Is there a limit besides an actual deceleration of war? This Syrian conflict I think showed too much military power being given to the US president. This whole conflict appears to violate international law and seems to be illegal to me since Syria never attacked any US territory. US now has bases in Syria and recently said they would be shooting down any jets that come by its bases. Aren't there checks and balances on these types of issues?
Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the US Constitution reads:
The President shall be 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
However, how far these permissions extend was always a matter of debate. Especially because Article 1 Section 8 gives the right to declare war exclusively to the Congress:
The Congress shall have Power To [...] To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
Still, as commander in chief, the president can simply tell the army: "Fly to Syria and start shooting people" even without a formal declaration of war. And because the President is the head of the military chain of command, the military would obey.
All congress could do about this is:
- Try to impeach the president on the grounds that he violated international law by engaging in military actions without a formal declaration of war.
- Pull the plug on military funding (budget is under the control of Congress) and hope the soldiers desert when they aren't paid anymore.
Two things. First, Congress does not oppose United States (US) military action in Syria. So talking about Congress restricting the President from military action in Syria is impractical. Yes, some individuals in Congress oppose such action, but there is a clear majority in favor of it. The only reason that Congress hasn't passed a declaration of war is that the one that the president requested was too limited to get support from the more ardent advocates of military action.
Second, it is generally believed that the Authorization for Use of Military Force against Terrorists allows the US to go to war against any organization involved with 9/11. Daesh/IS used to be Al-Qaeda Iraq, so it triggers it. That they have moved into Syria as well doesn't change that.
It's unclear what would happen if the President ordered a war and Congress disagreed. There would be a constitutional crisis. An impeachment could resolve that. The generals could find the orders illegal and refuse to obey them, although that would also be a constitutional crisis. Of course, most generals involved are in favor of military intervention in this case.
The President of the United States of America is also the Commander-In-Chief of the United States Armed Forces and therefore holds ultimate authority in matters of military operation. Furthermore, Eastern Syria is no longer under control of the Syrian State and has fallen under control of groups that are actively engaged in hostilities against the United States of American and it's allies. This demands a response from the USAF.