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submitted 1 month ago* (last edited 1 month ago) by [email protected] to c/nostupidquestions

I know Congress needs to be involved to actually declare war, but there have been a number of times where something was kicked off by presidential authority alone.

If Biden wanted to, could he start a conflict against Russia without congressional approval. If not, what approval would he need? If so, what would be the theoretical limitations to his power and military authority?

I am already assuming people would want some definition of what "conflict" would mean in this hypothetical scenario. So let's say it means Biden authorized US troops at the Ukrainian border and had them launching shells into Russia.

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[-] [email protected] 53 points 1 month ago* (last edited 1 month ago)

Technically only Congress can authorize a war. However, the president can and often will undertake “peacekeeping efforts” or “counterinsurgency operations” or “targeted strikes” without congressional approval.

Whether anyone could stop a president issuing an order is another question. The president is the commander in chief - the military reports to the president, not Congress. If the president tried to order the military to do something unconstitutional (like fight a war that was not authorized by Congress or, idk, overturn an election) then we’d be in a constitutional crisis. In such a crisis, either the military disobeys the president (which is unconstitutional) or the president violates separation of powers (which is unconstitutional)

The American system of government relies on three branches all participating in good faith. As soon as that stops, it all falls apart. Though government is just a series of rules and norms. Rules and norms won’t stop soldiers all the time.

[-] cobysev 26 points 1 month ago

Technically only Congress can authorize a war. However, the president can and often will undertake “peacekeeping efforts” or “counterinsurgency operations” or “targeted strikes” without congressional approval.

I served in the US military during the Iraq War. Everyone refers to it as a war, but within the military, it was officially called the Iraq Campaign, as it was a military campaign sanctioned by the president. We couldn't officially call it a war because Congress didn't approve a war in the Middle East.

Technically, the last war Congress approved was WWII. The Korean War, the Vietnam War, even our first foray into Iraq with the Gulf War... none of these are official wars. Just the president deciding to step in and get involved in foreign conflicts.

[-] Aux 23 points 1 month ago

"Special Military Operation", lol.

[-] [email protected] 6 points 1 month ago

Those people in the unconstitutional and unregulated organization called "president's administration" in Russia (which de facto took over all the important functionality from parliament, the federal council etc since around 1996) sometimes consider themselves very smart and sensitive of irony. They are also very superstitious.

Well, like people capable only of stealing and petty intrigues and achieving something at 10x the normal cost usually are.

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that this was their inspiration.

(While V and Z likely just meant "east" and "west", since В and З when carelessly drawn can be mixed up more easily, if the left part gets covered in mud or something.)

[-] setsneedtofeed 10 points 1 month ago

Just the president deciding to step in and get involved in foreign conflicts.

From 1973 onward, no. While the first Gulf War, the invasion of Afghanistan, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq were not declared as wars, they were all authorized in votes by Congress.

[-] cobysev 2 points 1 month ago

I mean, my point still stands. They weren't officially declared wars, and they were the president deciding to get involved in foreign affairs. The only difference is that Congress decided to vote on our involvement from 1973 onwards.

So our latest presidents have been more generous about sharing the decision instead of steamrolling ahead on their own. Probably a better move politically; he won't take the full blame if the decision isn't popular, like Vietnam.

[-] setsneedtofeed 7 points 1 month ago* (last edited 1 month ago)

You're kind of drifting a little bit. I responding to "just the president deciding"- the "just" in that post doing some heavy lifting to frame it as a unilateral decision without the involvement of Congress. When you say "just the person decided" that is saying they alone decided, to the exclusion of others, which isn't what happened. Without Congress approving, the invasion would not have happened, which is why there was such a huge political run up to get enough of them to sign off on it.

The only difference is that Congress decided to vote on our involvement from 1973 onwards.

That is basically completely the opposite from "just" the President deciding. It is involving an entire other branch in the decision. It's not something to handwave away.

So our latest presidents have been more generous about sharing the decision instead of steamrolling ahead on their own. Probably a better move politically; he won’t take the full blame if the decision isn’t popular, like Vietnam.

