Should the president authorize a military strike?

Secretary of State John Kerry began laying the groundwork today to justify a military strike against the Assad regime in Syria. As one would expect, the prospect of another war has become quite the controversy among politicos and the talking-head class. I read today about one Senator who said this:

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation… In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.

I'm wondering where you readers are on the question of another war. Do you agree with the above statement? Does the President have the power to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation? I look forward to reading your opinions in the comments.


  • Lauren

    I think that ANY government that would use chemical weapons on its own people IS an imminent threat to our nation. I am not a fan of Obama…but I agree with his statement that something MUST be done. Assad has stepped over the line. As a country that is considered a world leader, we sometimes have to make difficult decisions…that’s leadership. I would feel better if Congress were involved, but logistics of their summertime break make it difficult to involve them. I do not like war…but Jesus taught me that some things are worth fighting for and even dying for. Tonight there are mothers, fathers, teens, boys, girls and babies who live in fear of their own government. My greatest fear is that our country will some day live with the same fear. This must be stopped and stopped immediately. I will pray for Obama…I will pray for those in harms way…I will pray for my enemies that their hearts would be softened and changed by the power of God. But I do believe Obama understands that this action IS an imminent threat to every country in the world.

    • Mark Nenadov


      “I think that ANY government that would use chemical weapons on its own people IS an imminent threat to our nation”

      Would you then be consistent and condemn Reagan’s administration for providing chemical weapons to Saddam in the 1980s?

  • Darrell Dow

    With respect to the broader issue of whether a strike would legitimately fall under the Just War doctrine, the circumscribed area of lawful authority and jurisdiction for a state is its own citizens, and not the citizens of another land or another nation.

    Are nations morally responsible, in the name of justice, for what happens in foreign regimes? Where in scripture are nations given the right to intervene in another nation, even in a just cause?

    Finally, according the Constitution, it is Congress who has the authority and duty to declare war. That we have ignored the Constitution on this question since WWII is an example of the rampant lawless, antinomian state of our political culture.

    • buddyglass

      Remember that “nations” aren’t people. “Nations” aren’t morally responsible; people are. So the question might be re-framed, “Are American believers morally responsible, in the name of justice, for what happens in foreign regimes?” Especially considering we’re citizens of a nation that is, at least ostensibly, a representative democracy.

      • Darrell

        Civil authorities (states) are covenantal institutions and are morally responsible to maintain justice in their proper spheres of authority. Romans 13 is clear about that.

        Do Christians individually have duties here? Well, if they do, then they should be eager for victory by the current government. If the Asaad government falls, our Christian brothers will suffer and die. This piece of the puzzle has been completely ignored by Dr. Mohler, for example, in his commentaries this week.

        During the Spanish Civil War, many leftists in the West went to Spain to fight on behalf of the Communists. If individual Christians voluntarily offer up there services in various conflicts (say Darfur, where there never was a good case for American intervention), that is perfectly appropriate. But it is not appropriate for American believers, or anyone else, to advocate that the American state intervene in non-defensive wars.

            • buddyglass

              Will “The United States” stand before the throne of God and account for its sins? No. But individual Americans will. Did Jesus die to pay the price for the sins of “The United States” as a political entity? No. He died to pay the price for the sins of every individual American.

              If “The United States” sins by, say, legalizing abortion and proceeding to abort a bunch of babies, but you do everything in your power to stop that from happening, are you in some way culpable for that “national sin” simply by virtue of being an American? No, you’re not.

              For what it’s worth, I don’t believe God blesses and curses nations anymore based on their adherence (or lack thereof) to biblical morality. Sin has consequences and, generally speaking, nations that diverge significantly from biblical morality will pay a price, but that’s not quite the same thing.

              • Darrell Dow

                Our differing conclusions are based on our differing theological assumptions. You are approaching the scriptures with a Dispensational or perhaps “New Covenant” perspective. I am not.

                Nations are clearly a part of God’s plan from the beginning of creation. Even the Great Commission specifically emphasizes the discipleship of nations. Revelation paints a picture of nations worshipping as nations, and led by their kings (Rev. 21:24).

                • buddyglass

                  “Nations are clearly a part of God’s plan from the beginning of creation. Even the Great Commission specifically emphasizes the discipleship of nations. Revelation paints a picture of nations worshipping as nations, and led by their kings (Rev. 21:24).”

                  Notably, neither of these three points implies that nations are “moral agents”.

