Military Strike On Syria: Obama, Clinton Opposed Unilateral Presidential Action

Although a military strike on Syria appears likely, then-Senators Obama and Clinton strongly opposed any presidentially ordered military action without approval from Congress when there was no evidence of an immediate threat of an attack on our shores.

The New York Times reports that President Obama is prepared to move forward with a "limited military strike on Syria" without an endorsement from Congress or the United Nations. In its ongoing civil war, the Bashar Assad regime is accused of deploying poison gas against the Al Qaeda-linked opposition. As we have reported, a US cruise missile attack against Syria may be imminent.

Earlier today, British Prime Minister David Cameron failed to get parliament to go along with a war resolution for a military strike on Syria.

Barack Obama had a far different view on such military action before he took office. This was in the content of President George W. Bush considering a preemptive bombing raid on Iran's nuclear facilities. In an interview, the Illinois senator and then-presidential candidate said "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."

Similarly, then-Sen. Clinton echoed those sentiments: "If the country is under truly imminent threat of attack, of course the President must take appropriate action to defend us. At the same time, the Constitution requires Congress to authorize war. I do not believe that the President can take military action — including any kind of strategic bombing — against Iran without congressional authorization."

Vice President Joe Biden, when he was still a US Senator, warned President Bush about impeachment if he went ahead with an Iran air strike on his own.

Writing in Salon in 2011 prior to the intervention in Libya, Glenn Greenwald (now of Edward Snowden fame) observed that "Candidate Obama, candidate Clinton, and the Bush-era Democrats all recognized the constitutional impropriety of unilateral [military] actions." Greenwald also noted that "The Founders emphasized that war is the most serious matter upon which a nation can embark, that it is the citizenry that bears the risks and costs, and it is thus imperative that they first consent through their representatives in Congress."

Despite what the president said during a PBS interview, the Syrian government's involvement in a chemical weapons attack is apparently far from conclusive, AP reports: "The intelligence linking Syrian President Bashar Assad or his inner circle to an alleged chemical weapons attack is no 'slam dunk,' with questions remaining about who actually controls some of Syria's chemical weapons stores and doubts about whether Assad himself ordered the strike, U.S. intelligence officials say."

Do you think a military strike on Syria is equivalent to what the Bush administration purportedly considered in the Iran nuclear situation?

[top image via Shutterstock]