Congress must say go

Air war on Syria re­quires con­gres­sional au­tho­riza­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion - By Rep. Dan Bur­ton By Richard W. Rahn

As the sit­u­a­tion in Syria has con­tin­ued to de­volve, the calls for U.S. in­ter­ven­tion have con­tin­ued to grow louder. Re­cently, Sen. John Mccain be­came the first U.S. of­fi­cial to call pub­licly for U.s.-led airstrikes to halt the vi­o­lence in Syria. With all due re­spect to my friend and col­league, Mr. Mccain, I must cat­e­gor­i­cally dis­agree with these calls. Any­onewho knows my 30 years of ser­vice on the House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee knows that I am cer­tainly not a dove when it comes to pro­tect­ing the na­tional se­cu­rity in­ter­ests of the United States. How­ever, I have never sup­ported the idea that the United States is or should be the world’s po­lice­man. If we ac­cept that role, we are com­mit­ting to act and to put our sol­diers and civil­ians in harm’s way where our na­tion’s in­ter­ests may be very mod­est at best.

Where are the sol­diers, the fleets or ships and air­planes? Where is the end­less source of money to do the job and do it prop­erly? If it is — as Mr. McCain ap­pears to be ar­gu­ing — the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the United States to in­ter­vene any­where a regime com­mits vi­o­lence against its pop­u­la­tion, then we have been derelict in our duty to the world. Then we would owe a pro­found apol­ogy to the peo­ple of Zim­babwe, Uganda, Su­dan, Rwanda, North Korea, Burma and count­less other despotic regimes that have, to this point, been spared the wrath of our mil­i­tary might.

The vi­o­lence in Syria is ap­palling, and Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad cer­tainly is no friend of the United States. But Syria has not de­clared war on the United States or at­tacked the U.S., our ter­ri­to­ries, pos­ses­sions or armed forces. By what right, then, do we at­tack Syria? Re­gret­tably, with the voices for in­ter­ven­tion grow­ing louder and Pres­i­dent Obama’s poll num­bers slid­ing, I fear the ad­min­is­tra­tion may not worry about whether we have the right to at­tack Syria if it thinks that do­ing so will help the pres­i­dent’s re­elec­tion ef­forts. I would re­mind the pres­i­dent that Mr. Mccain does not speak for the U.S. Congress. I also would re­mind the pres­i­dent, con­trary to the as­ser­tion of De­fense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panetta be­fore the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, that in­ter­na­tional au­tho­riza­tion does not trump con­gres­sional au­tho­riza­tion.

The power to de­clare war — and make no mis­take, at­tack­ing Syria amounts to an act of war — is per­haps the most pro­found power granted to the U.S. Congress. A re­view of the notes of the pro­ceed­ings of the Con­sti­tu­tional Con­ven­tion makes it clear that the framers of our Con­sti­tu­tion firmly be­lieved that the mo­men­tous con­se­quences of ini­ti­at­ing armed hos­til­i­ties should be called up only by the con­cur­rence of both houses of Congress. In con­trast to the English sys­tem, the framers did not want the wealth and blood of the na­tion com­mit­ted by the decision of a sin­gle in­di­vid­ual. The War Pow­ers Act was en­acted into law over a pres­i­den­tial veto — not an easy thing to ac­com­plish — to ful­fill the in­tent of the framers of the Con­sti­tu­tion of the United States in re­quir­ing the pres­i­dent to seek the con­sent of Congress be­fore the in­tro­duc­tion of the United States armed forces into hos­tile ac­tion.

Sec­tion 2(c) of the War Pow­ers Act pro­vides that no at­tempt by the pres­i­dent to in­tro­duce the U.S. armed forces into hos­tile ac­tion may be made un­der the War Pow­ers Act un­less there is “(1) a dec­la­ra­tion of war, (2) a spe­cific au­tho­riza­tion or (3) a na­tional emer­gency cre­ated by at­tack upon the United States, its ter­ri­to­ries or pos­ses­sion, or its armed forces.”

The Con­sti­tu­tion and the War Pow­ers Act are not sug­ges­tions, they are the law of the land. The law the pres­i­dent of the United States and ev­ery mem­ber of Congress and se­na­tor swears to pro­tect and to de­fend.

On Sept. 11, 2001, our na­tion was at­tacked. Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush still sought au­tho­riza­tion from Congress be­fore go­ing into Afghanistan. Sim­i­larly, Mr. Bush sought con­gres­sional au­tho­riza­tion be­fore Iraq. Mr. Bush re­spected the au­thor­ity of Congress and the lim­i­ta­tions of the Con­sti­tu­tion. If Mr. Obama is con­tem­plat­ing tak­ing Mr. Mccain’s sug­ges­tion, as I fear he is, he is re­quired be­fore one plane leaves a han­gar or car­rier or one Amer­i­can bul­let is fired to seek the for­mal au­tho­riza­tion of Congress. If he does any­thing less, he will be vi­o­lat­ing his oath of of­fice and com­mit­ting an ar­guably im­peach­able of­fense.

This can­not be said enough: The Con­sti­tu­tion is not a list of sug­ges­tions, it is the law of the land. If the pres­i­dent and Mr. Mccain want to go to war in Syria, they must come to Congress for per­mis­sion first.

