In response to Soleimani Was a Political Killing, Not a Military One
Kevin, I appreciate where you’re coming from, but I don’t think the distinctions you are making hold up.
First, you say we aren’t in a state of war with Iran. But Iranian-supported forces have been killing and maiming U.S. troops for years, in clear acts of war. Are we not permitted to respond to these attacks absent specific congressional authorization? That’s an absurd position. And if we can kill the forces shooting the rockets, why can’t we kill the guy who is in theater, supplying them with the rockets and ordering them to shoot the rockets?
You say the Soleimani killing was “directed at political rather than military ends.” But every act of warfare has a political end. When the Iranians rocket our bases, they are seeking to make staying in Iraq painful for us, toward the political goal of getting us out. When we respond, we are seeking not just to protect ourselves but to frustrate this political goal. It’s very strange to consider the Soleimani killing as somehow uniquely political, when every Iranian act of violence the last several months, from attacking shipping in the Gulf to storming our embassy in Baghdad, has obviously had a high geopolitical purpose.
Lastly, you say that Congress could declare war on Iran. Yes, it could, but what you’re going for here would really require working it from the other end and some kind of positive congressional enactment to prevent the president from killing the likes of Soleimani. As it happens, Congress last year took up legislation to keep Trump from striking Iran without congressional approval. It failed, but even it took care to stipulate that it wasn’t meant “to restrict the use of the United States Armed Forces to defend against an attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its Armed Forces.”
In other words, even if this restriction of the president’s authority had passed and been signed into law (by the president, of course), he would have been fully within his rights to take out a commander directing attacks on our armed forces.