They haven't been "more generous", they've been legally restrained by the War Powers Act, a piece of legislation passed by Congress.

They weren’t officially declared wars

You are right, they weren't, which is why I didn't initially address that.

As an aside, if you were deployed to Iraq during the early 2000s, you almost certainly you received a GWOT service medal. GWOT standing for Global War On Terrorism. While Iraq operations were not in and of themselves individually declared a war, the use of the term GWOT by the US Government runs counter to the idea that people were "not allowed" to call it a war, when a medal awarded officially by the military uses the word. If the idea is that the military was an afraid of the word "war", that's not really borne out. Politicians and senior military officials at the time openly used the word.


To summarize, I can see three possible points in the previous posts:

  1. It was not officially declared a war.

Yes, completely true

  1. It was not allowed to be spoken of as a war.

Given the GWOT medal and statements of politicians and military officials at the time, this seems untrue.

  1. It was “just the president” deciding to embroil themselves in foreign affairs.

No.

I am only looking to make as factually correct assessment as possible here, operating only in response to what I’m reading.

[-] cobysev -4 points 1 month ago

Man, you sound just like my wife. Always arguing semantics when the overall point I'm making is pretty clear. ;) Now it's my turn to point out the (ridiculous) semantics of the GWOT.

The Global War on Terrorism was a (rather ignorant) blanket statement made by then-president George W. Bush Jr., implying the concept of fighting terrorism across the globe. It had nothing to do with the Iraq War; it actually predates that campaign. It was a direct response to 9/11, with the Iraq War being the first active military campaign justified under it. We've been awarded the two GWOT medals for various military campaigns around the globe. I earned the expeditionary medal from a humanitarian deployment to Africa, of all places, and earned the service medal while stationed in Japan. And they're still being awarded today, even though we've completely pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Despite using the word "war" in the medal's name, the concept behind it was akin to the "War on Drugs." It's not an actual war against a particular nation or people; it's a war on a concept. How can you fight a concept?!

Terrorism is a very vague word that applies to any situation in which someone uses fear and/or intimidation to get their way. We've definitely used that specific definition to justify stepping into situations we had no reason to be involved in. Like Iraq.

Much like the War on Drugs, I'm sure we'll eventually see that there's no possible way to win against the concept of terrorism, and we'll silently phase it out. Heck, we've been ordered as of 2021 to start restricting the award of the GWOT-Service medal, so we're already beginning to phase it out. It was a stupid statement, made by a stupid president who constantly flubbed his words, and shouldn't be taken at face value.

To your other point, yes, I used the word "just" when referring to the president's decision. The reason being, it is solely his decision, as the highest ranking leader of the Department of Defense (DoD), to implement the military in "campaigns" across the globe. He does not need anyone's permission to deploy us.

However, you are correct that the War Powers Act restricts how he uses the military. He can send us out on a whim, but without that approval by Congress, he'd have to pull us back within 30 days. And he's not allowed to actively order us into hostile situations without approval by Congress.

If we encounter hostilities while out on various campaigns, though, we're authorized to respond appropriately to the situation via the Rules of Engagement (RoE). Kind of a loophole, which I have definitely seen used before. "Oops, we just happened to be passing through on a patrol and terrorists jumped out of nowhere and opened fire on us! We ended the initial threat, but quick, approve our sustained operations in the area so we can identify and neutralize lingering threats!"

Also, the public referred to the Iraq War as such, and news agencies latched onto the term, so politicians started using it too. And our Public Affairs office instructed military officials who were authorized to speak officially to the public to use common lingo.