TBATUMI, GE­OR­GIA his city is one of the old­est on earth, as hu­mans lived here at least as early as the 12th cen­tury B.C. Now, it is rapidly be­com­ing one of the most mod­ern cities on the planet. Its set­ting at the east­ern end of the Black Sea coast is spec­tac­u­lar, with orange groves and snow-cov­ered moun­tains ris­ing lit­er­ally within walk­ing dis­tance of the beaches.

While most of the high-in­come coun­tries are in the process of squan­der­ing the wealth they once cre­ated, there are places on the globe that are mak­ing great progress merely by do­ing the right things. One of these places is the small, rel­a­tively poor coun­try of Ge­or­gia. Iron­i­cally, Ge­or­gia, through its suc­cess, is a re­minder to the United States that re­vers­ing reg­u­la­tory ex­cess and state in­ter­ven­tion pays div­i­dends.

Ge­or­gia was swal­lowed up by the Soviet Union in 1921 and did not re­gain its in­de­pen­dence un­til 1991. The Ge­or­gians strug­gled to de­velop a freemar­ket democ­racy dur­ing the first years af­ter be­com­ing in­de­pen­dent but fell short un­til they elected a young, and par­tially U.S. ed­u­cated, free-mar­ket re­former by the name of Mikheil Saakashvili as their new pres­i­dent in 2004. Pres­i­dent Saakashvili and his re­formist col­leagues — de­spite a few mis­steps, such as get­ting into a war with Rus­sia in 2008 — have done many more things right than wrong.

The Ge­or­gians elim­i­nated much reg­u­la­tory red tape, moved to a largely free-trade regime and went to a 20 per­cent flat-rate per­sonal in­come-tax sys­tem and a 15 per­cent cor­po­rate tax rate. The re­sults are im­pres­sive. In the World Bank’s 2012 Do­ing Busi­ness re­port on the “ease of do­ing busi­ness,” Ge­or­gia ranks No. 16 of 183 coun­tries and is No. 1 among the 24 coun­tries in the East­ern Euro­pean and Cen­tral Asian re­gion. Ge­or­gia ranks No. 27 of the 141 coun­tries in the Fraser/cato Eco­nomic Free­dom of the World in­dex, by far the high­est rank­ing in the re­gion. Most im­por­tant is the fact that Ge­or­gia ranks No. 7 on busi­ness reg­u­la­tion and No. 15 on the size of gov­ern­ment.

Ge­or­gia has had more suc­cess in fight­ing cor­rup­tion than any other coun­try. In Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional’s Global Cor­rup­tion Barom­e­ter 2010, a public opin­ion sur­vey, Ge­or­gia eas­ily ranks first out of 86 coun­tries — a whopping 78 per­cent of its cit­i­zens sur­veyed con­sid­ered that cor­rup­tion had de­creased. Ac­cord­ing to a new World Bank re­port, “Since 2003, Ge­or­gia has had unique suc­cess in fight­ing cor­rup­tion in public ser­vices. Many coun­tries in the world are strug­gling with the same prob­lem. Ge­or­gia has proven that suc­cess can be achieved in a rel­a­tively short pe­riod of time given strong po­lit­i­cal will and con­certed ac­tion by the gov­ern­ment.”

Ge­or­gia has a debt-to-gdp ra­tio that is half that of the United States, the United King­dom and France at a very man­age­able 38 per­cent. Ex­cept for the pe­riod right af­ter the Rus­sian in­va­sion in 2008, Ge­or­gia has en­joyed a high rate of eco­nomic growth as a re­sult of the re­forms, with an ex­pected growth rate of 7 per­cent this year. De­spite the suc­cesses, Ge­or­gia needs to do even more to bring down its un­em­ploy­ment rate and bring its stan­dard of liv­ing up to the de­vel­oped world’s stan­dards.

Ba­tumi is the ma­jor city in the Ajara re­gion of Ge­or­gia. The head of the Ajara gov­ern­ment for the past eight years is a smart, per­son­able and dy­namic 40-year old lawyer, Le­van Var­shalo­midze. He is the force be­hind the mas­sive re­de­vel­op­ment of the re­gion and par­tic­u­larly Ba­tumi. A cen­tury ago, be­fore the com­mu­nists wrecked it, Ba­tumi was a thriv­ing port city. Much of the old city has been re­stored. Along a few-miles-long stretch of the Black Sea coast from the air­port to the old city cen­ter, a string of ar­chi­tec­turally dis­tinc­tive lux­ury in­ter­na­tional ho­tels, of­fice build­ings and res­i­dences have been com­pleted re­cently, and oth­ers are still un­der con­struc­tion. The old, ugly Soviet-style hous­ing is be­ing torn down and re­placed with mod­ern, well-de­signed con­dos and apart­ments. The re­birth and re­de­vel­op­ment of Ba­tumi is prop­erly called the “Ba­tumi mir­a­cle.”

Ba­tumi is still too much of a sum­mer tourist cen­ter, so Chair­man Var­shalo­midze told me he is try­ing to stim­u­late year­round ser­vice in­dus­tries, in­clud­ing the de­vel­op­ment of an in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial cen­ter. Un­like too many politi­cians in the United States and Europe, he is not try­ing to man­age de­cay. To his credit, he is in a great rush to cre­ate a newer, bet­ter and much more pros­per­ous Ba­tumi. The se­cret of Ge­or­gia and Ba­tumi’s suc­cess is sim­ple — less reg­u­la­tion, lower taxes and more free­dom. That is a for­mula that can work ev­ery­where.

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