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Posted by on Jan 12, 2007 in Politics | 13 comments

Has Bush Already Launched Another War?

This report wouldn’t be taken as seriously if it wasn’t coming from a writer with as much credibility and excellent sources as Steve Clemons, who writes:

Did the President Declare “Secret War” Against Syria and Iran?

Washington intelligence, military and foreign policy circles are abuzz today with speculation that the President, yesterday or in recent days, sent a secret Executive Order to the Secretary of Defense and to the Director of the CIA to launch military operations against Syria and Iran.

The President may have started a new secret, informal war against Syria and Iran without the consent of Congress or any broad discussion with the country.

Clemons writes that the tip off may have come during George Bush’s largely panned address on his new Iraq policy. Of course, there are several questions here, such whether if these operations do happen they’re going be big or small, involve major military tactics or be more like interceptions of funding and arms. Read Clemons’ post for the details. He also writes towards the end:

But what is disconcerting is that some are speculating that Bush has decided to heat up military engagement with Iran and Syria — taking possible action within their borders, not just within Iraq.

Some are suggesting that the [Iran] Consulate raid [conducted in Iraq] may have been designed to try and prompt a military response from Iran — to generate a casus belli for further American action.

If this is the case, the debate about adding four brigades to Iraq is pathetic. The situation will get even hotter than it now is, worsening the American position and exposing the fact that to fight Iran both within the borders of Iraq and into Iranian territory, there are not enough troops in the theatre.

If this happens fasten your safety belts. It would be a rejection not only of the concept of the executive branch even partially consulting with the legislative branch, but be a virtual repudiation of the Jim Baker-headed Iraq Study Group that advocated talking with Iran and Syria versus engaging them militarily and more than ever Bush would be governing with the support of his now-smaller partisan base.

You could see the seeds of major future conflicts Congress will have with an administration that throws down the gauntlet more than it extends olive branches in Senate hearings yesterday:

Bush sparked worries that the conflict may widen by his comment that “we’ll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”

U.S. officials said their plan was to disrupt such networks while staying inside Iraq, but their comments did not appear to mollify senior U.S. lawmakers.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden bluntly told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice he did not think Bush had the authority to launch attacks to stamp out militant networks in Iran and Syria.

“If the president concluded he had to invade Iran … or Syria in pursuit of these networks, I believe the present authorization granted the president to use force in Iraq does not cover that and he does need congressional authority to do that,” said Biden.

“I just want to set that marker,” added the Delaware Democrat, who later wrote Bush a letter asking for an “authoritative answer” on whether he believed U.S. forces could cross into Iran or Syria without congressional authorization.

In a testy hearing about Bush’s new plan for Iraq, Rice said she did not want to speculate on the president’s constitutional authority for such action.

“Obviously, the president isn’t going to rule anything out to protect our troops, but the plan is to take down these networks in Iraq,” she said.

Right now you get the feeling there are assumptions on both sides. Assumptions by administration critics that Bush & Co are going to clone the approach used to get the U.S. into Iraq and go after Iran and Afghanistan. Assumptions by the administration that when critics ask questions they’re trying to curtail their power.

But the bottom line will be: ARE there plans to effectively open up more war fronts? HAVE these fronts been in-effect opened already? And, if so, will members of both parties give up Congressional powers that were once so jealously protected and exercised by members of Congress back in the days when Congress actually exercised advise, consent and oversight?

And, if all that is true, how will this play out with a public that the very latest poll taken right after the President’s speech was unmoved by Bush’s arguments — leaving Bush as an increasingly unpopular president, someone who has split his own party, presiding over an unpopular war that has his name written all over it? Would there be political, institutional or constitutional consequences? If so, how would that alter how policy is made in the U.S.? If not, what would that mean to how policies are made in the future?

H/t HinesSight