But as military members, operating in an official capacity, we were required to use the "correct terminology" in our discussion and documentation, so as not to give off the wrong impression on official records. Which is why we were expected to use Iraq Campaign instead of Iraq War in our official lingo. Future generations will see our official records documented during the Iraq War, and the DoD prefers it's framed in a certain way, so it doesn't seem like we were intentionally encouraging a war in the region. As much of a failure as that campaign was, and as paper-thin our excuse was for deploying there, we don't want people to also think we were just war-hungry terrorists or something. Right?? 9_9

Apologies if my semantics are not 100% accurate; I usually don't have to deep dive into the specifics about these things with civilians, so I tend to "handwave away" the details, as you put it. I'm sorry if was a bit loose with my verbiage.

[-] setsneedtofeed 5 points 1 month ago* (last edited 1 month ago)

To your other point, yes, I used the word “just” when referring to the president’s decision. The reason being, it is solely his decision, as the highest ranking leader of the Department of Defense (DoD), to implement the military in “campaigns” across the globe. He does not need anyone’s permission to deploy us.

Congress in Iraq 2003 authorized before, rather than after. While the President could unilaterally have ordered an invasion with only a short term of authority, he did not. Therefore, the historical example provided was not an example of the President acting without backing of Congress. It was not "just" the President doing so, but the President acting after having obtained legal authority for sustained operations by Congress. Similarly Afghanistan, and the First Gulf War were authorized, and therefore not "just" the President acting.

he’d have to pull us back within 30 days

90 days.

as military members, operating in an official capacity, we were required to use the “correct terminology”

The name of the medal was official. I'm not going to re-litigate the entire subject, but if your point is that there was an aversion to using the word "war" in public, that simply wasn't so. You, specifically, may have had guidelines in reports, but that was not universal, and certainly not something followed, as you point out, by the President at the time. While war was not officially declared, the President and members of Congress used the word, and Congress authorized it. This is not a moral judgement or defense of the Iraq invasion, but pointing out that framing it solely as a Presidential adventure is inaccurate.

I usually don’t have to deep dive into the specifics about these things with civilians

Perhaps an assumption?

[-] cobysev -3 points 1 month ago* (last edited 1 month ago)

All right, now I'm convinced you're just a burner account for my wife. You're still arguing semantics, distracting with irrelevant information, and are willingly misunderstanding instead of contributing to the actual conversation. Looks like you care more about arguing than having an actual productive discussion, so it's not really worth my time to try and rehash this in even simpler terms for you.

But I will condede, I meant 90 days, not 30. That was an honest slip of the fingers.

EDIT: Fine, because it's bothering me how poorly you're following this discussion, here's an actual response:

Congress in Iraq 2003 authorized before, rather than after. [...]

Irrelevant. My point was that the president can act on his own. Period. That was the whole discussion, from the very start. Congress is not needed. Just because Congress has been consulted with, and approved further action before the president gave the order, doesn't mean he can't do it.

You're trying to say the president can't send troops overseas into enemy territory without approval from Congress and that is simply wrong. You've been quoting the War Powers Act in every thread here, and even corrected me on the 90 days rule, yet you still act like the president's hands are tied without Congress signing off on everything he does. That's literally the point of the 90 day rule!

The name of the medal was official. I'm not going to re-litigate the entire subject, but if your point is that there was an aversion to using the word "war" in public, that simply wasn't so. [...]

Okay, let me simplify this for you, since you're struggling with reading comprehension. Publicly, it was called the Iraq War. Because that's the term the civilian population latched onto and we couldn't shake that perception. Same with Vietnam War, Korean War, Gulf War, etc. Not official wars, but the public named them and we didn't argue semantics with news agencies, lest it ruin our credibility. (Like arguing with trolls about semantics online. Hmm...) We do not have an aversion to using "war" publicly. We actually prefer to use that word publicly.

In an official capacity though (read: behind-the-scenes military documentation/records/discussion/etc.), it's always been the Iraq Campaign. We do not call it a war because Congress never declared war. It's literally as simple as that. Our written military history will officially have it documented as a military campaign and nothing more. The medal awarded for participation in the Iraq War is literally called the Iraq Campaign Medal.

The medal you're referring to in your comment is the Global War on Terrorism medal. Not related to the Iraq War, or any war in particular. It's a stupid declaration by a former president who wanted to make a statement about standing up to the 9/11 attacks, and award any service member who takes part in this so-called "War on Terror."

