On October 27, NBC News reported that the United States will now begin to take “direct action on the ground” against the forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. This was stated by Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, with the aim of pressuring the group as they continue to progress in their destructive power in the region.
NBC News- “We won’t hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL, or conducting such missions directly whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground,” Carter said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services committee, using an alternative name for the militant group.
So now that the United States is directly becoming involved, the Islamic State will be crushed and we will not have further issue, right? Wrong.
What we have here is a two sided problem, both of which deal with the execution of military force. On one hand, the Executive branch is making yet another unilateral decision to make war without express authorization from Congress. Second, the action that will be taken will not strike the heart of the issue nor of the Islamic State itself.
First of all things, this “direct action” is unconstitutional, as it flies in the face of the Constitution when it comes to war-making power. As laid out in Article 1, section 8 of the Constitution, the power to declare war is explicitly granted solely to Congress. There is no clause in Article 1, or Article 2 (the President’s powers) that states that he may direct troop action as necessary.
When military action is required, Congress must be the governing body to issue such a declaration. If such deference is granted to a branch of government that is not tied to the civil power, then there is an immense danger for the misuse of that military force. Such has been the case many times in history (Julius Caesar’s march into Rome being the most prominent example), and this was one of the major concerns of the Founders during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The war-making power was delegated to Congress because of that danger.
[T]hat standing armies, in times of peace, are dangerous to liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided, as far as the circumstances and protection of the community will admit; and that, in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.
-17th Proposed Amendment for a Bill of Rights at the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 27, 1788
James Madison agreed with this important precept, and wrote on it during the Pacificus-Helvidius Debate.
In no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found, than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department. Beside the objection to such a mixture to heterogeneous powers, the trust and the temptation would be too great for any one man; not such as nature may offer as the prodigy of many centuries, but such as may be expected in the ordinary successions of magistracy. War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement. In war, a physical force is to be created; and it is the executive will, which is to direct it. In war, the public treasures are to be unlocked; and it is the executive hand which is to dispense them. In war, the honours and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed. It is in war, finally, that laurels are to be gathered, and it is the executive brow they are to encircle.The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honourable or venial love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace.
On the power of war-making, we must heed the wisdom of the Founders. As men who thoroughly studied law, philosophy, and history, they knew the dangers that armies present, and subjected that power to the civil body in order to keep it in check. That awesome power was specifically not entrusted to the executive, under one man, because of the tendency to abuse such power.
We now find ourselves in a situation that the Founders warned us about; the executive branch waging war constantly, draining the public treasury and placing our liberty into jeopardy. The two wars in Iraq (the one in 2003, I mean) and Afghanistan have cost the United States trillions of dollars, and thousands of troop casualties; the difference being that both were authorized by Congress.
Congressman Justin Amash recognizes this, and has hammered this declaration on his social media.
In this new “direct” action against the Islamic State, there is not a Congressional declaration of war, nor even an AUMF (Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which is not a full declaration of war but a quasi-declaration), but simple unilateral executive action to deploy the armed forces into a conflict which the Congress has not given authorization. It is inherently unconstitutional to do this.
Secondly, this “direct action” will not tackle the Islamic State problem. This is another half-hearted effort to allegedly rectify the mass slaughter of the terrorist group, but such efforts will do little to deter, let alone halt, the operations of the Islamic State. When waging a war, any given nation must put forth full effort into the action. When a person takes up a job, in order to do it correctly, that person must put forth full effort into the endeavor, or else he will fail and will have wasted his time and resources.
The same principle applies to war-making. If the United States is going to go to war with the Islamic State, it will have to be a full scale assault on them that will completely wipe them off the face of the map. This new action will not do that, but rather will only further exacerbate the problem by adding more fuel to the Syrian Civil War fire, and the terrorist fires spread over the (former) Iraq.
More drone strikes, air strikes, and advisors will NOT cause the Islamic State problem to magically disappear, and to believe that it will is foolish. Two things will have to happen if this issue is to truly be resolved. First, as aforementioned, if the United States decides to follow its war-making powers clause, then only an assault with the full intent of winning will stop the Islamic State. Half-hearted efforts will lead to half-hearted results; battles will only be half-won, and the problem barely half-solved (if that).
Second, the people in the Middle East will have to stand up and say that they will not tolerate such terrorism in their regions, in (former) Iraq, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan, etc. Only those who live in those areas can put a total stop to the madness of Islamism; a complete and total rejection of anything having to do with violent jihad or destroying the West. Without such, another group will just rise to take the place of the Islamic State. The current culture breeds the rise of terrorist groups, and only a full 180 degree turn can change that.
Of course these two things are certainly much easier said than done, but such is the nature of doing things the right way. Both of these would greatly help in diminishing the Islamic State problem; it is a much more complex issue that just these two to which I have narrowed it down, but these are two major hurdles that stand in the way of actually making any progress against the Islamic State. But it is, at this point, highly unlikely that either will come to pass.