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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Obama’s Sham Move on Syria


After producing another classic national-security state crisis environment for the American people — this time over whether President Obama should order his military to bomb Syria — the president announced that he would first seek approval from Congress for his bombing run.

Notice that he didn’t say he was seeking permission from Congress. He says that he doesn’t need permission from Congress to initiate to initiate war against another nation-state. In fact, he has made it clear that in all likelihood he will order his army to attack Syria even if Congress votes no.

So, why the charade? Why doesn’t Obama order his military to go head and bomb Syria?

One possible reason is that if it all goes bad, like they have in Iraq and Afghanistan, he can say, “Well, Congress went along with me. They approved of what I was doing. We’re all in this together.”

Another possible reason is that after the British Parliament’s vote nixing England’s participation in Obama’s planned war of aggression, Obama didn’t want to come across as the head of a nation whose ruler possesses dictatorial powers in foreign affairs. Of course, that’s just one more ridiculous and hypocritical sham, given that Obama says he might well go ahead and bomb Syria regardless of whether Congress places its stamp of approval on his war of aggression.

Let’s be clear: Obama’s authority to do anything comes from the Constitution and nowhere else. When our American ancestors brought the federal government into existence, it was with the clear understanding that the president’s powers (along with those of the other two branches) would be limited to those enumerated in the Constitution. That’s what made the federal government a “limited government” — the powers of its officials were limited to those listed in the Constitution. If a power wasn’t enumerated, it couldn’t be exercised.

Under the Constitution, the president was given the power to wage war but he wasn’t given the power to declare war. That power was delegated to Congress. That means that under our form of government, the president is prohibited from waging war without first securing a declaration of war from Congress. That’s why, for example, President Wilson and President Roosevelt had to secure declarations of war from Congress in both world wars. They understood that, like it or not, the Constitution requires it.

Keep in mind that the Constitution is the law that we the people have imposed on federal officials. Just as they expect us to obey their laws even when we consider them to be ridiculous (e.g., drug laws and gambling laws), they are expected to obey the law that we have imposed on them even when they think it’s ridiculous.

The problem is that ever since the advent of the Cold War-era national-security state apparatus, which was grafted onto our constitutional order after WWII, presidents have seen fit to ignore this particular constitutional provision. With the president’s powerful Cold War military and CIA at his disposal, both Congress and the Supreme Court have long known that as a practical matter, there is nothing these other two branches can do to stop the president, his military, and his CIA from waging wars against other nations without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war. So, knowing that the lack the means of enforcing the Constitution against the president and his military and CIA, they have, decade after decade, continued to simply defer to their omnipotent authority.

It’s also important that everyone keep in mind what the Constitution does and does not require. It requires a congressional declaration of war against Syria, not an “authorization to use force” against Syria. An authorization to use force is nothing more than a cowardly abrogation of congressional responsibility, one that unconstitutionally delegates the power to declare war to the president.

Interventionists obviously hate that and wish the Framers had either delegated the power to declare war to the president or delegated to Congress to power to enact a resolution delegating the power to declare war to the president. But under our form of government, interventionists have their remedy — seek out and secure a constitutional amendment.

In the meantime, the president should be required to obey the law. No matter how many times previous presidents have been permitted to ignore this critically important provision in the Constitution, it remains the solemn duty of Congress, through the power of impeachment, to require the president to comply with the law that we the people have imposed on him through our Constitution.


This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.