“As He Determines To Be Necessary and Appropriate in a Limited and Tailored Manner”

Everyone who has commented on the draft Menendez-Corker resolution to strike Syria has focused on this language:

The President is authorized, subject to subsection (b), to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in a limited and tailored manner against legitimate military targets in Syria, [my emphasis]

The pursuit of a somewhat pregnant war continues!

And while the resolution makes pains to limit our involvement geographically (though John Kerry implied today if Syria’s allies get involved than we’d be able to go after them), it also allows boots on the ground for non-combat functions.

The authority granted in section 2 does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces on the ground in Syria for the purpose of combat operations.

And I’m rather interested in this language, which SFRC added from the White House version.

Whereas the President has authority under the Constitution to use force in order to defend the national security interests of the United States:

I’m sure that won’t be abused at all.

Update: Nada Bakos notes that the government will be asked to vet their plans for Syria. But not until halfway through the initial authorization.

Not later than 30 days after the date of the enactment of this resolution, the President shall consult with Congress and submit to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives an integrated United States Government strategy for achieving a negotiated political settlement to the conflict in Syria, including a comprehensive review of current and planned U.S. diplomatic, political, economic, and military policy towards Syria, including: (1) the provision of all forms of assistance to the Syrian Supreme Military Council and other Syrian entities opposed to the government of Bashar Al-Assad that have been properly and fully vetted and share common values and interests with the United States; (2) the provision of all forms of assistance to the Syrian political opposition, including the Syrian Opposition Coalition; (3) efforts to isolate extremist and terrorist groups in Syria to prevent their influence on the future transitional and permanent Syrian governments; (4) coordination with allies and partners; and (5) efforts to limit support from the Government of Iran and others for the Syrian regime.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

14 replies
  1. Snoopdido says:

    I too saw that part about:

    “The authority granted in section 2 does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces on the ground in Syria for the purpose of combat operations.”

    I took it to mean that the Special Operations “preparing the battlefield” euphemism was therefore allowed.

  2. P J Evans says:

    Many in Congress would rather attack Iran than Syria. They’ve been warned that Iran would be worse than Iraq and Afghanistan combined, but that hasn’t gotten through their thick, hard skulls yet.

  3. Peterr says:

    Listening to some of the back and forth on the radio today, I was struck by the idiocy of the dual plans:

    (1) strike firmly enough to degrade Assad’s weapons and deter future chemical weapon use, and
    (2) not strike so hard as to affect the balance of the civil war going on in Syria.

    Sorry, but if the US is to succeed with #1, it will by definition violate #2. Chemical weapons are part of Assad’s military arsenal, and if the US hits him hard enough to eliminate that from the battlefield, then that will affect the civil war — and vice versa.

  4. JohnT says:

    Seriously, you gotta read this

    What is happening in Syria feels like one of the last gasps of the age of the military dictators. An old way of running the world is still desperately trying to cling to power, but the underlying feeling in the west is that somehow Assad’s archaic and cruel military rule will inevitably collapse and Syrians will move forward into a democratic age.

    That may, or may not, happen, but what is extraordinary is that we have been here before. Between 1947 and 1949 an odd group of idealists and hard realists in the American government set out to intervene in Syria. Their aim was to liberate the Syrian people from a corrupt autocratic elite – and allow true democracy to flourish. They did this because they were convinced that “the Syrian people are naturally democratic” and that all that was neccessary was to get rid of the elites – and a new world of “peace and progress” would inevitably emerge.

    What resulted was a disaster, and the consequences of that disaster then led, through a weird series of bloody twists and turns, to the rise to power of the Assad family and the widescale repression in Syria today.

    I thought I would tell that story.

    […]

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/2011/06/the_baby_and_the_baath_water.html

  5. lefty665 says:

    Suppose the US commits acts of war by attacking Syria under a “limited resolution” and someone in Syria or elsewhere says “boo” back. Are the authorities under the war powers resolution then triggered since US forces have been endangered?

    Is this just a gateway drug to shooting up wider war?

  6. klynn says:

    Will hitting chem war arsenal spread the chemical agent and cause more CW deaths?

    Great comments JohnT, Peterr and lefty.

  7. lefty665 says:

    @klynn: I wonder if war powers resolution (wpr) authority was behind Kerry’s blunders, and subsequent clarification yesterday. He perhaps confused wpr authority in his response with the “limited modified hangout”, to use Nixon’s words, action being contemplated. His later “no boots” clarification got him back on message.

  8. P J Evans says:

    @klynn:
    Will hitting chem war arsenal spread the chemical agent and cause more CW deaths?

    Yes. Smart people don’t want to bomb Syria for exactly that reason.

  9. GKJames says:

    Isn’t this just another chapter in the tale of charades we’ve seen since the War Powers Resolution of 1973? Congress and White House go through the motions. The scriveners get to work. Our elected representatives raise their hands–Aye!. The bombs fly. Nirvana most definitely does not ensue. Feverish parsing of text. Recrimination: That’s not what we meant! Commentariat electrified. Consequences to Executive for exceeding his powers? Nil.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The stated objectives are contradictory. In Mr. Obama’s world of eleventy-dimensional chess, that means he’s lying about some of his goals or all of them. This broad “authorizing” language from Congress entirely endorses that subterfuge. It’s rather like engaging in war to end all war, to paraphrase another Democratic president, who was also renowned for his disdain for leftist progressives who worked in Chicago abattoirs rather than in the halls of academe. His presidential wars worked out well, too.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    @GKJames: I would take it back at least to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in August 1964, which suggests that Mr. Obama is not as original as he believes himself to be.

    Most sources agree that the “incident” underlying that resolution was a fiction. Nevertheless, or because of it, it served as the fig leaf for Johnson’s massive troop build up and eleven more years of bloodshed in SE Asia. As horrible as it was to lose 58,000 American dead, more than three million people in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam also died. Ancient civilizations were shattered, US troops developed drug addictions in alarming numbers, and the Golden Triangle for a time became the world’s premier source for illegal opiates.

    Predictably, Mr. Obama’s wars will have equally ugly and unpredictable consequences. If the Nobel committee awarded its peace prize to him for not being President Bush, perhaps on his retirement it will give him a second peace prize for not being President Obama.

  12. GKJames says:

    @earlofhuntingdon: Good point. The pattern is well entrenched: The Executive wants to use military force, but needs to sell Congress and the public on the idea. Congress, bamboozled by Administration pitchmen, crafts language that everyone says is intended to be limiting, but is in fact ambiguous enough to give the Executive “flexibility.” When he in fact exercises his authority in terms of the martial arts beyond his official remit, Congress shows no stomach for impeachment. This tells us that Americans, as whole, like military assaults, especially against foes with only a limited ability to shoot back.

  13. P J Evans says:

    @GKJames:
    This tells us that Americans, as whole, like military assaults, especially against foes with only a limited ability to shoot back.

    Assumption here being that Congress actually does what most Americans want. Everything I’ve seen in the last couple of weeks indicates that most Americans (at least 70 percent) are against any involvement with Syria’s civil war.

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