, committed, or aided the group that carried out 9/11. ISIS is a terrorist group split off from al-Qaeda, the group responsible from the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
But, the Assad regime is not part of ISIS. Yes, the Assad regime is led by horrible war criminals who deserve to die, but there is no authorization to remove them, or permanently station troops in Syria. If certain Senators believe the U.S. military should depose Assad or keep bases in Syria, they should introduce legislation stating as much.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) agrees, and just today stated, “The use of chemical weapons absolutely requires a response from the United States,” Sen. Lee said. “But if that response is going to include military force, the President of the United States should come to Congress and ask for authorization before military force is used.” Lee is right. There is no such authorization. Congress would have to pass one.
Not only are some Members of Congress asking the President to go to war without doing its constitutionally mandated job, they are asking the President to send the military to war after spending almost a decade destroying the military. The U.S. military is in tatters and it is a direct result of Congress.
The mainstream media might not be paying attention, but the U.S. military has had a rash of aviation crashes. In the last three weeks alone, six crashes have led to 16 deaths. From fiscal year 2013 through 2017 at least 133 members of the military were killed in aviation mishaps, according to Military Times. To give an idea of how high that number is, the U.S. military lost 278 members in Afghanistan in the same time frame.
Air Force Gen. Herbert Carlisle, former head of Air Combat Command, blamed the rise in mishaps and deaths on severe defense cuts. When talking to the Military Times Carlisle stated, “We are reaping the benefits — or the tragedies — that we got into back in sequestration.” Carlisle continued about the cuts discussing the increase in accidents stating it was “actually a lagging indicator. By the time you’re having accidents, and the accident rates are increasing, then you’ve already gone down a path.”
Passing one budget, six months late mind you, does not fix the problem. It will take the military years to get out of the hole Congress dug for them. Pilots need to increase training to make up for missed flight hours. It takes time to manufacture the needed aircraft parts, and it takes an inordinate amount of time to refit, repair, and build new navy ships. Just because you gave them the money to fix what you broke, that doesn’t mean it is magically fixed.
Congress, you cannot have it both ways. You do not get to complain the President is not going to war when it is your duty to declare war. You do not get to underfund the military, leaving readiness levels dangerously low, while trying to send our men and women into combat poorly trained with subpar equipment. Congress should try doing its job first. There is nothing worse than someone complaining about the job someone else is doing, a job they want, when they are failing at their job.