What About Congress? The Washington Post Endorses Inherent Executive Power to Use Military Force
Following up on Ken’s post about the Washington Post editorial endorsing Harold Koh’s legal defense of targeted killings, it is worth analyzing the passage Ken quoted one more time, but this time from a domestic U.S. constitutional perspective:
Mr. Koh’s reaffirmation of the right to self-defense — even outside the confines of an existing armed conflict — is particularly important. The Authorization for the Use of Military Force(AUMF) after Sept. 11, 2001, empowered the president to pursue those responsible for the attacks, including al-Qaeda and the Taliban. That authority may wane with time. But the right of self-defense is inherent and may be exercised against current and future enemies that pose an imminent threat, including those operating outside of traditional combat zones.
What is fascinating about this passage is that the Post seems to endorsing a general authority of the President to use deadly force against “current and future enemies that pose an imminent threat,” whether or not those enemies fall within the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. The Post seems to be endorsing an “inherent” right of the President to target enemies, with or without congressional authorization.
There was a time when the debate over the use of force by the U.S. government focused almost exclusively on a domestic separation of powers conversation. U.S. legal scholars and elites would engage in debates about when and whether Congressional authorization is required before the President can use military force against U.S. enemies. I think that this debate is basically over, thanks to the Obama Administration.