White House to Seek War Authorization

White House

White House photo courtesy of Fotalia

White House to Seek War Authorization
| published February 10, 2015 |

By Thursday Review staff


By this time tomorrow the White House will officially request from Congress the authorization to use military force against ISIS, according to reports by the Associated Press and Reuters. U.S. President Barack Obama will ask Congress for the green light to pursue an ongoing military campaign it has already begun, but under provisions in the Constitution, a president must gain approval from Congress for any long-term, sustained war.

Many in the U.S. House and in the U.S. Senate—conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans—have expressed serious concern that Obama has overstepped his executive powers by conducting renewed military campaigns in the Middle East, specifically the use of American air power to attack ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria.

The United States entered into a coalition with several other countries in August 2014 to bomb ISIS targets on the ground in Iraq and Syria. Coalition nations include Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Iraq. Air assets from the United Kingdom, France and Egypt have also been used within the anti-ISIS campaign on a limited basis.

Many members of both the House and the Senate might be willing to extend war powers to Obama, but there will likely be debate as to how broadly to extend that authorization.

Air power has been effective so far in halting much of ISIS’s advance, but most military experts—and many in the Pentagon—have said that air power alone will not be enough to turn the tide and defeat ISIS. Jordan last week stepped up its participation, engaging in some of the heaviest bombing yet against ISIS targets in retaliation for ISIS’s burning alive a captured Jordanian pilot. Even after the heavy Jordanian attacks, which included more than 60 sorties in less than four days, many military analysts and intelligence experts say that it has had only limited impact on ISIS units on the ground.

Democrats can be expected to be generally wary of extending authority for the use of ground troops in Iraq or in Syria. Some Republicans have said that would prefer giving the Pentagon the latitude to deploy ground assets as needed.

The White House has consistently said all along that it has not needed Congressional authorization for its campaign against ISIS, since this latest engagement is merely one component of fighting which began as far back as 2001 and 2002, when Congress extended authorization to use force to then-President George W. Bush in wars against al Qaeda and other terror groups in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those wars were intended to defang al Qaeda and topple the Taliban in Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11.

To avoid a lengthy debate in Congress, the White House will want to iron out the differences between Republicans and Democrats before the issue comes to a vote. Negotiations are taking place today between White House officials and members of the House and Senate, and those talks are designed to forge consensus on the wording of the bill.

ISIS, also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, launched a massive military campaign last spring, sending its army across northern Syria and northern Iraq, and seizing territory stretching from Syria’s border with Turkey, to Iraq’s border with Jordan. ISIS militants use terror tactics as it moves into new areas, often murdering hundreds each time it succeeds in seizing a town or village. ISIS’s rapid advance triggered the collapse of the Iraqi army, which retreated or melted away. It also threatened the stability of Iraq, a country in which thousands of Americans died between 2002 and 2012.

President Obama wants to repeal the war powers granted to the Bush White House for the Iraq War, but he seeks to reinstate—or extend—the wider authorizations designed for the war on terrorism.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Jordan Unleashed Firepower Against ISIS; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; February 6, 2015.

Islamic Outrage Increases Over ISIS; Thursday Review editors; Thursday Review; February 5, 2015.