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4/29/16

Syria: Does the US President have the legal right to involve US military on the ground in Syria?

Uncle Sam: "see you guys in my next military involvement"
Critics in the Senate charge that, of all the foreign forces operating in Syria today, the Russians are on the most solid legal ground. Damascus has invited Russia to make its deployment, whereas neither Congress nor Syria has ever explicitly authorized any American military involvement there.

The US Founding  Fathers pervasive fear of strong Executive suggestswhy the explicitly noted in the US Constitution that any power to initiate military strikes should remain with Congress.

There is consequently no sufficient evidence to justify the conclusion that the US President may proactively attack or send troops to another nation under whatever "window - dressing" defintion he might give, without the approval of Congress.

Looking back to 2007 the then-candidate Barack Obama told The Boston Globe: :
"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.
As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent.
History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action".
 President Obama’s change of heart shows that the adage, “Where you stand depends on where you sit,” proves true in politics as in the rest of life. Those sitting in Congress have a very different view of their prerogatives than does a person sitting in the Oval Office. It is not unlike how a Senator will oppose the use of the filibuster when in the majority, but support it when in the minority.

If the section of the Constitution treating the President as Commander in Chief does not plainly permit him to launch an unprovoked attack without congressional approval, one who would argue thus must infer it from somewhere else in the document. However, the overall sense of the document gives a certain primacy to Congress in setting national policy, suggests that it is fitting that the legislature must approve an unprovoked attack.  For instance, the President is forbidden to take actions without Congress that are far less momentous.

The President is Commander in Chief, but Congress is granted the power to “make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces” (Article I, Section 8). Presumably, matters concerning military regulation are generally less important than the decision to launch an unprovoked attack, so such decisions should probably best be left to the Legislature as well. Likewise, the President is considered the chief diplomat, but any treaty he negotiates must be approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate. Similarly, he ordinarily requires the consent of the Senate to fill his cabinet—the only exceptions being when the Upper Chamber is unable to fulfill its duties.

Yet, normally, military action would be far more consequential to the welfare of the nation in general, and certainly to the soldiers in particular, than any treaty or cabinet appointment. It stretches credulity to suggest that the Framers of the US Constitution would approve of the President initiating, without congressional support, an action more consequential than that of a treaty or cabinet appointment.

Once again the US is wandering into the quicksand of a military involvement in a foreign country.

Looking at the record of US  military involvements around the world since the second world war one can only define these involvements as disastrous.

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