The War in Libya presented America with a political dance that had the Administration first telling us that it just wasn't possible to do anything to stop Qaddaffi from slaughtering protestors in the streets and then using a UN Resolution authorizing a "No-Fly Zone" to launch missiles at Television Stations because they were reporting news in support of a Sovereign government it didn't like. We launched cruise missiles. We sent in Military Aircraft. We conducted warfare in Libya. At no time, did the Obama Administration ask the US Congress for authorization to go to War.
For a year, the Obama Administration has said it just isn't possible to do anything to protect the people of Syria from the Ba'athist Regime and ally of Islamist Iran of Bashir Assad, outside of asking others to say it's a bad thing to do. The Administration now appears to be in the opening salvo of preparing for war in Syria and Congress has some questions, namely: Will the current Administration get Authorization for War from Congress, as required by the US Constitution, the Supreme Law of the Land, which bows to no treaty, no international body, and no legislation passed by the entities it established, or not?
The question is not whether or not the Assad regime should be destroyed. It is a state sponsor of terrorism, second only to Iran. The question is, whether or not the Obama Administration respects the US Constitutional requirement that ONLY Congress may authorize the engagement of the Nation into War.
Outside the constraints of the Constitution, some might find Secretary Panetta's answer reasonable. This is what the Constitution states; ONLY Congress has authority to:
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; Article 1, Section 8 US Constitution.
Why would the Founding Fathers make it an authority of Congress, and not the Executive branch, ie. President to engage in war? Because they did not trust the power of ONE man to entangle Americans in wars. It is why they created THREE, not four, or two, or one EQUAL branches of Government. They gave each a set of responsibilities and authorities, but gave Congress the authority to levy war, not the President. The Representatives of the individual districts have to be convinced of the NECESSITY of war to send Our Sons & Daughters into harm's way, or to invite enemies to attack Our Citizens in their homes.
"But this would be doing indirectly what Congress should do directly -- either declare war, or not. And if Congress does not, and the President proceeds anyway, the President should be taken to task for ignoring the Constitution." CNN August 2002, John Dean
It does state that the President is the Commander in Chief, when those powers have been enacted:
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; Article 2, Section 2 of the US Constitution.
They didn't want Congress to be involved in every individual decision of war. They understood war by commission is bound to lose. They gave the President the authority to conduct war, after Congress had authorized it.
It is distressing to hear that the current Administration believes it can ignore the Constitution, and it has already done so, in Libya. It is distressing to hear that the Obama Administration believes that the UN or Europe has the authority to order Our Troops into combat, or to order American Troops to ignore its own interests.
There has been a lot of talk about the treaties made with other Nations, with NATO, or the United Nations superceding the US Constitution and its Amendments. The Founding Fathers thought of this:
"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby,any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding." Article VI, US Constitution.
In other words, NO, nothing the UN says, no matter how popular in the Senate at the time, or later supersedes the US Constitution. The UN can clammer all it wants to, about whether the United States should or should not be involved in War, but only the US Congress, as representatives of the CITIZENS of America, can commit Our Nation to War. There is no qualification to that saying a Naval War, Air War, or Ground War. It says the US Congress, not the UN Security Council, and not NATO and not even the President himself is the authority FOR WAR. The hierarchy for supremacy of law is set out: US Constitution, State Laws, Treaties, Congressional Legislation, period.
Some have suggested that the last President was not authorized to send Our Troops to War by Congress. This is not true. The US Congress authorized Military Action in Iraq & in Afghanistan. Senators Biden, Hillary Clinton, & Harry Reid, as well as Congressman Pelosi voted to authorize President George W Bush to fight both wars.