August 10, 2017

I WISH I THOUGHT ALL THIS SUDDEN ATTENTION TO CONSTITUTIONAL LIMITS ON POWER WOULD LAST UNDER THE NEXT DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENT: Can Trump unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea without congressional authorization? “With notable exceptions, such as the Korean War, presidents have generally sought advance congressional authorization for large-scale military actions comparable to the one now under discussion. That is what happened in the cases of the Vietnam War, the post-9/11 invasion of Afghanistan, and both Iraq wars. Unilateral presidential military actions typically involved situations where the enemy attacked or declared war first (as in the 1989 Panama intervention) or cases where the expected military action was brief and on a very small scale, involving little or no combat (as in the case of President Clinton’s 1994 intervention in Haiti, among many other examples). Unfortunately, this norm has frayed in recent years, in considerable part because President Obama initiated two large-scale wars without congressional authorization – his 2011 intervention in Libya and the still-ongoing war against ISIS. In January, I warned that these precedents were a dangerous ‘loaded gun’ that Obama left to Trump, and urged Congress to reassert its war powers. Whether it will actually do so remains unclear.”