  • Christiane

    yes, an air strike only if possible to stop the use of chemical weapons on innocent men, women, children, and babies . . . the sooner, the better

  • Collin Garbarino

    The president can pretty much do whatever he wants up until the point at which Congress impeaches him. *shrug*

    That said, I believe it would be foolhardy for Obama to involve us in Syria. We have no will to win.

  • Laurie Anstead

    I believe he should go to Congress before doing anything. The whole thing is disturbing… So we attack Syria, what about Russia and China? Who backs Syria.
    Pray for Israel… pray for the U.S.
    Come quickly Lord Jesus.

  • John Gardner

    President Obama should listen to Senator Obama. Stop intervening where we don’t belong. Or at the very least do it with a Congressional declaration of war like the Constitution requires. No more of the “presidential authorization for military strikes” (i.e., acts of war) abuse of executive power. It was wrong when the last president did it, and it’s still wrong.

  • Kathleen A. Peck (@purisomniapura)

    There’s no proof that the footage that’s being shown is actually genuine. I have absolutely no reason to trust the Muslim radicals. On the other hand, Assad was never attacking his own people ever before the radicals invaded his country so why would he start now? The Muslim Brotherhood groups that need to be kicked out of Syria, not Assad. All this trouble would cease if these rebels would just leave Syria .
    As for the United States being involved, we have no business going over there & intervening in a matter that has nothing to do with us. Neither should we be supplying weapons to either side in Syria or Egypt for that matter. The US is not the global referee for every dispute (civil or otherwise) that arises in this world. The war mongers in Washington need to cease bankrupting this country & go home & ask themselves what we hope to gain by aligning ourselves with Islamic radicals & Muslim Brotherhood criminals? This whole situation of the USA contemplating involving this country in another war is utterly preposterous!

    • Jerry Smith

      I highly agree. Sad to say we are now looked down upon as the bully of this world, at one time USSR had that position of hate. And each time we intervene we just gain much more hate. It seems our president & congress want’s to rule the world, when its a fact they have much trouble running this county they were elected to serve. Perhaps if they kept their attention at home, things would go better at home.

  • Adam Gupton

    Missiles wont really help. This is all just for show/save face.
    The only thing that could actually accomplish anything is to have soldiers from somewhere (who else?) go in and depose Assad. Nation building anyone?

    Let’s not fool ourselves. These “Rebels” are the same folks we are gonna be fighting next year. This is just a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

  • Chris Ryan

    I used to believe strongly in the War Powers Act, but given how feckless this Congress is I think bothering to get their approval is a waste of time. They’ll simply politicize it. Given their authorization of the ill conceived invasion of Iraq they’ve amply proven their worthlessness, so Obama should have at it & ignore the childlike charade that is today’s Congress in action.

    The US has launched 7 attacks since the WPA w/out Congressional approval: 1) Grenada; 2) Libya (under Reagan); 3) Panama; 4) Iraq 1; 5) Kosovo; 6) Haiti; and 7) Libya. These all turned out well as far as I’m concerned. POTUS got Congressional approval twice: Afghanistan & Iraq. There’s the data, you be the judge of what Congress’ imprimatur means as far as success is concerned.

    In terms of bombing Syria, yeah, I think the Administration & others have made a good case that post 9/11 we need to take any use of WMD very seriously & punish severely anyone who uses and traffics in them. I wish we could end the Assad regime but I fear at this late date there’s not much we can do anymore. The Syrian Civil War will probably drag on for a very long time, destabilizing the entire region just like its neighbor, Lebanon. God bless ’em.

    • Mark Nenadov

      “POTUS got Congressional approval twice: Afghanistan & Iraq.”

      It’s really not that simple with Afghanistan.

      (a) The approval was technically not specific to Afghanistan.

      (b) The war that was waged in Afghanistan, especially the nation building, clearly was not what was intended by the plain words of the approval

  • Mark Nenadov

    Constitutionally, the president does not have the power to unilaterally invoke a war. Also, I believe in the just war tradition there is a certain implied sense where the people wage war under duly appointed authority, not one man unilaterally. Obama has no right to launch a crusade against Syria without Congressional approval.

  • buddyglass

    Honestly I’m surprised he hasn’t gone before Congress and asked for approval. Mainly because the debate over whether to grant approval would pit Republicans vs. Democrats in a battle that would probably end up as a public relations victory for Democrats. That’s especially the case if Congress were to deny the president’s request and then more (and worse) chemical weapons attacks happen in Syria.

    • Adam Gupton

      This issue isnt party specific. I think he’d lose the vote. The only thing less popular than congress is the idea of war in Syria.

