war powers

In light of the ongoing conflict in Iran and the questions of what is and is not appropriate decision-making by the Executive Branch, we have heard renewed echos of the need to enforce The War Powers Act.

Allow me to first provide a concise background summary as provided by “The History Channel”:

“The War Powers Act is a congressional resolution designed to limit the U.S. president’s ability to initiate or escalate military actions abroad. Among other restrictions, the law requires that presidents notify Congress after deploying the armed forces and limits how long units can remain engaged without congressional approval. Enacted in 1973 with the goal of avoiding another lengthy conflict such as the Vietnam War, its effectiveness has been repeatedly questioned throughout its history, and several presidents have been accused of failing to comply with its regulations.

What is The War Powers Act?

The War Powers Act — officially called the War Powers Resolution — was enacted in November 1973 over an executive veto by President Richard M. Nixon.

The law’s text frames it as a means of guaranteeing that ‘the collective judgment of both the Congress and the President will apply’ whenever the American armed forces are deployed overseas. To that end, it requires the President to consult with the legislature ‘in every possible instance’ before committing troops to war.

The resolution also sets down reporting requirements for the chief executive, including the responsibility to notify Congress within 48 hours whenever military forces are introduced ‘into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances.’

Additionally, the law stipulates that Presidents are required to end foreign military actions after 60 days unless Congress provides a declaration of war or an authorization for the operation to continue.”

Hence, after the Trump administration executed the targeting killing of Qasem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Quds Force, who directed the killing of hundreds of Americans, the House of Representatives passed a war powers resolution last week hoping to restrict Pres. Trump’s authority to strike Iran without congressional approval.

Let me offer a semi-clear opinion…

I like it and I don’t.

As expressed again by “The History Channel,” a president’s authority should be limited when military actions are considered. My strong sense is we need considerable, accountable, bipartisan input and agreement before we ever intentionally, potentially escalate military conflict. Any armed forces action should be substantially, soberly, and prudently weighed.

However, recognizing the veiled impurity in both parties, my sense is once more, politics get in the way.

In my opinion, the desire to curb the Executive Branch’s authority seems to increase or decrease pending who sits on the Executive Branch.

Back to “The History Channel”:

“President Ronald Reagan deployed military personnel to El Salvador without consulting or submitting a report to Congress. In 1999, President Bill Clinton continued a bombing campaign in Kosovo beyond the 60-day time limit cited in the law. A more recent War Powers Act dispute arose in 2011, when President Barack Obama initiated a military action in Libya without congressional authorization.”

Question: who rose to write a resolution then?

Friends, I wholeheartedly support enforcement of the War Powers Act in every administration. I find it reasonable and wise.

I do not, however, support the politics that too often drive the resolution.