And again, we use the word "war" publicly, so there's no reason we can't have it on that particular medal. It's not referencing a specific military campaign, so it can be named the Global War on Terrorism medal. Refer to the "War on Drugs" comment in my last reply.

I usually don’t have to deep dive into the specifics about these things with civilians

Perhaps an assumption?

An assumption about what? You obviously didn't serve in the military, or else you would know all this and I wouldn't have to spell this out multiple times for you. So yes, I'm assuming you're just a civilian who read a few articles and are now struggling to follow actual information from someone who experienced it first-hand through the military, because it didn't align with whatever comprehension you took away from the subject.

[-] setsneedtofeed 16 points 1 month ago* (last edited 1 month ago)

The War Powers Act limits use of force by the President to 90 days of military operations. After that, the President’s powers are specifically limited by the act.

Congress still authorizes extended operations, even if they are not declarations of war.

For example, the Authorization for Use of Military Force 2001 authorized military force “against those responsible for the September 11 attacks”, which authorized both operations in Afghanistan and more global force. This has been controversial, as the interpretation of which groups were partially responsible has been broadly interpreted. However it was still a congressionally approved authorization. Congress could, if it so desired, revoke that authorization.

Separately, the invasion of Iraq was authorized by Congress by the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.

[-] [email protected] 7 points 1 month ago

So Biden, or any president could essentially start a conflict/war/whatever between the election and inauguration has been my take away.

I am fascinated by the minutae of hypothetical government actions, because it seems like at this point we are going down a road where they are more likely.

[-] [email protected] 7 points 1 month ago

There's what's legally possible, and what can be done in reality.

No one is going to let Biden unilaterally attack Canada; he'd be impeached AND thrown out under the 25th Amendment five minutes after he announced the attack.

[-] [email protected] 4 points 1 month ago

You say that but that isn’t how it would happen.

There would be months or years of prep work, spreading propaganda that Canada was the source of our woes, that they were wronging us. By the time we invaded there’d be just enough “legitimate discourse” about the invasion that the Presidents supporters could claim any effort to stop him was political.

There was a time not long ago where people said you couldn’t do lots of things or you’d get thrown out - then Trump did many of them, even got impeached (twice!) and stayed in office. In practice, these limits are at best inconvenient for a dedicated lunatic.

[-] [email protected] 2 points 1 month ago

No analogy is going to be perfect.

[-] setsneedtofeed 5 points 1 month ago

So Biden, or any president could essentially start a conflict/war/whatever between the election and inauguration has been my take away.

If a President wants to fart on the way out, they have a lot of authority. The President alone has sole authority to launch a nuclear strike, with no need for oversight by anyone else, so there are certainly bigger plays than "merely" authorizing ground forces to partake in a conflict.

I am fascinated by the minutae of hypothetical government actions, because it seems like at this point we are going down a road where they are more likely.

Recency bias makes everything in the now seem more important, and more uncertain than things in the past were at the time. There are many mitigating factors in a President who is on the way out who orders military intervention out of spite that will make it likely much less catastrophic than you might imagine.

[-] meco03211 10 points 1 month ago

A big distinction is that it's unlawful to follow unconstitutional orders. This is to hopefully prevent us ending up like the Nazis and a bunch of people trying to claim "I was just following orders". So it oversimplifies the situation to say "disobeying the president" is unconstitutional. There's nuance.

[-] [email protected] 6 points 1 month ago

But that’s the crisis right? The president would almost never say “go violate the constitution.” They would say “go arrest and occupy Congress, THEY violated the constitution “

[-] [email protected] 1 points 1 month ago

Military swears an oath to the constitution not to the president.

