Tuesday, March 20, 2012

War powers, Congress, NATO, United Nations...

The issue is Congress's power to declare war. Under our Constitution, only Congress has the power to declare war (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11) and this power is co-extensive with the power of the president as commander in chief. They -- Congress and the president -- are the only authorities named directly or indirectly as having a constitutional role in that decision.


Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Al) questioning Defense Secretary Leon Panetta:

SESSIONS: "Do you think you can act without Congress and initiate a no-fly zone in Syria without congressional approval?"
PANETTA: You know, again -- our goal would be to seek international permission. And we would -- we would come to the Congress and inform you and determine how best to approach this, whether or not we would want to get permission from the Congress. I think those are issues we would have to discuss as we decide what to do here.
SESSIONS: Well I am almost breathless about that because what I heard you say is, "we're going to seek international approval and we'll come and tell the Congress what we might do, and we might seek congressional approval."… Wouldn't you agree that would be pretty breathtaking to the average American?
PANETTA: If we are working with an international coalition or NATO we would want to be able to get appropriate permissions in order to be able to do that. All of these countries would want to have some kind of legal basis on which to act.
SESSIONS: What "legal basis" are you looking for? What entity?
PANETTA: If NATO made the decision to go in, that would be one. If we developed an international coalition beyond NATO then obviously some kind of U.N. security resolution would be the basis for that.
SESSIONS: So you are saying NATO would give you a "legal basis"? And an ad hoc coalition of nations would provide a "legal basis"?
PANETTA: We would seek whatever legal basis we would need in order to make that justified. We can't just pull them all together without getting the legal basis on which to act.

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