It’s good time to think about the men and women who serve our country in the armed forces. One of the stories that has been brushed aside by the avalanche of White House scandals are the quietly changing policies about how troops are deployed and how military force is being used overseas. Congress can, and should, exert some oversight in these matters, and at the very least, should speak substantively on these issues.
On the campaign trail, Trump promised to “bomb the sh*t out of ISIS” and said that he would never “telegraph” his military moves. Unlike most of his campaign promises, he has kept both of these, with some alarming results.
- troop deployments are no longer announced after they have been made, and deployments to Iraq and Syria (where there is only sketchy legal basis for waging war) have increased, and likely will continue to increase.
- caps on troop levels in Iraq (5000) and Syria (500), established under the Obama administration are going to be abolished.
- less civilian oversight of the military is being exercised: the generals are much freer to take action without prior approval.
- civilian casualties are increasing, according to outside observers like Amnesty International and other international watchdogs (these numbers were recently disputed by one Air Force General).
What can Congress Do?
The President has significant war powers, but they are not unfettered. One area where there has been debate for years is about military action in Syria, because there has never been an authorization of force in that country — that’s why Obama could not act when the red line was crossed, and that’s why Trump’s airstrike against Syrian armed forces (rather than terrorists in Syria) was most likely beyond the scope of presidential power under US law, and definitely lacked authority under international law.
Congress should not continue to sidestep its responsibility by refusing to debate an authorization of force in Syria. Some lawmakers have called for this action, and before more troops are deployed and troop caps abolished, authorization should be granted, because that authorization would define a clear scope for the President’s actions. There is still no plan for Syria, and while swaggering bravado may claim that that’s just the element of surprise that will overwhelm an enemy, impulsivity and lack of planning, traits that characterize the current administration, are also traits that will get our fighting forces and innocent civilians killed.
Remind Rob Portman and Bob Latta about this. Let them know what you think about escalating, silent troop deployments, lifting troop caps, increasing civilian casualties, and waging war without congressional authorization.
Let them know that you would appreciate them LEADING on these issues rather than keeping quiet.