Patterico's Pontifications


Gorsuch Confirmed – Victory for McConnell

Filed under: General — JVW @ 10:08 am

[guest post by JVW]

By a 54-45 vote with three red state Democrats up for reelection in 2018, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, joining with 51 Republicans in voting to seat him on the court. Republican Johnny Isakson of Georgia missed the vote due to health issues.

We have had ample reason to criticize Senate Majority Mitch McConnell in the past, but from the moment that we learned of the passing of the great Justice Antonin Scalia the majority leader has been nothing short of a conservative stalwart from how he handled Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to his ability to keep his caucus together and invoke the Reid Option in ending the Democrats’ filibuster. No doubt we’ll have reason to criticize him again down the road, but let’s take this moment to extend to him our most sincere thanks and congratulations for his fine work.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]


The Question Is: When Is An Act Of War An Act of War?

Filed under: General — Dana @ 7:04 am

[guest post by Dana]

Since last night’s actions in Syria, I’m sure a number of us have been asking the same question. Charles C.W. Cooke certainly has, and he provides his thoughts about the issue. His observations are likely to be met with objection from certain corners.

Quoting David French, we are reminded of this:

If Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the United States Constitution means anything, it means that the president must obtain congressional approval before taking us to war against a sovereign nation that has not attacked the U.S. or its allies and is not threatening to attack the U.S. or its allies…. As Senator Paul said, “The first thing we ought to do is probably obey the Constitution.”

Well, plain and simple, we were not attacked nor were we threatened with attack by Syria.

Last night, in his statement regarding the air strikes, President Trump said:

Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.

If we weren’t attacked, nor threatened with attack by Syria, were the strikes an issue of “vital national security interest of the U.S.,” or was the action a humanitarian issue as our response was compelled by the the grotesque assault on the Syrian people by the Assad regime? As Cooke points out, the arguments against this being an act of war run along the lines of, it’s just a “minor military operation,” or “a targeted strike,” or, as I’ve been reading, the airstrikes were simply a justified warning. No more, no less. And yet, consider this:

If a country were to lob 59 missiles at an U.S. military installation in the middle of the California desert, we would rightly regard that as an “act of war.” We certainly wouldn’t say, “don’t worry, it’s just a minor military strike.” Does the fact the Syria’s government is gassing its own people change that? No, it does not. Why not? Because the question here isn’t whether America is morally justified in hitting Assad’s air bases (it is), or whether doing so is a good idea (it may be), or whether America is a more virtuous country than Syria (it is). Rather, the question is of constitutional legality. If the United States had been gassing Americans in Hawaii at the time Japan hit Pearl Harbor, that strike would still have been an act of war — yes, even if Japan had used it as its casus belli – and Americans would have rightly seen it as such. We should not set a double standard when the roles are reversed. If we need to hit Assad, I’m open to the argument. But Congress must be asked for permission.


Ted Cruz on Syrian Air Strikes, Then and Now

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:11 am

Ted Cruz, September 9, 2013 on proposed air strikes by President Obama: Why I’ll vote no on Syria strike.

First, Assad’s actions, however deplorable, are not a direct threat to U.S. national security. Many bad actors on the world stage have, tragically, oppressed and killed their citizens, even using chemical weapons to do so. Unilaterally avenging humanitarian disaster, however, is well outside the traditional scope of U.S. military action.

Second, just because Assad is a murderous thug does not mean that the rebels opposing him are necessarily better. As of May, seven of the nine major rebel groups appeared to have significant ties to Islamists, some of whom may have links to al-Qaeda and other terrorists. Their presence and power have only increased, according to media reports. We should never give weapons to people who hate us, and the United States should not support or arm al-Qaeda terrorists.

Third, the potential for escalation is immense. Syria is in the midst of a sectarian civil war, born of centuries-old animosities. We have no clear ally in this ­Sunni-Shiite conflict, and any “limited” and “proportional” strike could quickly get out of control, imperiling our allies and forcing us into the civil war.

The president and his secretary of state have repeatedly said that Assad’s use of chemical weapons violates an “international norm.” They insist it is critical that we send a “message” to Assad that his behavior is unacceptable. But it is not the job of U.S. troops to police international norms or to send messages. Our men and women in uniform have signed up to defend America.

That was Ted Cruz from 2013. I agreed with his reasoning then and I still agree with it now. Clear-eyed, principled, and well said. You can see why someone might like that Ted Cruz.

Cruz, however, is moderating his tone — now that we have a nominally Republican president who actually did commit an unconstitutional act of war against a foreign power (as Obama later did in Libya). Here is Cruz’s latest statement:

Much more deferential. What has changed? Only the president. Nothing more.

Trump wants to be perceived as a strongman. That means (among other things) sudden, ill-considered acts that have ramifications he hasn’t thought about. This is what folks like me warned against. If Donald Trump wants to be the toughest guy in the room, let him do it on his own and back it up with his tiny fists. He ought not use America’s military to make up for his own inadequacies. I’ll leave you with a few tweets that make the sort of clear statement Ted Cruz ought to have made — and still could make.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

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