Now, I would prefer that we would simply declare war on Syria rather than “authorize military force” or whatever. For reasons that I find surprisingly hard to articulate, it bothers me that the word “war” has come to mean for politicians “total war, fought for the absolute annihilation of the enemy by any means necessary” ... whereas for ordinary people it continues to mean simply “a state of armed conflict between different nations or states or different groups within a nation or state.”
A declaration of war on Syria should mean simply that we intend to use force to try to kill Syrian soldiers. It should not mean that we intend to overthrow the Syrian government or wipe the Syrian state from the map.
But I am just being cranky. All five of the United States’ declared wars involved either an attempt to annex territory or force an unconditional surrender. So the word has had an extreme connotation for a while.
The thing is, several of our undeclared wars also effectively involved a demand for unconditional surrender: the interwar interventions on Hispaniola, Korea after U.N. forces crossed the 49th parallel, Grenada in effect, Panama without a doubt, Afghanistan even if nobody says so and certainly the Second Gulf War.
So we are not consistent either way. Unless there is some legal reason of which I am unaware (is there?) the old crankster in me would like to bring back the pre-1812 terminology.
Get those google glasses off your face before I knock ‘em off and STAY OFF MY LAWN!
But kudos to President Obama! Even he asks only for an authorization to use force, kudos. I still think a very limited war with Syria is a bad idea even if Congress says yes, but it is nice to know that we will have a full and open debate under the original terms of our Constitution before we go ahead with only our French ally.
President Hollande, by the way, has the explicit power under Article 35 of the French constitution to send French military forces into combat for up to four months without requiring Parliamentary approval. So his decision to send forces against Syria without legislative authorization is fully and completely constitutional. That said, French forces have ranged all over the planet since 1958 whereas all the sentences in Article 35 after the first one were added only in 2008. (See pages 44-45.)
Still, credit to France for realizing that the theory of their constitution did not meet the practice and changing the constitution to bring them in line. To be brutally frank, all Americans who think that the president should have the power to commit military forces to action outside our sovereign territory should really push to have us do the same.
The above, by the way, is across the street from the French Musée de l’Armée, which my wife introduced me to and is completely awesome and not to be missed.