When is the president required to get a Declaration of War? Because getting Congress to pass a Declaration of War is an arduous process, our troops often find themselves killing people and breaking their things without explicit congressional authorization. Official Declarations of War by Congress lists eleven declaration of war. Curiously, Congress never declared war on the Barbary Pirates (See First Barbary War, Second Barbary War. and Barbary Wars, 1801–1805 and 1815–1816.). Apparently, Congress decided early on to reserve formal declaration of wars for the more serious conflicts.
Therefore, when I heard President Trump had ordered airstrikes (cruise missile attacks) against Syria, I expected that he would exercise the good sense to consult the senior leaders in Congress, but I did not expect him to have a Declaration of War. As I expected, Trump had just consulted the senior leaders in Congress. Still, we are getting the usual arguments over a Declaration of War.
What I think is key here is that our president realizes that he needs congressional support. Trump needs to do his best to fulfill the spirit of the law. Without the support of the country, it is stupid to go to war. When our military forces start firing weapons in anger, we can never be quite sure things will go the way we expect.
Anyway, there is the usual raging debate. It is curious to see where people come down on this.
- Syria war: Should Congress have approved Trump missile strikes? (bbc.com)
- Sen. Rand Paul: Syria, Trump and another unconstitutional rush to war (foxnews.com)
- Mark Pocan wrongly claims Donald Trump had no legal authority to launch missile attack on Syria (politifact.com)
- The merits of Trump’s Syria strike aside, we need to bring back Congress’ power over declaring war (conservativereview.com)
- How Trump was able to order U.S. strikes on Syria without congressional approval (cbsnews.com)
As a Conservative, I would like to see a process that clearly commits Congress before the president orders a strike. However, that would sacrifice the element of surprise. So it is not always practical. Nevertheless, given that Russia is backing Syria any conflict with Syria could quickly escalate. So Trump needs to define the mission and get Congress to support it if it involves the use of military force.