On February 13 the Senate passed a War Powers Resolution regarding the President’s ability to use military force against Iran. Although it had bipartisan support, it lacks the votes to overcome a veto. It is not entirely clear why such a measure is required given the Constitution’s clear and unambiguous language of Article 1, Section 8 that only Congress has the power to wage war.
Further, we already have a War Powers Resolution with the force of law passed by both chambers of Congress in 1973 that requires the President within 48 hours of using military force to advise Congress and explain what has happened. Without Congressional approval for making war, any military action is limited to 60 days plus time to disengage from the conflict involved.
The recent Congressional resolutions, which apparently are not the same in the House and Senate, were a reaction to the killing of an Iranian general, increasing the threat of war between the US and Iran. The resolution was not a reflection of the Constitution’s requirement for congressional approval, but a specific act regarding a singular confrontation. The 1973 resolution was a reaction to the Viet Nam War, and it became law regarding all military actions.
The recent impeachment proceedings and subsequent trial were a reaction to the use of coercion in withholding military funding for Ukraine against Russian aggression. What was lost in this tumultuous but ultimately futile process was the incorrect presumption that the US is involved in any way in some alliance or treaty with Ukraine obligating us to throw $391M in military aid into that conflict. That Trump is guilty of an abuse of power is apparent from his own words and actions, but that must be differentiated from the foreign conflict involved.
Ukraine is not a member of NATO or any alliance or treaty with the US. Also, Congress has not to the best of my knowledge declared war with Russia which would legitimize aiding Russia’s adversaries as we are doing. It is also historically factual that Ukraine has been an integral part of Russia for centuries and that the language of the country is not Ukrainian, as few Ukrainians even know how to speak it, but Russian, and demographically, culturally and in large part politically closely tied to her. It was not until the collapse of the Soviet Union that this began to change, but this is an issue for Russia and Ukraine to resolve; the US should not to be a party to this conflict any more than those in Syria, Iraq, Libya, etc.
We should not confuse this situation with reference to Russian cyberattacks aimed at the US elections. Russia has been using propaganda tools to destabilize foreign politics for a very long time; social media is just a modern tool it now has in its arsenal, but it is not the only country to do so as China and the US do the same thing.
I have been given arguments such as Ukraine has been interested in joining NATO, but the fact is they are not a member, therefore it is irrelevant until such time as they are.
Another argument is that the assistance to Ukraine has been to provide defensive weapons as compared to offensive, and therefore there is no need for a declaration of war. It is irrelevant what the nature of the military assistance is, i.e. defensive or offensive weapons, as the distinction is one without a difference in regards to armed conflict. That Russia is the aggressor or Ukraine the defender, foreign military aid to either party constitutes a priori an alliance in the conflict, a de facto declaration of war. The question remains, has Congress voted an act of war with Russia? If not, our aid is illegal.
Yet another argument that has been offered is that we provided military assistance to England in WWII before a declaration of war against Germany under Lend-Lease, formally titled an “Act to Promote the Defense of the United States”, enacted March 11, 1941.
While that is factually accurate, it is not a justification, but bringing up Lend Lease does raise a larger historical context that must involve WWI and the genesis of Hitler’s rise to power, which was in turn the cause of WWII.
Lend Lease was FDR’s work-around to the 1934 “Johnson Debt Default Act” that forbade US assistance to any government that reneged on debt to the US, which the UK did regarding its debt to the US during WWI. In fact, it was that very debt that was the basis for Lord Keynes’ insistence on the infamous Article 231 in the Versailles Treaty specifically because the US refused to forgive the UK its war debt. Initially Secretary of State Dulles rejected Keynes article as dangerously punitive as it would contrarily raise Germany’s thirst for revenge to another violent level, and history proved him right. However, good old war mongering Woodrow Wilson pounced on Dulles and the US eventually supported Keynes. Subsequently, Keynes got the UK to renege on its war debt anyway.
Military assistance to either side in a conflict is in fact a de facto declaration of war on the other. Germany didn’t respond to Lend Lease as such because strategically it was not in their interest to do so. You may recall that they never did declare war until after Pearl Harbor, and also that Germany was understandably irate with its Axis ally Japan for precipitating America’s entry into the war.
Keep in mind that the US entry into WWI was based on propaganda promulgated by Wilson’s administration, specifically that Germany killed Americans in the sinking of the Lusitania, a British ship. Disregarded was the fact that the Lusitania’s manifest included war munitions that the UK had purchased from the US, and was also carrying passengers, including Americans. The British were using passenger ships as cargo ships in getting war supplies; Germany was not afforded that opportunity.
Decades later FDR, desperately wanting to be a wartime president, cursed with the same blood lust as Wilson, needed a way to get involved. He knew that America wanted no more to do with the constant blood feuds of Europe, and he was obstructed with the Johnson Act, so despite domestic opposition he devised the work-around we know as Lend Lease. It was not FDR’s motive to fight Fascism, or anti-Semitism, it was his statist lust for power. Not getting Germany to take the bait, he pushed for and got onerous policies regarding trade with Japan which led that fool to attack Pearl Harbor.
Now by no means do I propose that the US should not have defended against the AXIS, but understand that was a monster of our own creation, and we have continued to create such monstrous situations as we sink into the imperialist trap of a Warfare State.
I have little empathy for either the Republican or Democratic view regarding Ukraine as I see little difference between the two. What they are fighting about is Trump’s use of foreign aid as leverage for domestic political advantage as corruption and abuse of power, but not the constitutional legitimacy of that foreign aid to begin with.