      • buddyglass

        I think he’d lose the vote as well. In the House for sure. I think, though, that if Democrats had to actually vote against the president (and it involved siding with Republicans) that most of them could be cajoled into supporting him. So whatever bipartisan opposition there is now would quickly become uni-partisan, and the “mean Republicans” would get the blame (in much of the public’s eyes) for whatever future atrocities end up happening in Syria.

        • James Stanton

          I don’t buy that last part. The American public is largely disinterested with the day-to-day of the civil war in Syria. This is due in part to war-weariness and the sentiment that there’s no reason for us to involve ourselves in that mess over there. If no politically party is being blamed for lack of action after ~2 years of war and 100,000 plus dead then I doubt very much that will be the case in the months to come.

          I feel that Democrats, unfortunately, will revert to tribalism and support the President. There aren’t enough left wing anti war types left to make a stand against the President. The more interesting fight will be between libertarian conservatives and the war-mongering hawks in the Republican party.

          • buddyglass

            Americans are pretty disinterested, true, but it never hurts to generate talking points. Putting the issue before congress and getting shot down would allow Obama to advance the narrative (true or not) that if the mean Republicans had just let him intervene then lots of innocent Syrian civilians might have been saved from agonizing deaths. i.e. the congressional Republicans have blood on their hands. This assumes more chemical weapons use in the future.

  • David J. Faulkner

    Brother Denny, The statement by the SecState is mostly correct. It is true that the Executive Branch does NOT have authority under the Constitution to launch military operations without the consent of the Legislative Branch, except, in cases of imminent danger to the US Homeland and our Embassies and Forces stationed abroad. What I find telling about Mr. Kerry’s statement that gets to his and Mr. Obama’s heart is this statement.
    “History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.”
    Notice that Mr. Kerry did not mention “that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the” AMERICAN PEOPLE. The statists in Washington, D.C. believe that they rule us and that this is NOT a nation of the People, for the People, and by the People. You may believe this was just a slip of the tongue, but having served in the military for 30 years in positions of senior leadership tells me otherwise.
    An attack by the US on the Syrian Regime without the will to go all the way and finish the purported threat by which the President has stated caused the problem is useless and, I would submit, a sinful act. If, as the Executive Branch would have us believe, Bashar Al-Assad has employed a chemical weapon against his own people, the US objective must be to destroy the Al-Assad regime and send in troops to capture and destroy the Syrian chemical weapon stockpile; however, we all know that is not the intention of Mr. Obama; therefore, if the employment of force at great cost to the taxpayer is not designed to solve the problem that the President says exists, to spend the nation’s wealth and potentially its blood is an act of futility. As the person who wrote the US Collateral Damage Estimation (CDE) Methodology and maintained it through 2011, there will be non-combatant casualties. So I have a question for all of the Christians on this site. Are you prepared to answer for the innocent blood that will be spilled in a military action that achieves no gain? Please, don’t allow emotion to control your thinking on issues of war, but the Living Word of God.

  • Kevin W. Bridges

    I think it’s sad that so many innocent children were killed, but I don’t know if we should do anything. Most of my friends and myself included are just struggling to put food on the table and gas in the car and be good neighbors and Christian leaders. We have so many of our own problems to get control of that I find it difficult to be concerned about what’s happening in another country. I care, I’m just not sure whether our country should worry about world problems with so many of our own.

    • Lynn Burgess

      Should German Christians have been concerned about what the Nazi’s were doing… while they were busy being concerned about their grocery and gasoline bills?

  • James Stanton

    Lauren, by this logic then the Iraq war was not a terrible mistake but rather a smart move we should all have supported in order to make Iraq hospitable for missionary work. Unfortunately, all it accomplished to date was the near destruction and the forced migration of the Iraqi Christian community as well as the election of a government dominated by Shia Muslims closely aligned with Iran. It’s dangerous to conflate Christianity with the foreign policy of our government. Inflicting further death and destruction on an already suffering people will not make the ground “more safe to go into”. We do not need war to fulfill the Great Commission.

  • Kevin W.Bridges

    What’s your point Lynn? I think it’s important to get your own house in order before stepping into another country’s civil war. Plus, just because something is good to do, doesn’t mean you can afford to do it. My church might like to solve homelessness in my city, but they don’t have any money to do anything about it. The US is in debt up to its eyeballs and spending is out of control. We can’t really afford this.

