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Richland Celebrates Constitution Day
By Raymond Thomas Pronk
United States Constitution Credit: historicdocumentsofamerica.com
Richland students celebrated Constitution day Sept. 17 by learning how the United States goes to war.
Dr. Edward J. Harpham, associate provost and professor of political science at the University of Texas at Dallas, presented a lecture and answered questions on how the Constitution and Wars Powers Resolution of 1973 applies to the possible use of military force in Syria. Harplam earned his masters and doctorate degrees in political science from Cornell University.
President Barack Obama initially sought a Congressional resolution authorizing military operations against the Assad regime in Syria for using chemical weapons against his people. The Assad regime had crossed the red line set by Obama in a press conference on Aug. 20, 2012.
However, Obama in his Sept. 10 televised address to the nation on Syria asked congressional leaders to postpone a vote on a resolution authorizing the use of force. Obama wanted time for Secretary of State John Kerry to pursue a diplomatic initiative proposed by Russia and agreed to by Syria that could lead to the eventual destruction of chemical weapons controlled by the Syrian military.
In the absence of an emergency, where Congress has no time to react, Obama does not have the legal authority under the Constitution, the War Powers Resolutions or a United Nation’s Security Council resolution funded by Congress, to unilaterally attack Syria.
In a future military crisis a problem might arise if Congress votes down a presidential request for military action and the president ignores Congress and proceeds with military operations anyway.
Harpham concisely summarized the history of the authorities used by U.S. presidents to go to war and possible solutions to the shortcomings of the War Powers Resolution process.
Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war. Congress has exercised this power only five times: for the War of 1812 upon the United Kingdom, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, World War I upon Germany and Austria-Hungary and World War II upon Japan, Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania.
However, the United States has used military force many times without Congress declaring war. Instead, Congress passes resolutions authorizing the use of military force. This was done for the Lebanon crisis of 1958, the Vietnam War, Multinational Force in Lebanon in 1983, the Gulf War in 1991, the 2001 war in Afghanistan and the Iraq War.
Congress has also authorized funds for extended military operations for United Nations Security Council Resolutions such as the Korean War, the Multinational Force in Lebanon in 1978, the Gulf War, the Bosnian War in 1992 and the intervention in Libya in 2011.
On more than 100 occasions presidents acting in their capacity as commander in chief have authorized the deployment of troops and the use of military force without a congressional declaration of war or a resolution authorizing military force.
After the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam in 1973, Congress wanted to limit the power of the president to deploy troops for extended periods of time without a congressional declaration of war or resolution.
In 1973 Congress passed the War Powers Resolution of 1973, a joint resolution over the veto of President Richard M. Nixon. When Congress has not declared war or authorized the use of military force, the law requires the president to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action. It also prohibits armed forces for remaining more than 60 days but allows an additional 30 days as a withdrawal period.
Harpham offered several possible solutions to the War Powers Resolution process, including revoking the law and replacing it with a new law or preferably a constitutional amendment that would address the president’s use of force where a military emergency, Congressional declaration of war, resolution or funding has not been authorized.
Harpham’s presentation will be posted on the Richland Chronicle Television archives for those who missed the lecture (richlandchronicle.com/chronicletv).
Raymond Thomas Pronk presents the Pronk Pops Show on KDUX web radio from 4-5 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and from 3-5 p.m. Friday and authors the companion blog http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com. You can listen to an interview with Harpham on the Pronk Pops Show 131, Sept. 17, by going to http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com.