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Kaine and the Illegal War on ISIS

Tim Kaine isn’t giving up [1] on his demand for a new authorization for the war on ISIS:

Democratic vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine said he didn’t believe the U.S. had legal authority to carry out airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Libya this week, underscoring differences over the issue with his running mate, Hillary Clinton.

Kaine has been one of the few members of Congress to challenge the administration line that the 2001 AUMF gives the president the authority to bomb ISIS targets. His criticism of the administration’s specious legal arguments has distinguished him from the vast majority of his colleagues, who either don’t take Congressional responsibilities seriously or share the overly broad view of executive power that Obama holds. Congress has been delinquent in its constitutional duties regarding this war for two years, and I doubt that will change anytime soon, but Kaine deserves credit for continuing to draw attention to Congress’ failure and the illegality of the war on ISIS.

Daniel DePetris comments [2] on the implications of allowing presidents to initiate wars on their own:

The net result is that the president ignores the law, and Congress refuses to hold him accountable to it. The lethargy of inaction has effectively amended the Constitution so that Congressional approval is no longer required for war and peace decisions. It now resides exclusively in the hands of a single individual: the president.

The very thin silver lining of having Kaine on the Democratic ticket is that one of the top members of the next administration might be committed to challenging this drift towards unchecked presidential warmaking, but with Clinton as president it seems unlikely that these concerns would be taken seriously. While it is interesting that Kaine hasn’t stopped talking about this issue, he is still just the vice presidential nominee and won’t be the one making decisions in a Democratic administration. Clinton will be happy to abuse the 2001 AUMF just as Obama has to expand the war on ISIS to three countries (and counting), and she will do so knowing that one of the few critics of this practice won’t be in the Senate to complain about it any longer.

The debate over legal authorization obscures the fact that there still has never been a meaningful debate over the merits of the policy (or lack thereof). Virtually no one in Congress opposes the ever-expanding war on ISIS, and yet it is a prime example of an avoidable war of choice. There is little doubt that if Congress did vote on a new resolution that they would overwhelmingly approve a war that they have tacitly accepted for years, but it remains as unclear today as it was two years ago how the war makes the U.S. or its allies more secure.

18 Comments (Open | Close)

18 Comments To "Kaine and the Illegal War on ISIS"

#1 Comment By Sanf On August 8, 2016 @ 1:00 pm

What if the Senate goes 50-50—-wouldn’t Kaine be in a position to cast a tie-breaking vote if/when he becomes VP? Seems like it would put him in an awkward position if this issue comes before him.

#2 Comment By Viriato On August 8, 2016 @ 2:11 pm

As a Senator from Delaware, Joe Biden also criticized George W. Bush for not getting congressional approval to go to war with Iraq.

So, I don’t expect VP Kaine to have much of an impact here.

#3 Comment By Scott F. On August 8, 2016 @ 3:00 pm

DL says The very thin silver lining of having Kaine on the Democratic ticket is that one of the top members of the next administration might be committed to challenging this drift towards unchecked presidential warmaking, but with Clinton as president it seems unlikely that these concerns would be taken seriously.

Considering there is no one on the Republican ticket – hell, no one with any influence whatsover in the Republican Party – challenging this drift, I’m a little sad that Kaine’s position would be so easily dismissed. Perhaps, there’s a reason so few politicians takes such a stand. Even those who support the position don’t care enough to publically acknowledge it.

#4 Comment By ked_x On August 8, 2016 @ 3:13 pm

Blame the Republican Party for that inaction not Congress as a whole.

“Republicans don’t want to change anything. We like the path we’re on. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long?” -Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) on President Obama and voting on anti-ISIS action

#5 Comment By R.S. Rogers On August 8, 2016 @ 3:23 pm

Sanf raises a fascinating possibility. In the early republic, we had two vice presidents who opposed their administrations in the Senate. Vice President Calhoun used his tie-breaking vote to twice defeat President Jackson’s nomination of Martin Van Buren as ambassador to Britain. And Vice President Fillmore declared that he would vote for the various bills that made up the Compromise of 1850 even though President Tyler opposed them. But Tyler died before the bills came to a vote, so Fillmore became president, the vice presidency was vacant, and President Fillmore signed the Compromise bills into law.

#6 Comment By Liam On August 8, 2016 @ 3:36 pm

There’s one other reason to welcome Kaine into the presidential inner circle (if he’s allowed to be that): he may be in a position to focus Clinton on the fact that the foundation of American national security for the past 200 years, since the secretariat of JQ Adams, has been – a thriving Western Hemisphere. That is, failed states in Central America are more of a threat to our national security than the Middle East or Asia.

