(a) Congressional declaration
It is the purpose of this chapter to fulfill the intent of the framers of the Constitution of the United States and insure that the collective judgment of both the Congress and the President will apply to the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, and to the continued use of such forces in hostilities or in such situations.
The War Powers Resolution of 1973 talks about the President of the United States’ ability to commit US military forces to “hostilities” or situations where “hostilities” may be imminent. It was a product of the VietNam War, which was an undeclared war during which US forces were committed to “hostilities” for a period of at least a decade.
What is not specifically addressed in the War Powers Act is what other uses the President may make of US forces. Although it talks about the introduction of US forces into foreign nations, or their territorial waters or airspace when they are “equipped for combat”, it does not deal with situations of “humanitarian” aid or other supposedly peaceful purposes.
So that we suppose the recent decision by the Commander In Chief to send up to 3,000 military personnel to nations within the continent of Africa to assist in the battle against the Ebola virus does not immediately trigger the War Powers Resolution of 1973. There remains then the open question of exactly what US military personnel will be tasked with and what congressional oversight there will be over their activities and, of course, how much this deployment is going to cost the US taxpayer.
The deployment of US military assets in non-hostile situations has occurred many times in the past, usually in cases of natural disasters requiring delivery of relief supplies or evacuations of victims. In the case of placing US personnel in the midst of a deadly viral disease in a foreign country, this may be a unique situation. Here is a preliminary summary of what the US intends to do in the nation of Liberia, as reported by the New York Times.
Nowhere in the report is there any mention of a “coalition” of nations, or any specific nation other than the United States committed to this action. It speaks of setting up treatment centers, training personnel, providing “kits” and other necessary supplies for treatment and care of infected persons. But it doesn’t say whether the commitment is open-ended or offer any cost estimate.
But it is apparently going to be a “boots on the ground” operation. And so far there has been no notion expressed from any quarter about consultation with Congress over the deployment of such a large number of personnel into a foreign state. The “War on Ebola” may turn out to be a pretty significant engagement. The media reports now ominously imply that there is a threat to the United States itself by the expected continued spread of the virus in Africa and the real possibility of it being carried overseas.
Although the President of the United States has so far pointedly rejected the near unanimous advice and opinion of military and intelligence experts that the spreading territorial takeover by the terrorist threat known as ISIS is a clear and present danger to the United States and the Free World, and has refused to commit “boots on the ground” to the Iraq/Syria region to combat it, he almost instantaneously threw 3,000 US personnel into harm’s way in the Ebola War.
This just in:
From the Washington Times, Sept. 17 – “President Obama says U.S. forces in Iraq “do not and will not” have a combat mission as part of the effort against Islamic State militants.’
Got that? No combat for US forces. No use of force by our forces. So apparently, as ISIS continues its advance across Iraq, US forces will not be allowed to “combat” it. May we presume then that as ISIS advances toward the US troops now in Iraq and soon to be deployed, that our forces will not be allowed to “combat” them? Where we are in the state of US foreign policy and military operations is some kind of insane Orwellian, Alice In Wonderland incomprehensible bad dream. God help our troops.
With the force reductions in the military services already having been initiated, and the accompanying budget cuts , it is hard to imagine what the effect will be on the effort to stop ISIS, or to combat the Islamofascists on the several other fronts they attack from. Or, should the situation in Eastern Europe vis-a-vis the aspirations of Putin and Co. continue to deteriorate, how the status of forces and treaty obligations and national interests would be impacted. In fact, many military experts and planners have already gone on record stating the US would be hard pressed to engage in two separate conflicts, or wars, or wars on two separate fronts, at the same time. So if we are now committed to the “War on Ebola”, will the other threats, the ones involving the actual “hostilities” mentioned in the War Powers Resolution, go begging?
And even more intriguing is this question: If the President can use the military for any purpose of his choosing, outside of “hostilities”, can he, will he use it to combat other ills that he, of his own volition, deems a ‘threat’ to the United States? Like, for example, the absolutely real and terrifying threat (according to him, according to Al Gore and according to a handful of mad psuedo-scientists), the horror known as “Climate Change”?
But what inquiring minds probably really want to know is why the Department of Defense is taking on the War on Ebola instead of the Department of Health and Human Services, a behemoth federal agency in it’s own right, with over 83,000 employees and an annual budget almost double that of the Defense Department ($900 billion vs. $500 billion)? The answer may be found in the revelation that HHS is itself stretched thin these days, given that it is committed to another fight – the fight for…..wait for it ….Environmental Justice!
So that, no. it’s not just the DOD that can commit it’s forces to “wars” of various social types without interference from any meddling Congress. In this New Age of American governance, the Commander In Chief can order his subordinates into any situation he chooses, and we the people will pay for it, both literally and figuratively. We have no say in it, either as a result of the public opinion polls which now uniformly report Obama is not doing, and not up to doing, his job, or through our elected “representatives”, who cannot find the stones to thwart the Little Corporal In Charge.
In case you missed it, from Article One, Section Eight:
“The Congress shall have the power ………To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;….”
The President does not have the power to declare War on anything – War on Poverty, War on Climate Change, War on Drugs, War on Contagious Diseases, War on Traditional American Values, you name it. Declaring War is the province of the People, through their elected representatives. That the Congress of the United States does not, of it’s own volition, have the wisdom, foresight and courage to declare war on avowed enemies of the United States, such as ISIS, and demand that the President commit them to hostilities in order to protect the American people and free people across the globe,is tantamount to a dereliction of it’s own duty.
And in that same vein, for the Congress to shirk it’s responsibility to see to the necessary and proper usage of the US military in “non-hostile” situations as envisaged in these other clauses from Article One, Section Eight:
– To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;
– To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.
…..is just as derelict.
The Obama Administration deserves every bit, and more, of the criticism it receives from the “loyal opposition” in Congress in regards to policy and the conduct of policy. But here is a little quirk in the public face of the two branches: The Obama White House maintains a website wherein is provided a forum for citizens to petition the Administration to address issues for which they have strong feeling. Something like 100,000 signers supposedly trigger an Administration response. Now, it would be a laughable proposition to imply that the Obama team would respond, with action, in a manner favorable to the wishes of a few hundred thousand or even a few million of We, the Loyal, Traditional and Patriotic American Right. But at least there is the presumption of consideration.
Contrast that with the Administration of the Houses of Congress. We citizens could petition our individual Senators and Representatives all day and night demanding that they do their duty. But we have no single national forum for making our collective voice heard on the use of our military as overseen by that Congress, or to demand a Yea or Nay vote on the question of a War…..of any kind.
Would that we did. There would be no more guarantee that our wishes would be acceded to on the part of Congress than on the part of the Executive. But at least we might not be dependent on what the Congressional leadership says the American people want, and their failure to fulfill their oaths of office might be made more transparently public.
We are not asking for a pure democracy; only that We, the People, be “represented”, in matters of War, and Peace. What we have now is a farce.