|U.S. Senator Tim Kaine|
The National Interest: Jacob Heilbrunn Interviewing Senator Tim Kaine
This might be or might not be common knowledge at least for Americans who live outside of the Washington Beltway and don't follow American politics and current affairs closely, but the United States hasn't officially declared war since World War II. Which essentially means every military conflict that America has been involved in since where we our using our own military force has been unconstitutional. One of the reasons why the War Powers Act was created I believe in 1973 was that so future American use of force would at the very least be legal. The Vietnam War had a lot to do with that.
I believe part of the problem is that we don't have a real definition of war and war conflict. I think most Americans understand what war is, but we don't have an official definition of war. America was clearly involved in the Libyan Civil War that I supported in 2011 with our non fly zone to protect the Libyan rebels and people from their own government, but officially and perhaps legally we weren't at war. The War in Iraq was obviously a war and the same thing with our involvements in Kosovo in the late 1990s. But the President didn't seek permission from Congress to go to war.
Congress did pass a Congressional resolution that granted President George H.W. Bush permission to go to war with Iraq in the early 1990s to get the Hussein Regime out of Kuwait. And Congress granted President George W. Bush permission to use military force against Iraq in 2002 which led to the War in Iraq. But the President in both cases didn't ask Congress to declare war which is required under the U.S. Constitution and Congress didn't declare war in either case.
The War Powers Act has served it's purpose when it comes to the President of the United States. To give that person the flexibility to respond to military crisis's around the world, or when America is actually attacked either at home or abroad. But it is overdone and is leaving Congress almost powerless to even conduct oversight of these operations and has left Americans who end up having to pay for these military operations out of the loop as far as what is being done with their money. Because the President can essentially declare war and apparently not even have to tell anyone. With Congress left ninety days later with an up and down question of whether or not to support the troops or not.
Senator Tim Kaine makes a good point about why the Congress that he's a member of is so unpopular. And part of that is because the House and Senate duck tough questions so they don't have to take clear stances on the issues that can hurt them in the next election. And foreign affairs and national security is a perfect example of that. So I agree with him at the very least it is time for Congress to reform the War Powers Act if not repeal it.
What I would like to do is create a War Power Act for the 21st Century that would include both the President of the United States and the National Security Council, but Congress as well. And part of that would be a Congressional National Security Council that would include the House Speaker, House Majority Leader, House Minority Leader and their deputy, the Senate Leader and their deputy, the Senate Minority Leader and their deputy. Along with the chairman and ranking member of the Congressional national security committees. House and Senate Armed Services, House Foreign Affairs, Senate Foreign Relations, House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
The President would first have to consult with the Congressional National Security Council before proposing to Congress about using military force. And give them the briefing and intelligence on what they see and what they want to do and how they would go about trying to accomplish it. The CNSC would have access to the same intelligence and briefings that the President, Vice President and National Security Council gets. And once that is done the CNSC would way in on what they think about what the President wants to have permission to use military force for and give the President an idea about how much support they would get in Congress for authorization for use of military force.
After briefing the CNSC the President either way whether the CNSC approves his request for military force or not could ask Congress to approve it or not. And Congress would have a window to approve or disapprove the authorization or not. But no longer would the President just be able to use military force without consulting Congress even the leaders and national security leaders. With Congress weighing in ninety days later. With the exception of when America is actually attacked either at home or abroad then the ninety day exception would still be in place.