National Review Op-Ed: Opposing Unconstitutional Wars
Much has been speculated and written since my endorsement of Mitt Romney for president. Many in the liberty movement and my longtime supporters wondered if, as a result of endorsing someone for office, I would stand up to them when they went astray.
The question to me is as strange as the answer is simple: Yes, strongly. Every time.
I have always done what I believe and I have never been blinded by party. In my time in the United States Senate, I have opposed the USA Patriot Act, voted against the NDAA over indefinite detention, fought to end mandatory minimum drug sentences, and voted against my party's official budget because it didn't cut enough spending.
I introduced a resolution against an unconstitutional war in Libya, and tried to repeal the authorization for the unconstitutional war before that in Iraq.
I don't believe any fair look at my record will show blind partisanship - or partisanship of any kind. I have worked with Senate Democrats on civil liberties, and the House Black Caucus on the drug war. I have fought alongside the ACLU on civil liberties, and at times, I have fought all by myself on federalism issues.
I endorsed Governor Romney for many reasons, not the least of which is that we simply cannot afford four more years of President Obama. Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, an out-of-control EPA and NLRB, and trillion-dollar deficits are combining to strangle our economy. I am afraid if that chokehold is not released quickly, our country may quickly follow Europe into destruction. Anyone who doesn't believe there is a difference between the two candidates on economic issues is simply not looking or not being honest with their assessments.
Where I don't know if there is as much of a difference as I would like is foreign policy.
Let's first be clear: President Obama was elected on a platform of ending wars, yet he has opposed every effort made by me and others in the Senate to do that. He opposed my resolution to end the Iraq War. He has refused my urgings to end the war in Afghanistan more quickly. He started another war in Libya, and this time went further into unconstitutional territory than previous presidents by not even seeking Congressional approval whatsoever.
I opposed him when he did that. Anyone who believes President Obama is less aggressive internationally than his predecessors is mistaken.
I do not yet know if I will find a Romney presidency more acceptable on foreign policy. But I do know that I must oppose the most recent statements made by Mitt Romney in which he says he, as president, could take us to war unilaterally with Iran, without any approval from Congress. His exact words were:
I can assure you if I'm president, the Iranians will have no question but that I will be willing to take military action if necessary to prevent them from becoming a nuclear threat to the world. I don't believe at this stage, therefore, if I'm president that we need to have a war powers approval or special authorization for military force. The president has that capacity now.
This is a misreading of the role of the president and Congress in declaring war.
The Constitution clearly states that it is Congress that has the power to declare war, not the president. The War Powers Act also clearly states that U.S. forces are to engage in hostilities only if the circumstances are "pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces."
Absent these criteria, the president has no authority to declare war.
Even if the president believes he has such authority, the War Powers Act goes on to require the president to seek congressional approval within 60 days of conflict.
No president is above the law or above the Constitution.
Our Founding Fathers were quite concerned about giving the power to declare war to the executive. They were quite concerned that the executive could rule like a king.
Before sending our young men and women into combat, we should have a mature and thoughtful debate over the ramifications, the authorization, and the motives of the war. James Madison wrote that the Constitution supposes what history demonstrates, that the executive is the branch most interested in war and most prone to it. The Constitution, therefore, with studied care vested that power in the legislature.
I will hold accountable and oppose any actions from any president, Republican or Democrat, if he declares war without congressional consent.
- Rand Paul represents Kentucky in the U.S. Senate.