Last week, a bipartisan cohort of representatives sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to seek congressional authorization before taking any further military action in Syria. Since the U.S. entered into the Syrian conflict in 2014, vague justifications derived from the post-9/11 Authorization for Use of Military Force have been used to support U.S. strikes and military personnel on the ground in Syria.
With the possibility of escalating conflict in Syria ever present, the letter attempts to put the power to authorize military force back where it belongs – in the hands of Congress. It also encourages the president to prioritize diplomatic solutions over offensive military force in Syria.
The letter was signed by 48 members of Congress to coincide with the 17th anniversary of the AUMF’s passage. Since its signing in 2001, three administrations from both parties have broadly interpreted and applied the AUMF to military actions in dozens of countries.
This request to the president starts the conversation on the issue of military engagement and the roles the president and Congress play in those decisions. The Constitution and War Powers Resolution of 1973 delegated decisions over extended military campaigns to Congress for a reason – to ensure a check on executive power. It’s time to reestablish the process by which any president must obtain authorization from Congress to use offensive military force. That applies to the current situation in Syria, and in any country in the future.