Democrats plan to pass a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives this week declaring that President Donald Trump violated international law with last week’s airstrike against terrorist Iranian General Qasem Suleimani.
Their bill will also reduce the president’s power to conduct hostilities without congressional approval from 60 days, under the War Powers Resolution of 1973, to 30 days. Some Democrats have proposed defunding any hostilities with Iran.
But few Democrats raised objections when President Barack Obama went to war — often exceeding the boundaries of his legal authority as president. The most notorious case was the Libya War, which President Obama launched in March 2011 without congressional authorization. He continued the war effort beyond the War Powers Resolution’s deadlines because the administration argued, the U.S. was not engaged in “hostilities” but “leading from behind.”
Some on the left bent over backward to defend Obama’s unconstitutional war. Former Yale Law School dean Harold Koh was once “one of the country’s foremost defenders of the notion that the president of the United States can’t wage wars without the approval of Congress,” the New York Times noted, but later became “the administration’s defender of the right to stay engaged in a conflict against Libya without Congressional approval.”
Later, when Obama was mulling military action against Syria, an administration that came to power by arguing that the Iraq War had been waged “without strong international support” argued that war against Syria would have been justified even without the backing of the United Nations Security Council because there was no way to win Russian support regardless and because the threat of weapons of mass destruction against civilians was dire. Few objected.
Obama later abandoned that plan, but he did bomb Syria during the campaign against the so-called “Islamic State” (or ISIS, which he called “ISIL”). He also dropped “26,171 bombs” on Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan in 2016 alone, according to the Council on Foreign Relations — often for reasons tangentially related to the 9/11-era Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). And in 2012, the Obama White House leaked to the Times that in addition to killing Osama bin Laden, he personally oversaw a terrorist “kill list.” Few protested.
So for Democrats to declare that Trump’s successful strike on Suleimani was “provocative and disproportionate” — terms that virtually welcome the intervention of the non-recognized International Criminal Court — is worse than hypocrisy. It is putting party ahead of country. Democrats would rather lose a war with Iran than win with Trump.