Daniel Eckert
Student Writer


courtesy of kconnors via morguefile.com

The President of the United States America has officially asked Congress to declare a three year war initiative against ISIS. This is a monumental moment in the history of the president’s foreign policy, especially considering it is a presidency built on the agenda of ending the Iraq conflict and the war on terror within Afghanistan.

As ISIS continues to wage war throughout sections of the Middle East, the president formally authorized air-strikes to work in tandem with forces on the ground. This move to legitimize the war against ISIS is remarkable in that it is the first time that a president will seek the approval of Congress to engage in war since President George Bush initiated the war in Afghanistan.

Only days on the heels of seeking congressional approval, the president officially announced legislation that would limit his (and his successor’s) power. The binds he would impose upon himself would seek to limit the power of the president’s ability to initiate military actions. This is a strategic move to distance himself from the unfavorable use of power during the Bush presidency, while responding to the criticisms levied at his own office concerning the usage of drones. Further still, this legislation would distance the 2016 Democratic candidates from both Bush’s Patriot Act era war policy and from President Obama’s drone usage.

The verbiage of the legislation further equips future presidents to undo the proposed legislation. This is effectively designed as a public relations nightmare. Any president who would attempt to reverse the legislation would be perceived as a power-grabbing head of state, and if there is one thing Americans do not like, it is the idea of the most powerful individual in government attempting to expand their power base. Further, if the Democrat Party’s fears are realized and 2016 does not yield a Democrat president, this legislation can always be utilized to hamper the progress of a Republican president concerning war.

The most interesting result of the legislation is that if the Republican congress decides not to enact the proposed law, they will be implicit in “aiding the president”. After all, many Conservatives voted for the current congress because they felt as though the president was violating the constitution concerning healthcare and immigration. Now, the president is confronting them with an opportunity in which both action and inaction are strategically untenable.

This seems reminiscent of the State of the Union where the president left the Congress with little choice but inaction. By simultaneously limiting his wartime power semantically, and still holding to a war plan which excludes ground units, the president is getting the most support he can from both sides of the aisle. More importantly, he is carefully laying the groundwork for a Democrat White House in 2016, something he all but announced in the State of the Union as he clarified that he would begin to campaign across the country for classically Democrat legislation.

As of yet, the GOP has not been able to formulate a response that many would find favorable. While Republican Senator Mo Brooks claims that America must be doing more to thwart ISIS, it is difficult for him to find support within the war-weary country. This is compounded by the fact that ISIS appears to be losing momentum.

So what does a congressionally supported war on ISIS mean? For the president, this is both a moment to shine and eliminate yet another symbol of terrorism, as well as a moment to place another brick in the wall around GOP 2016 presidential aspirations.

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