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Strength in Resolve

September 15, 2014
Weekly Columns

Last week, President Barack Obama addressed the nation and offered his plan for combating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). During his speech, the president asked Congress to authorize training of Syrian rebels and recommended further air strikes in the region for diffusing the threat of this dangerous enemy. 

Along with most Americans, I agree that ISIL represents a clear and present danger to the United States and our friends and allies. But I have some serious reservations about the president’s approach for destroying ISIL. Frankly, I am concerned that he won’t lead this endeavor decisively or with the strong resolve needed in times of war.

Regardless of the scope of action, Congress and the president should work together. During his address to the nation, the president still claimed to have the authority for action without further approval from Congress. Some argue that resolutions passed under the Bush Administration in 2001 and 2002 already provide him with the authority to act, but I do not share this view. A measure dating back more than a decade in very different times and under different leaders and lawmakers cannot and should not justify unlimited executive authority in this new war. 

In times of great danger to America's national security, no president should act alone. Any commander-in-chief that faces such danger on behalf of our country should – and would – have bipartisan and bicameral support. I will certainly vote to authorize the resources needed to destroy ISIL, but the president must show decisive executive leadership and willingness to work with Congress.

At home and abroad, the United States must show strength in its resolve, unity in its strategy and commitment to fighting this evil foe. Until the mission is completed, the president would be unwise to rule out any options or tactics for achieving that objective. 

With the rapid expansion and unexpected uprising of a terrorist organization that desires to take territory for building an Islamic caliphate, we are painfully reminded that we still live in a dangerous world. In the days ahead, it is likely that more will be revealed about the capabilities and resources honed by these terrorists—making swift and targeted action ever more urgent. 

Before proceeding further against ISIL, Congress should vote on the president’s request without any extraneous legislative attachments. Voting to authorize war is perhaps the most serious and solemn act that any member of Congress can take.  It ought not be encumbered with any other irrelevant matters. Many members from both sides of the aisle feel the same way, and I expect that leadership will allow that. 

Finally, Congress and the Administration must recognize the stark reality facing our nation and reverse the alarming cuts to our military that have occurred in the past year due to sequestration. The world we live in is becoming more dangerous, not less. It’s important that Congress and the president, House and Senate, and Democrats and Republicans work together to keep America safe in the days and years to come.