Ron Paul Blasts Administration for Seeking International Authority Before Congressional Authority

March 9, 2012 - 5:41 PM
Leon Panetta, Adm. Mike Mullen

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at press briefing marking end of the military's ban on homosexuals. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul is not happy with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for saying that he would seek “international permission” as the legal basis for imposing a no-fly zone on Syria.  Paul called the statement another “blatant disregard for the rule of law and our Constitution.”

“For President Obama’s head of the Defense Department to state that international permission, rather than congressional approval, is what would be needed as a legal basis to initiate a no-fly zone over Syria flies in the face of the guidelines established by our Founders,” Paul said in an official campaign statement.

“There is no issue more serious than war. And make no mistake, establishing a ‘no-fly zone’ is in itself an act of war,” the Texas congressman added.

Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress, not the president, the authority to declare war, Paul said.

“This was meant to be an important check on presidential power,” he said. “The last thing the Founders wanted was an out-of-control Executive Branch engaging in unnecessary and unpopular wars without so much as a congressional debate.”

Paul added that getting into unnecessary and unpopular wars with little to no Congressional say in the matter should not come as surprise since the president consulted international organizations NATO, the United Nations and the Arab league for permission to become involved in Libya rather than seeking authority from Congress.

“During the conflict in Libya last year, we saw exactly what this President thinks of following the rule of law,” Paul said.

He also pointed out that such action is “a complete 180” from when then-Sen. Obama was on the campaign trail railing against the Bush administration for violating the War Powers Act.

“But, like many candidates, the rhetoric did not match the disappointing reality of what he would do as President,” Paul said.

On Wednesday, when asked by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) if the Defense Department could initiate a no-fly zone without the consult or approval of Congress, Panetta told the senator that he would seek “international permission” before consulting Congress.

Sessions pressed Panetta about what body he would be seeking a legal basis to use military force from.

“Obviously, if the UN passed a security resolution as it did in Libya we would do that. If NATO came together as it did in Bosnia we would rely on that,” Panetta said.

A defense official later told CNN that Panetta “was re-emphasizing the need for an international mandate. We are not ceding U.S. decision-making authority to some foreign body.”

Here is the transcript:

Sessions: “Do you think you can act without Congress to initiate a no-fly zone in Syria without congressional approval?

Panetta: “Again, our goal would be to seek international permission, and we would come to the Congress and inform you, and determine how best to approach this, whether or not we would want to get permission from the Congress, I think those are issues we would have to discuss as we decide what to do here.”

Sessions: “Well, I’m almost breathless about that, because what I heard you say is, “We’re going to seek international approval, and you will come and tell the Congress what we might do, and we might seek congressional approval. … You’ve served in the Congress. Wouldn’t you agree that that would be pretty breathtaking to the average American? So would you like to clarify that?”

Panetta: “I’ve also served with Republican presidents and Democratic presidents who have always reserved the right to defend this country if necessary.”

Sessions: “But before we do this, you would seek permission from international authorities?”

Panetta: “If we’re working with an international coalition and we’re working with NATO, we would want to be able to get appropriate permissions in order to be able to do that. That’s something that all of these countries would want to have, some kind of legal basis on which to act.”

Sessions: “What legal basis are you looking for? What entity?”

Panetta: “Obviously, if NATO made the decision to go in, that would be one. If we developed an international coalition beyond NATO, then obviously some kind of U.N. security resolution would be the basis for that.”

Sessions: “So a coalition of, so you’re saying NATO would give you a legal basis and an ad hoc coalition of nations would provide a legal basis?”

Panetta: “If we were able to put together a coalition and were able to move together, then obviously, we would seek whatever legal basis we would need to in order to make that justified. I mean, we just can’t pull them all together in a combat operation without getting the legal basis in which to act.”

Sessions: “Who are you asking for the legal basis from?”

Panetta: “If it’s, obviously if the U.N. passed a security resolution as it did in Libya, we would do that. If NATO came together as it did in Bosnia, we would rely on that. So, we have options here if we want to build the kind of international approach to dealing with the situation.”

Sessions: “Well I’m all for having international support, but I’m really baffled by the idea that somehow an international assembly provides a legal basis for the United States military to be deployed in combat. I don’t believe it’s close to being correct. They provide no legal authority. The only legal authority that’s required to deploy the United States military is the Congress and the president and the law and the Constitution.”

Panetta: “Let me just for the record be clear again, Senator, so there’s no misunderstanding. When it comes to the national defense of this country, the president of the United States has the authority under the Constitution to act to defend this country, and we will. If it comes to an operation where we’re trying to build a coalition of nations to work together to go in and operate as we did in Libya or Bosnia or for that matter Afghanistan, we’d want to do it with permissions either by NATO or by the international community.”