Korobov: Authorize war against ISIS


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On the surface, what occurred in the meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week must have seemed preposterous — Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., tied a proposal to declare war on ISIS to a completely unrelated bill involving clean drinking water around the globe. Unable to coerce the Senate into voting for his bill, this last-ditch effort to force a vote was certainly symbolic.

Paul has a history of using thought-provoking grand gestures. Last year, he staged a nearly 13-hour filibuster on the Senate floor. Sabotaging a proceeding intended to be a debate on the nomination of John Brennan to run the CIA, Paul’s goal was to bring attention to the legality of whether the U.S. government could stage drone strikes on U.S. citizens on American soil. The filibuster received widespread bipartisan support, and he soon received his answer: The government may not attack you via a drone strike in a café.

I supported Paul’s filibuster last year, and I am in favor of his declaration of war now.

As I wrote in September, most Americans are in favor of President Obama’s attacks on ISIS. However, popular support does not equate to legal justification, and a country cannot survive in a state of lawlessness. The White House is still relying on an Authorization for Use of Military Force that was signed after the 9/11 attacks, a resolution that is certainly outdated more than a decade after its inception.

Paul’s bill accomplishes two things: It provides another authorization of military force, this time specifically targeting ISIS, as well as a formal declaration of war. The declaration of war is particularly important here. Despite the U.S. military involvement throughout its history, Congress has officially declared war in only five instances: the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.

According to Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution, only Congress has the authorization to declare war. Because of this, while some previous military engagements were authorized by Congress, the lack of an official “declaration of war” has caused many to refer to them as unconstitutional.

Sometimes, certain operations were not even authorized by Congress. The recent American assistance in the Libyan civil war was validated by the U.N. Security Council but never by our own representatives.

Pew Research began tracking public trust in government in 1958 through annual polls. The results depict that in aggregate, public trust has fallen from 73 to 24 percent in more than 50 years. Perhaps this could be due in part to a lack of transparency in military engagements that have occurred in this time, many of which were widely unpopular.

Paul’s bill demands that the American people have a discussion about the way that we conduct military engagements. Returning to the constitutionally required declaration of war eases confusion and brings back uniform order in the lawful authorization of military interference. 

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