War, but not.

Just a few days ago, President Trump ordered a battery of cruise missiles to be launched at an airfield in Syria, in response to the illegal chemical weaponry being employed by the Assad regime, for the stated national interest regions in promoting regional stability as well as suppress banned weaponry usage. The issues that come up with this aggressive military maneuver are twofold: is this legal, and if it is,should the President be accorded this power? The answer to the first, surprisingly, is that is generally considered legal. There are competing theories, as mentioned in the article, but this is generally accepted as legal provided that the president provides good reasons that prove that the limited strikes serve the national interests. Beyond that point, the President must notify Congress within 48 hours of the strike, and then ask Congress for an extension past 60 days for deploying troops for extended engagement in warfare, or ask Congress to declare war. However, since World War II, Congress has not declared war on a single country. Even the War Powers Resolution Act of 1973 has served to reduce unilateral power of the President to engage in warfare, but not declare war. For better or for worse, the President has been accorded the legal power to direct said strikes.

This leads us to the second implication of this tradition, should the President be accorded this power? The rationale for the President being allowed to engage in these limited strikes is clear: the President must be able to make quick decisions in an emergency in order to protect the nation. They cannot be constrained by needing approval, if crisis resolution is time critical. On the flip side, sometimes it seems to go too far, in that the military launched 50 million dollars worth of explosives into a foreign sovereign nation, in order to protect nebulous national interests, though done in pursuit of humanitarian goals (which is laudable). This dichotomy is difficult to solve, and very easily abused.

The reason I bring this event up is to highlight the fact that perhaps the President has too much latitude in foreign affairs, and waging war. There are good reasons on both sides for both constraining or allowing the President free reign. However, I think a major issue that has developed in light of new technology has tipped the balance too far. The combined problems of advances in destructive weaponry coupled with technological advances in computer guidance has created a scenario where U.S. military can inflict its presence  without a single soldier in physical attendance. This remote control, for lack of a better phrase, coupled with fast global transportation rates as well as increased destructive capacity of our weapons has given the President unprecedented power in determining U.S. interests with respect to foreign nations with military might. Perhaps this power is needed to respond to the changing asymmetric warfare that we seem to be engaged in. Or maybe this unilateral allowance needs to be reigned in. Either way, Presidential power in this issue has definitely increased due to technological innovation that lets them bypass the permission of Congress. So in all other respects, it is war, but hasn’t been declared by Congress.

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1 Response to War, but not.

  1. thoughtful32 says:

    Our posts our similar in the sense that they talk about warfare and how Trump uses his power willingly. I do think that ideally in times of emergencies someone should be able to make quick decisions without daunting approvals that might never arrive. On the other hand, I think it turns into an abuse of power when that force is not used sparingly but willingly. You mentioned that the president has a high chance of waging war and I believe he took a step right in that direction after throwing that GBU-43 bomb in Afghanistan. I interpret that as a call to war and for more bloodshed. I never thought about technology playing a role in how the president bypasses congress but you make a good point. Technology does change the way we do all things and why would it not change this aspect. I question at what point Congress would declare a war or if what constitutes a war is on a different scale or different perspective because of the type of president that we have now.

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