That’s a perspective woefully lacking in the press, the commentariat and national security industries (because it’s not a profitable perspective).

#7 Comment By EliteCommInc. On August 8, 2016 @ 4:03 pm

“(if he’s allowed to be that): he may be in a position to focus Clinton on the fact that the foundation of American national security for the past 200 years . . .”

“I understand, those are some very valid considerations,” she says, “Oh and you are scheduled next week to speak about democracy in Timbuktu, on Tues.”

#8 Comment By EliteCommInc. On August 8, 2016 @ 4:07 pm

“Blame the Republican Party for that inaction not Congress as a whole.”

I think the evidence is pretty clear that virtually no one wants to limit executive authority on the use of force.

Thew buck has stopped at the democrat in the WH for the last eight years. And give the cause of his campaign to get in the office and his views on changing the dynamic in the region, one would think he’d have signed it before it reached his desk.

The pressure here is not on Republican backs and even less on theirs alone.

#9 Comment By CharleyCarp On August 8, 2016 @ 4:11 pm

I know lots of people are nervous about Clinton, but really with newly empowered Sanders on one side, still empowered Ryan on the other, and Kaine in the room, we’ve got about as much power for restraint as we’d get. Also, one hopes that the generals have learned enough about the limits of military force that they give straight answers about whether some thing or other can actually be done, and what the chances of failure are.

#10 Comment By R.S. Rogers On August 8, 2016 @ 4:34 pm

CharleyCarp makes me wonder as well whether we might ever see the Joint Chiefs or any one of the regional commanding four-stars refuse to carry out an order to use force as an illegal order absent congressional assent. In private industry, nobody likes having corporate attorneys in the meeting, because they invariably fixate on liability and offer a thousand reasons not to do any new thing. It seems as if, at least under Bush the Lesser and Obama, the equivalent attorneys working for the White House, the Pentagon, and DOJ regard their role as just the opposite: Crafting a thousand reasons why it’s perfectly OK to do whatever the president wishes. We could use more government lawyers, or military officers, or really any bureaucrats in the room with the president, who share the risk-averse attitudes of corporate attorneys.

#11 Comment By EliteCommInc. On August 8, 2016 @ 9:45 pm

“White House, the Pentagon, and DOJ regard their role as just the opposite: Crafting a thousand reasons why it’s perfectly OK to do whatever the president wishes.”

Thanks for a the great observation — Laughing and well, . . . laughing.
______________

“I know lots of people are nervous about Clinton, but really with newly empowered Sanders on one side . . . ”

Nervous heck. Terrified. Just kidding. She just represents about evrythig I opose and she does so in almost every way I find objectionable.

I just cannot imagine Mr. Trump asking how he can spin the violence when people are asking for protection from the violence. No one and on who reads those email exchanges should have any doubt what makes her untenable. I would not have voted for her anyway — because a woman who thinks killing children in the womb is acceptable has a very peculiar idea of humanity, muchless the honorable attributes we regularly bestow on women. These were her staff under her direct authority.

But those email exchanges are chilling.

___________

#12 Comment By EliteCommInc. On August 9, 2016 @ 12:19 am

“White House, the Pentagon, and DOJ regard their role as just the opposite: Crafting a thousand reasons why it’s perfectly OK to do whatever the president wishes.”

I hink Attorney General Ashcroft is a standout here. Just an unfortunate twist of fate, he was ill. The consequence of his absense speaks volumes.

#13 Comment By Commenter Man On August 9, 2016 @ 8:39 am

Thank you for writing this. But I wonder if the WSJ is just hunting for some daylight between Clinton and Kaine.

Kaine comes across as by far the most decent of the candidates. I’d encourage folks to take 10 minutes and watch his speech in Miami just after he was picked.

#14 Comment By robz On August 9, 2016 @ 9:24 am

I trust Brent Scowcroft about a thousand times more than I trust the part of the Republican establishment that supports Trump.

#15 Comment By EliteCommInc. On August 9, 2016 @ 8:03 pm

“I trust Brent Scowcroft about a thousand times more than I trust the part of the Republican establishment that supports Trump.”

I trust my cat more than I trust any democrat, liberal or libertarian.

#16 Comment By robz On August 10, 2016 @ 1:02 pm

Brent Scowcroft would be surprised to find that he’s no longer a Republican. When did that happen? Did he get ejected when he came out against the Iraq War?

#17 Comment By robz On August 10, 2016 @ 1:04 pm

I suspect those 50 Republican national security experts have also been purged from the tribe.

#18 Comment By robz On August 10, 2016 @ 1:08 pm

All of the Republican women who are so appalled by Trump that they are voting for Hillary? The cat is clearly more trustworthy.