It's a constitutional imperative. Here's why.
The United States has been engaged against Islamic State
Administration officials have repeatedly told the American people to be prepared for a conflict that could last many years, an admonition reinforced by the Pentagon's announcement this month that it would more than double the American troop commitment to the operation in Iraq against Islamic State, to almost 3,000. And President
After three months of
First, the administration's use of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force — which allowed action against those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks — as legal justification for the current military operation requires an extraordinarily broad and problematic reading of that measure. Although Islamic State may share Al Qaeda's hatred of the United States and the West, the group did not even exist in 2001 and had no role in the Sept. 11 attacks. Nor is Islamic State affiliated with or aiding Al Qaeda, having been expressly repudiated by the Zawahiri leadership. Despite reports of an agreement to coordinate efforts between the two groups, there is little evidence to suggest anything other than a temporary response to damage being inflicted on both by coalition strikes.
Vehement opposition to President Bashar Assad's brutal government in Syria and to the harshly sectarian policies of former Prime Minister
Second, although Obama has made repeated reports, as required by the War Powers Resolution, detailing operations of the war, the timetable laid out in that law for authorizing action has expired. The president is now operating outside the Constitution. That fact is something that certainly must have weighed heavily on him as he considered whether to ask Congress for a discrete authorization against Islamic State, as opposed to his earlier invitation for us to merely express our support.
Third, the threat from Islamic State to our national security and to core American foreign policy interests is sufficient to warrant military force as an element of a multifaceted campaign. But no president has the power to commit the nation's sons and daughters to war without authorization from Congress, and no Congress should ever abdicate its responsibility for reasons of political expediency or scheduling convenience. This is not a decision that can or should wait until 2015; this action was begun during the 113th Congress and it is well within our ability to authorize it properly before adjourning for the year.
I believe that Congress — both Democrats and Republicans — would support a narrowly tailored authorization that gives the president the authority he needs here.
Whether we act to pass a resolution I introduced this fall that would allow 18 months of continued airstrikes and limited special operations against Islamic State, or some other authorization such as the one proposed by Sen.
As we prepare to close the book on what is regarded as the most unproductive Congress in the history of unproductive Congresses, the House and Senate can take an important step in demonstrating not only a capacity to act, but also a commitment to our constitutional duty.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) is a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee.