If you’re not familiar with Netflix’s hit show Stranger Things, don’t worry, I won’t reveal any major spoilers. A central theme of the show is that a portal into a parallel dimension has been opened, and the terrors that lurk there are spilling out into a small town in ours. Once this is discovered by the show’s main characters, they begin to refer to the parallel universe as “The Upside Down.”
A bipartisan majority of US Senators has recently decided that the US needs a taste of The Upside Down too. By a 68-23 margin, the Senate has affirmed a resolution to block any attempt made by President Trump to remove American troops from both Syria and Afghanistan.
The vote comes amid repeated announcements and tweets by the president that he will fulfill one of his central campaign promises by ending some of the US’s endless wars abroad, particularly in Syria. In the spirit of his America First slogan, bringing our troops home would make it easier for the government to focus its attention and resources on the country it presides over as well as respect the autonomy of the globe’s many nation-states.
When the president began talking withdrawal, establishment members of both parties and a hostile mainstream media scoffed and presented lame justifications for our presence in both countries. Many claimed that Turkey, our NATO ally, would “slaughter” our Kurdish allies if the mere 2,000 US troops still in Syria were sent home. Although the Kurds and the Turks have their differences, this would be a first in their shared history, not to mention the fact that Kurds are rough and tough and won’t be slaughtered by anybody.
By the way, many of the same people who claim we need to protect the Kurds from Turkey lost their minds when Trump suggested the US leave the outdated and useless bureaucratic leviathan known as NATO. In a transparent display of idiocy, they simultaneously claim (1) we can’t leave NATO because it would be a betrayal of our NATO allies and (2) we can’t leave Syria because it would be a betrayal of our Kurdish allies who would be slaughtered by our NATO allies. Talk about Stranger Things…
Other purported reasons to remain in Syria and Afghanistan are that leaving these aimless 10 and 17 year mission creeps, respectively, would be “precipitous” and, of course, something, something, something, Russia.
Despite the contradictions and hollow fear mongering, the real reason the situation is so upside down is that the wars Trump is trying to end were not authorized by congress while the commander-in-chiefs power to withdraw troops from foreign lands requires no congressional authorization at all.
Article I Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the power “to declare war” and Article II Section 2 names the president “commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.” To me, “commander in chief” sounds pretty self-explanatory. Perhaps that Founders would have had to have written “Total Super Ultra Mega Boss of the Military” to help get it through the thick skulls of today’s Democrats and Republicans.
It is true that congress authorized former President George W. Bush to use military force against those responsible for the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, but he was not given permission to occupy Afghanistan indefinitely for whatever reasons he and his successors could conjure up along the way. The language used in the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists is admittedly vague, so it might be fair to say that congress and a gullible public are to blame just as much as our executive administrations since then.
On the other hand, President Barack Obama was outright denied authorization to invade Syria in bipartisan fashion, but he did so anyway. Nice one, Barry.
Going to war should not be this easy, and ending wars should not be this hard. Our Founders were right to warn against entangling alliances and sticking our noses in other nations’ business. Engaging in either of these endeavors drains American lives, liberty, and treasure and prevents our neighbors abroad from learning to develop themselves. Neoconservatives can spend hours explaining why dependency upon welfare programs undermines an individual’s ability to develop, but for some reason they are too blind to see that dependency upon a foreign militia has the same result on nations.
However upside down our government is, the truth is that President Trump cannot blame the potential failure to end the wars in Afghanistan and Syria on congress. He has unquestioned authority to command the armed forces, and no one can stop him from exercising his constitutionally granted powers but himself. Playing politics by waiting a little while to accomplish this goal could be deemed a forgivable strategic maneuver. But Trump will deserve total and complete blame if this promise is broken.
Mr. President, it’s time to grow a pair and order things right-side up.