How Will White House Find Legal Grounds to Bomb Syria?

If Obama simply orders the missiles away, that is manifestly unconstitutional. It also directly contradicts his own statement: “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.”

He needs authorization to avoid the above. He cannot use the AUMF, because that applies to al-Qaeda. He can seek new authority from the House. I have seen no news to that effect. He can seek UN authority under the responsibility-to-protect doctrine. This has a minimum of three problems for Obama. The Syrian “gas event”, whatever it is or is not, does not meet the criteria in that declaration. It would require proof of who did it and intent, for one thing. It would require proof that the government ordered it. Plus more. Second, even if the R2P did apply, it requires a series of measures short of military action, and these have not been tried. Third, no military action can be authorized without Security Council approval. Unlike the case of Libya, a veto is far more likely.

I am left wondering what maneuver Obama will attempt in order to find the authorization that he needs if he is to carry out what his own officials are so noisily promising. Using NATO might be his way of getting some international cover. This lacks legal credibility too without a UN resolution.

Obama is already breaking the UN charter by shipping arms to rebels, by training them, and by introducing covert CIA and mercenary operatives into Syria. He has already made the US an outlaw nation. Perhaps having already crossed the Rubicon of illegality, he doesn’t care if he advances further into that territory. Perhaps he feels that he can sell an aggressive attack on Syria on the basis of its being defensive and his being in the right. But since America is not threatened, there is no such rationale on the basis of defense possible.


2:50 pm on August 28, 2013