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Friday, October 14, 2011

Another War

The Armed Forces Press Service reports:

President Barack Obama has authorized the deployment to central Africa of 100 combat-equipped U.S. forces whose mission is to help regional forces fight the notorious Lord's Resistance Army and its leader, Joseph Kony.

In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Daniel Inouye, president pro tempore of the Senate, Obama notified Congress of his actions, as required by the War Powers Resolution of 1973, a federal law intended to limit the president’s power to commit the United States to armed conflict without congressional consent.

On Oct. 12, the president wrote, the initial team of U.S. combat-equipped military personnel deployed to Uganda. A total of 100 service members and civilians will deploy to the region over the next month, including a second combat-equipped team and headquarters, communications and logistics personnel.

Obama said the forces will provide information, advice and assistance to select partner nation forces and act as advisers to partner forces that seek to remove Kony and other senior LRA leadership from the battlefield.

U.S. forces will not engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense, the president said, and “all appropriate precautions have been taken to ensure the safety of U.S. military personnel during their deployment.”

The president's letter closes this way:

I have directed this deployment, which is in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive. I am making this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93 148). I appreciate the support of the Congress in this action.

Note that the phrase is "consistent with," not "in compliance with." No president has ever acknowledged the constitutionality of the War Powers Act. As law professor Lori Damrosch wrote in 2000:

President Ford complied with the reporting requirements of the War Powers Resolution in relation to evacuations from Danang, Phnom Penh, and Saigon, and the retaking of the SS Mayaguez. Nonetheless, he maintained the position of principle that the War Powers Resolution could not impair the President's constitutionally-based powers.When reporting to Congress as the War Powers Resolution provides, neither Ford nor his successors ever conceded that any legally operational significance would attach to a report submitted "consistent with the War Powers Resolution."In other words, no President has ever acknowledged the Resolution's timetable of sixty or ninety days for withdrawal of troops (unless Congress were to authorize their participation in hostilities) to be running.