    • Lauren

      Kevin: Edmund Burke said all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. Do not allow evil to triumph. Do not do sit by and do nothing. We really cannot afford to not do something…unless we want chemical weapons coming to visit our land soon.

      Lynn: What an incredible point you make. So many watched Hitler commit atrocities and did nothing about it until it was almost too late to do anything. We surely cannot repeat history by doing nothing when a nation’s leader is out of control.

      Darrell: To those whom much has been given, much is expected. America has been blessed and has established itself as a world leader…giving it jurisdiction to help maintain world peace. While you are not given jurisdiction to walk into your neighbor’s house and administer godly discipline, would you stand by and do nothing if your neighbor was abusing their child? I surely hope not. We are watching a nation’s leader KILL and TORTURE his own citizens. That’s abuse of power and deserves a response. That is not a leader who’s not doing what he should…he’s doing what he SHOULD NOT BE DOING.

      • Kevin W. Bridges

        Lauren: Respectfully, I disagree with you. I am familiar with Edmund Burke’s great quote, but I don’t believe we have a clear understanding here of who is evil, who’s not, and what exactly is going on. Do YOU have some special knowledge or just an opinion? I think President Obama’s swift reaction has little to do with protecting the innocent or upholding justice, but is political and wreckless. We have the UN for matters like this for a reason. If our elected leaders conclude that there is a just reason for America taking action, I will support that decision, but a slower and more cautious approach is prudent. And, as a Christian, I still contend that we need to get our own house in order, deal with domestic problems and injustices that our indeed our problem, before we go policing the world. We need to take the log out of our own eye before trying to remove the speck from another’s eye. Blessings.

        • Lauren

          Kevin: I will respectfully disagree with you, too. I would ask, though, have you seen anything to indicate that Assad is upset that someone has used chemical weapons on his citizens? Have you read the reports that he is moving his weapons and military to live among the citizenry…into empty homes and empty school buildings? Have you seen him make a rush to bring to justice the killers of <1400 of his own citizenry? His silence condemns him and points out the truth that the attack was his…not to mention the overwhelming amount of evidence being brought against him. I'm glad that when Jesus commissioned his disciples to share the Good News that He didn't tell them that when they've completed the task at home they can start sharing elsewhere. I believe all of Jesus' teachings were to show us we're a human race…not races…not nationalities. I care for the fathers, mothers and children of Syria as if they were my neighbors because THEY ARE…according to the Scriptures.

        • Lauren

          Here’s the history of the statement…http://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/12/04/good-men-do/…and it clearly shows the meaning. When good men don’t make a stand, evil thrives. I don’t think it matters who said it…I don’t think the context of the statement matters…there’s too much truth in the statement. We saw it lived out through Hitler when good men “waited” and no one wanted to do anything…and MILLIONS DIED. We should be kicking ourselves for even considering that we would allow this behavior to go unchecked.

  • Darrell Dow

    We cannot ignore issues of jurisdiction. If a man at First Baptist of Hoboken should be rightly excommunicated it is not the pregrogative of Community Presbyterian in Hoboken to do the honors. If my neighbors kids are not receiving godly discipline, I am not give the authority to walk into their house and give it. The (good) ends do not justify the (unbiblical) means.

    Likewise the United States has not been given jurisdiction to intervene on humanitarian grounds in foreign states.

  • Darrell Dow

    Lauren, you are assuming the truth of the accusations against the regime in Syria. I’m sorry to say, but methinks you are swallowing a line of propaganda.

    The comparison of my neighbors and nations is a classic example of a logical fallacy. You are comparing applies and oranges. They are completely diffent categories.

    Finally, it is the current government in Syria that has demonstrated any willingness to support the Church–my Syrian borthers and sisters in Christ. It is the Al-qaeda supported “freedom fighters” whom we are about to get into bed with.

    • Lauren

      Darrell…maybe if I saw some sign that Assad was trying to find the perpetrators who used the chemical weapons I’d believe he had nothing to do with it. He’s not looking for anyone…and that sort of just leads me to believe that the “propaganda” is not as aggrandized as you believe. You were the one that brought up the neighbor’s house first…so I guess you were comparing apples and oranges first. None of the governments of countries in the middles east have shown support for any church…and I don’t believe we’ll be bedding down with Al-queda by holding Assad responsible for his atrocities. As a Christian who will spend eternity in heaven with those from “every tribe and nation”, I believe God does call us to love each other and be responsible for each other. There are innocent men, women and children who need our help. I am not an Obama supporter…but I do support the wisdom of holding Assad responsible for doing the unthinkable.

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