Here we go again. Get ready for talking heads on both sides of the aisle discussing puts and takes of the War Powers Act. The War Powers Act was initially passed in 1941 for a very good reason. We needed to give our Commander in Chief that latitude and flexibility to engage our troops against a very dangerous and aggressive enemy. The enemies we faced in World War II definitely posed a clear and present danger to the United States.
Although the War Powers Act ran counter to our Constitution, it was a good thing for World War II. However, Congress decided in 1973 to fix some of this inconsistency by the issuance of the War Powers Resolution. Cutting through much of the legal jargon, it restricts the President as to how much and how deep a military commitment can be without prior authorization of Congress. In short, the President may act alone if he (or she) feels there is an imminent, clear and present danger to our homeland or foreign interests.
There are other caveats about how many hours the President has to notify Congress and how many days troops can stay in a battle theater. The bottom line is this - no matter who is in the White House, that Commander in Chief hates the War Powers Resolution, and Congress loves it. It has been violated by President Reagan in supporting the Contras, by President Clinton with our involvement in the Balkans, and President Obama in Libya. It appears it is about to be violated once again by President Obama launching cruise missiles into Syria.
I am reminded about a story from years ago. It is antidotal, so I can't verify the accuracy. At President Clinton's inauguration, there was a fly over of military jets. One of President Clinton's Hollywood supporters who was in attendance, was very anti-military. He looked up and said "What are THEY doing here?" A friend sitting next to him responded by saying, "Relax - they are OUR jets now."
Most presidents, including the current one, feel the military is at their disposal. The term "Commander-in-Chief" really seems to stick with most of them. However, our laws, our Constitution was set up for a reason. We have checks and balances. We do not have a King, we have a President and we have Congress. The two are separate in their powers for reasons only the wisdom of the Founders could have imagined. Regardless of what Ruth Bader Ginsburg tells people in foreign countries, our Constitution is a very good and wise document.
So if we decided to attack Syria without provocation nor with the prior consent of Congress, buckle up. There will be talks of illegal acts by the White House and some might even call for impeachment. It will not be the first time we have been at this dance, nor will it be the last.