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Monday, August 11, 2014

Iraq and War Powers

If the President plans to engage in military operations in Iraq for “months” (and almost certainly longer) in an effort to address the militant threat posed over the long term there, then the case for doing so in reliance solely on his inherent Article II self-defense power just grew weaker, legally and especially politically, and the case for seeking authorization from Congress for the military strikes just grew stronger. As I noted yesterday, the case for seeking congressional authorization in this context was made forcefully and persuasively less than a year ago by President Obama himself, when he explained why he was seeking congressional authorization prior to military strikes in Syria.
In January 2007, candidate Obama said:
 What we're saying is that if we can begin a phased withdrawal and give the Iraqi government a sense that we are not engaging in an open-ended commitment, we're not going to babysit a civil war and we're not going to continue to throw American troops at the problem, that they will actually arrive at the sort of political solution that's necessary.
A few weeks later, his then-rival and future secretary of state cribbed his line, as The New York Times reported:
On Sunday, Mrs. Clinton for the first time on the campaign trail used the phrase “civil war” to describe the violence in Iraq. Speaking about building coalitions with Middle Eastern nations, she said she would take a new approach: “I would say ‘I’m sorry, it’s over. We are not going to baby-sit a civil war.’ ”