Yemen war: Trump’s defiance of Congress
So much for President Trump’s pledge to avoid “endless wars,” said Ishaan Tharoor in The Washington Post. Using his second veto since taking office, Trump rejected a bipartisan resolution last week that would have cut off U.S. arms and other support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, where four years of relentless bombing and blockades have produced what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe. The death toll exceeds 70,000, with 14 million Yemenis facing famine. Congress—including several of the president’s closest GOP allies—handed Trump a “perfect out from this mess.” Yet by continuing the U.S. military’s logistical support for the “brutal” assault on Iran-backed Houthi rebels, said Conor Friedersdorf in TheAtlantic.com, Trump abandoned his “America first” doctrine out of deference to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Although the Obama administration got us into this debacle, there’s no denying “Trump owns the war in Yemen now.”
True—but it’s his call, not Congress’, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. “The Founders vested broad foreign-policy responsibility” in the executive, and Trump has decided it is in U.S. interests to support the Saudis. He rightfully called the Yemen resolution “an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities.” Congress had invoked the War Powers Act of 1973, which requires the president to get congressional approval for protracted military engagements—“a bad idea” that every president has resisted. The Constitution gives the president, as commander in chief, the final say on military matters, and he should answer solely to the voters.
Didn’t Trump promise voters he’d end foreign entanglements? asked David French in NationalReview.com. His decision to break that pledge comes in “direct defiance” of the Constitution, which grants Congress “exclusive authority to declare war.” To clarify “gray areas” in decision-making, the War Powers Act clearly states Congress can terminate U.S. engagement in “foreign hostilities.” Trump’s interpretation of “hostilities” is lifted “directly from the Obama administration,” said Gunar Olsen in NewRepublic.com. When Obama began supporting the Saudi-led war in Yemen in 2015, he claimed that “consistent bombing did not rise to the level of hostilities.” That precedent allows Trump to continue this “disastrous conflict,” leaving Yemen, and the separation of powers, in ruins.