President Donald Trump’s finest hour occurred when he courageously decided to remove our military forces from Syria and to slash them by 50 percent in Afghanistan, provoking the resignation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis shortly thereafter.
The withdrawals are consistent with Constitution’s Declare War Clause and Trump’s campaign promise to act as president of the United States, not president of the world. They create an opportunity to bring the nation’s foreign policy across the board into alignment with the constitutional gospel: that only Congress can initiate war.
The Declare War Clause defines what national interests justify offensive use of the armed forces: namely, whatever convinces majorities in the House and Senate to vote a declaration of war or lesser hostilities. That understanding was unanimous among the architects of the Constitution. Alexander Hamilton explained that the “plain meaning” of the Clause was “that it is the peculiar and exclusive province of Congress, when the nation is at peace, to change that state into a state of war; whether from calculations of policy, or from provocations or injuries received; in other words, it belongs to Congress only to go to war.”