Under the U.S. Constitution and laws, there are two means for Congress to exercise authority over the president’s ability to make war.
One, the more important, is by means of Congress’ controlling funding; the second is the so-called War Powers resolution, put into place in 1973 when President Richard M. Nixon was showing tendencies to prolong the Vietnam War indefinitely.
So far, two weeks into President Barack Obama’s re-insertion of U.S.military might into the confused Iraqi-Kurdish political-military-secular equation, the accountability that congressional oversight of what is occurring might introduce to the new U.S. role in Iraq has been sadly, noticeably missing.
No figure for the financial cost of the renewed Iraq War has been presented by Mr. Obama. This omission is in spite of the fact that it has to be expensive, with many F-18 and drone missions and the presence of now more than 1,000 American forces on the ground, training and otherwise supporting Iraqi national and Kurdish forces.
Meanwhile, the American people continue to make it clear that they favored Mr. Obama’s decision to pull all U.S. forces out of Iraq three years ago and do not want to see the United States back in the middle of that largely senseless melee.
Political analysis at the Capitol suggests that members of Congress do not want to be counted in a vote on whether the United States should be re-involved in Iraq or not. Apart from their normal weasel-like approach to being forced to take a stand on any controversial issue, this one is more highly politicized than most.
Nonetheless, the taxpayers pay them to make hard decisions. Their hand should be forced either by the introduction of a War Powers resolution on the U.S. role in the new Iraq conflict or by a clear White House financial accounting of the costs of what the United States is doing there now, with a request to Congress to fund it.
One of the ways the administration of President George W. Bush severely damaged the American economy was by fighting two wars — Iraq and Afghanistan — without providing the necessary supplementary financing for them.