Mitt Romney Says He Could Wage War on Iran Without Congress' Approval

Like President Obama, he proposes circumventing the Constitution. What will his anti-war endorser Senator Rand Paul say?



On Face the Nation on Sunday, Mitt Romney said that if elected president he wouldn't have to get congressional permission for a military strike on Iran.

To quote him directly (emphasis added):

I can assure you if I'm president, the Iranians will have no question but that I will be willing to take military action if necessary to prevent them from becoming a nuclear threat to the world. I don't believe at this stage, therefore, if I'm president that we need to have a war powers approval or special authorization for military force. The president has that capacity now. I understand that some in the Senate for instance have written letters to the president indicating you should know that a containment strategy is unacceptable. We cannot survive a course of action which would include a nuclear Iran we must be willing to take any and all actions.

All those actions must be on the table.

If a President Romney waged war without Congressional approval, it would be the first time a sitting president violated the Constitution's separation of powers and the War Powers Resolution since President Obama did it in Libya.

Says Daniel Larison:

The United States survived decades of containing Soviet power. America outlasted what may have been the greatest security threat in our history partly because of a policy of containment. Iran is far weaker than any threat the USSR ever posed. If the U.S. could not survive a nuclear-armed Iran, a President Romney would be powerless to change that. On the other hand, back in the real world, if the U.S. has little to fear from a nuclear-armed Iran and is more than capable of deterring any threat from Iran, there is no reason to listen to anything Romney has to say on this subject.

Romney obviously does not believe war is a last resort, and he clearly doesn't believe that the Congress has anything to say about attacking Iran. According to Romney, it is something that the president could do tomorrow if he believed it necessary. The Constitution is completely irrelevant to Romney, and so is the consent of the American people expressed through its representatives. No one should have any illusions about how Romney would conduct foreign policy if he is elected.

This puts Senator Rand Paul in an interesting position. At the end of March, he was doing his best to preemptively assert that an attack on Iran or Syria must involve congressional approval, per the Constitution. 

As Paul put it on the Senate floor:

Our Founding Fathers were quite concerned about giving the power to declare war to the Executive. They were quite concerned that the Executive could become like a king. Many in this body cannot get boots on ground fast enough in a variety of places, from Syria to Libya to Iran. We don't just send boots to war. We send our young Americans to war. Our young men and women, our soldiers, deserve thoughtful debate. Before sending our young men and women into combat, we should have a mature and thoughtful debate over the ramifications of and over the authorization of war and over the motives of the war. James Madison wrote that the Constitution supposes what history demonstrates. That the Executive is the branch most interested in war and most prone to it. The Constitution, therefore, with studied care vested that power in the Legislature.

He has since endorsed Mitt Romney for the presidency, for which he's already gotten all kinds of grief from libertarians

It's going to get worse.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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