Presidential War Power

by | Jan 14, 2020

“It is, however, insane and intolerable that peace depends on the restraint of the Islamic Republic and an American president given to rage-tweeting war-crime threats,” the Cato Institute’s Gene Healy, who studies presidential power, writes in “Trump the Decider.”

“No one fallible human being should be entrusted with the war powers now vested in the presidency. Now, more than ever, Congress needs to do everything in its power to reclaim its authority over war and peace.”

By what authority did Trump order the drone-assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and key Iraqi militia commanders in Iraq, all former allies in the fight against ISIS? Writes Healy:

For now, the official rationale is classified. In terms of public justification, all we have is some hand-waving by Trump’s national security adviser about the president’s “constitutional authorities as commander in chief to defend our nation” and the 17-year old Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq (2002 AUMF). Neither comes close to vesting the president with the power to set off a whole new war.

The 2002 AUMF authorizes the president to use military force in order to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq” and enforce various UN resolutions “regarding Iraq.” Unless “45” is going to break out the presidential sharpie and change the “q”s to “n”s, that’s not going to cut it. Neither will the 2001 AUMF, as I’ve explained at length elsewhere (See: “Repeal Old AUMFs and Salt the Earth”).

Healy disposes of the “self-defense” rationale for Trump’s act of war without a congressional declaration of war. I’d only add that if no US troops were in Iraq, they would not be subject to attack by anyone there.

About Sheldon Richman

Sheldon Richman is the executive editor of The Libertarian Institute, senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. He is the former senior editor at the Cato Institute and Institute for Humane Studies, former editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education, and former vice president at the Future of Freedom Foundation. His latest book is Coming to Palestine.

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