[-] AA5B 1 points 1 month ago

either the military disobeys the president (which is unconstitutional) or the president violates separation of powers (which is unconstitutional)

I don’t see how disobeying your boss is unconstitutional. It may be detrimental to your job but it’s not unconstitutional

As other posters have said, there’s lots of wiggle room in who can start military action, starting with the War Powers Act, so no violation of separation of powers either

[-] [email protected] 2 points 1 month ago

I mean in the literal sense the president is commander in chief of the armed forces. Disobeying their orders is defying their constitutional authority.

The issue is obviously more complicated than that just-so story. My point is not that if the president says to shoot the speaker of the house, soldiers must do it or they are behaving unconstitutionally. My point is that the president has the authority to direct the military to do things, and when the president uses that authority to undermine democracy in the US that act is a constitutional crisis because it pits two branches of government against each other in an irreconcilable way.

[-] setsneedtofeed 2 points 1 month ago

I don’t see how disobeying your boss is unconstitutional.

Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution gives the President authority to command the U.S. military. The military refusing a lawful order is therefore going against the chain of command created by the Constitution.

[-] RightHandOfIkaros 12 points 1 month ago

Only Congress can officially declare war.

[-] [email protected] 3 points 1 month ago

Right and when was the last time that process was actually followed?

[-] setsneedtofeed 1 points 1 month ago* (last edited 1 month ago)

A declaration of war does not need to be given.

Since 1973, sustained military operations have required Congress' approval. A declaration of war is not needed, but the process of Congress voting to authorize military forceis. That is essentially the same process with a few words swapped out. That process has been followed.

Now, if you are in the mood to look for issues, look at the 2001 AUMF passed by Congress. It gave a blank check to conduct military operations against "those responsible for the 9/11 attacks". Given enough lawyers and determination, that can be read very, very broadly. That AUMF is still being cited for operations. The process has been followed to the tee, and Congressed did indeed sign off on it, but that is an example of a broad and open ended power being given away by one branch of government to another.

[-] [email protected] 11 points 1 month ago
[-] dhork 10 points 1 month ago

The President has to report all use of military force abroad to Congress within 48 hours, and those forces can't be committed for more than 60 days without Congressional approval, either in the form of a Declaration of War, or an Authorization for the Use of Military Forces resolution.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Powers_Resolution

[-] [email protected] 9 points 1 month ago

The military industrial complex, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and the rest of those.

[-] trolololol 6 points 1 month ago

Ìt used to be when Dick Cheney said so, usually when he noticed some oil fields crying for freedom. Not sure who's calling the shots nowadays.

[-] setsneedtofeed 2 points 1 month ago* (last edited 1 month ago)

If Biden wanted to, could he start a conflict against Russia without congressional approval. If not, what approval would he need? If so, what would be the theoretical limitations to his power and military authority?

He could do it for 90 days, at which point to legally continue, Congress would need to authorize an extension. A declaration of war is unnecessary, but an authorization of force (which is let’s call it a more polite euphemism for the same end effect) is at least.

Continued military operations beyond that time would trigger a big political mess. As a practical matter, military forces would still most likely follow presidential orders while the president was either forced to order an orderly withdrawal by Congress, or Congress gave in and retroactively authorized force (either a limited authorization to allow an orderly retreat or a more open ended one for a continuing military posture).

If the political situation was intractable, you’d likely be looking at an impeachment hearing.

[-] Gradually_Adjusting 5 points 1 month ago

I would be really interested to see how it plays out if Congress decided to try and put the pin back in the president's grenade. Would the US be forced to pay reparations? Would the military industrial complex flex its own political muscles more overtly than ever? How would that pan out in elections?

[-] setsneedtofeed 9 points 1 month ago

You raise interesting discussion points, but I’m tired, so I’m going to engage in them by way of memes.

Would the US be forced to pay reparations?

Would the military industrial complex flex its own political muscles more overtly than ever?

How would that pan out in elections?

[-] Gradually_Adjusting 4 points 1 month ago

The questions were rhetorical but yeah

[-] Mango 1 points 1 month ago
[-] [email protected] -1 points 1 month ago
this post was submitted on 20 Apr 2024
58 points (96.8% liked)

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