The constitution prohibits the President from taking action against Syria unless he gets Congressional approval, as Article 1, Section 8 of the constitution clearly gives congress the power to declare war, says Brad Bannon, Democratic political consultant with Bannon Communications Research in Washington, D.C.
The founders of our country realized that war was the most important decision the U.S. could make so they purposely made it very difficult to start a war. However, Article 2, Section 2 makes the President the Commander in Chief, which means that once Congress declares war, the President is in charge of fighting it, says Bannon.
Bannon believes the President did the right thing by getting congressional authorization because the constitution required him to do so but that he also had political reasons for doing it. Most Americans oppose the attack on Syria and if the President had attacked Syria without congressional authorization, Americans would be unhappy. If he gets congressional approval, it might help him sell this attack to the American public.
While this is a limited type of attack, the President didn't ask for congress for a declaration of war, rather to authorize an attack. If he asked to declare war, congress wouldn't have done it because war implies "boots on the ground." Bannon says that however you define war, this is an attack on another country and in his opinion, a declaration of war should have been asked for authorizations.
There were two other times in history where the U.S. has gone into conflict without a declaration of war that ended up being disasters - Iraq in 2003 and Vietnam. In both cases, says Bannon, had Congress stood up for its constitutional prerogative and declared war, then Presidents Johnson and Bush might have gotten those declarations and possibly would have saved thousands of lives and billions of dollars.
If Congress rejects the authorization, then Obama has to back off, otherwise it would be a gross violation of the Constitution and cause the President grave political problems, as Americans are already skeptical of the attack on Syria, Bannon says.
Brad Bannon is President of Bannon Communications Research, a Washington, D.C.-based political polling and consulting firm. More information can be found at www.bannoncr.com. This video commentary was hosted by The Legal Broadcast Network, which provides on-demand legal content.