James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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Showing posts for "War Powers"

Can President Obama Persuade Americans to Support His Syria Policy?

by James M. Lindsay
President Barack Obama during the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters). President Barack Obama during the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters).

President Obama hopes to use his nationwide address tonight to persuade Americans of the necessity to punish Syria for using chemical weapons. But two polls out this morning suggest that it is a daunting task, and not one he is likely to accomplish. Read more »

Americans Still Doubt the Need for Military Strikes Against Syria

by James M. Lindsay
A protester holds up a sign against U.S. action in Syria as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin E. Dempsey, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Joshua Roberts/Courtesy Reuters). A protester holds up a sign against U.S. action in Syria as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin E. Dempsey, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Joshua Roberts/Courtesy Reuters).

Gallup is out with a new poll on what Americans think about military strikes against Syria.  Unlike the Pew Research Center and Washington Post/ABC News polls released on Tuesday, Gallup started questioning Americans after President Obama announced on Saturday that he was asking Congress to approve military action. But like the Pew and Post/ABC polls, Gallup found that far more Americans (51 percent) oppose military strikes than support them (36 percent). Read more »

Americans Doubt the Need for Military Strikes Against Syria

by James M. Lindsay
Opponents of U.S.-led intervention in Syria rally outside the White House (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters). Opponents of U.S.-led intervention in Syria rally outside the White House (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).

Sometimes polls tell you what you already know. That’s the case with the polls that the Pew Research Center and the Washington Post and ABC News just released on Syria. Pew found that Americans oppose conducting military strikes against Syria by a margin of 48 percent to 29 percent. By a virtually identical margin (48 percent to 32 percent) they believe that President Obama has not explained clearly why the United States should attack Syria. Meanwhile, the Washington Post-ABC News poll found that Americans opposed military strikes by a margin of 59 percent to 36 percent. Read more »

Has Congress Ever Denied a President’s Request to Authorize Military Force?

by James M. Lindsay
President Barack Obama discusses a military response to Syria with bipartisan Congressional leaders in the Cabinet Room at the White House (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters). President Barack Obama discusses a military response to Syria with bipartisan Congressional leaders in the Cabinet Room at the White House (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters).

Many people inside the Beltway doubt that President Obama will succeed in convincing Congress to authorize a military strike against Syria. Which raises a question. If the skeptics turn out to be right, would Obama be the first president to have Congress turn down his request to authorize military action? No, but he would be the first one in a very long time. Read more »

Syria Revives the War Powers Debate

by James M. Lindsay
The United States Constitution (Courtesy of the National Archives) The United States Constitution (Courtesy of the National Archives)

President Obama’s determination that the United States should take military action to punish the Syrian government for using chemical weapons has revived the perennial debate over how the Constitution allocates the war power between Congress and the White House.  President Obama says he has “the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization,” but nonetheless is asking Congress to vote anyway. Some commentators have hailed this decision; others have criticized it for undermining presidential authority. Read more »

Obama Asks Congress to Vote on Syria

by James M. Lindsay
President Barack Obama makes remarks on the situation in Syria at the Rose Garden of the White House (Mike Theiler/Courtesy Reuters). President Barack Obama makes remarks on the situation in Syria at the Rose Garden of the White House (Mike Theiler/Courtesy Reuters).

President Obama’s announcement that he is asking Congress to authorize the use of military force against Syria comes as welcome news to proponents of the view that presidents cannot unilaterally initiate the use of military force. Although Obama endorsed that view back in 2007 before he became president, he pointedly declined to ask Congress to authorize U.S. military action against Libya in 2011. Read more »

Friday File:Congress Still Not Biting on Libya

by James M. Lindsay

Above the Fold. I wrote two weeks ago that nothing would come of congressional efforts to reverse President Obama on Libya. Lo and behold, lawmakers have given speeches, pounded tables, and held votes. The sum total of all this activity is that Congress has let the White House have its way. True, the House did refuse last week to vote to authorize the Libya mission, a step that numerous media outlets called a “historic rejection.” It was, at least in the same way that the 1847 House vote denouncing the Mexican-American War for being “unnecessarily and unconstitutionally begun” was a rebuke of President Polk. Both votes go into the history books, but neither changed anything. This week the Senate Foreign Relations Committee formally repudiated the legal arguments that the White House has used to defend its position on Libya. The committee then voted 14-5 to authorize President Obama to continue current military operations. Readers who like to see the glass half full can say that Congress at least tried to assert its war powers authority and that it failed for all understandable reasons: disagreement on the merits of the president’s policy; a fear of the consequences for U.S. credibility abroad in saying no to the White House; and plain partisan politics. The downside to Congress’s failure either to authorize the Libya mission or forbid it is that claims that the president possesses an independent war-making authority just got a little stronger. President Obama says today that the Libyan operation doesn’t rise to the level of “hostilities” or set a precedent. But you can bet that his successors will argue tomorrow that it is a powerful precedent that enables them to act as they see fit. Such is the way that constitutional authorities get redefined and reshaped.

CFR Event of the Week. GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty stopped by CFR this week to talk about his views on national security and foreign policy. His theme? “Now is not the time to retreat from freedom’s rise.” If like me you missed the event—I was in Dublin, Ireland for a conference—you can watch the video, listen to the audio, or read the transcript.

Read of the Week. If you haven’t done so already, you should read Sebastian Mallaby’s, More Money Than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite. This is not just a shameless plug for a CFR colleague and one of the most gifted conversationalists I know. More Money Than God just won the Gerald Loeb Award for best business book. This is a very big deal. The Loeb Award is the Pulitzer for financial journalism. And More Money Than God is a terrific read.

Blog Post of the Week. The boom in so-called shale gas is remaking the energy landscape. So much so, that my colleague Mike Levi is asking whether the United States should export natural gas. For those of you who don’t spend your days poring over the latest issue of American Oil & Gas Reporter, geologists have long known that shale deposits can contain vast amounts of natural gas. The problem was how to extract the gas at a price that could earn a profit. Enter “fracking,” the shorthand term for “hydraulic fracturing.” It’s a technique that injects a mix of water and chemicals deep into shale deposits, thereby fracturing them and releasing the trapped natural gas. The United States has several large shale gas deposits that are now being exploited. The question that Mike and others are grappling with is how to best make use of this resource. (And yes, fracking does come with some potentially dire side effects.)

Poll Question of the Week. Gallup finds that by a margin of four-to-one, Americans support President Obama’s troop withdrawal plan for Afghanistan—72 percent give it a thumbs up and only 23 percent a thumbs down. People who identify as Democrats are most supportive (87 percent), and Republicans the least (50 percent). On the specific question of the speed of the withdrawal, 30 percent of Americans agree with Obama’s timetable, 33 percent want to remove troops more rapidly, and 31 percent say there should be no timetable. So in all, critics who are calling for the White House to stay the course in Afghanistan don’t have the public on their side.

Chart of the Week. The emission of carbon dioxide is the main driver behind anthropogenic (i.e., human-induced) climate change. How does the United States compare to the so-called BRICS—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—when it comes to generating carbon dioxide? As the chart below shows, the United States produces more carbon dioxide by burning oil and natural gas than anyone else. China leads the way when it comes to burning coal. Indeed, coal accounts for about 70 percent of China’s total energy consumption. This is significant because for each unit of energy coal emits 80 percent more carbon dioxide than natural gas, and 20 percent more than oil. Burning coal also produces other “negative externalities,” as economists like to say, such as acid rain and air pollution. The World Health Organization reports that only 1 percent of China’s urban population breathes clean air.


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