In 2007, Senator Joe Biden repeatedly threatened to lead an effort to impeach President George W. Bush in the House should he attack Iran without congressional authorization. Senator Obama agreed that Bush did not have the power to order a strike on Iran. This was not mindless, partisan saber rattling: Vice President Dick Cheney and the neoconservative establishment were actively pushing Bush to take military action against Iran.
Now, in 2013, Biden is the vice president and Obama, as president, is undoubtedly going to strike Syria in response to a brutal chemical weapons massacre outside of Damascus. However, the administration has not lifted a finger to approach Congress for authorization, illustrating Obama's and Biden's blatant hypocrisy in regards to the imperial presidency.
Watch Biden emphatically threaten to help impeach Bush here:
On Hardball, Biden emphatically and passionately told Chris Matthews that Bush had "no constitutional authority ... to take this nation to war against a county of 70 million people unless we're attacked or unless there is proof we are about to be attacked. And if he does, if he does, I would move to impeach him." Biden was absolutely correct to point out the illegality of Bush's intentions and threaten him with impeachment.
Bush and Cheney, who marked their administration with a series of special-interest foreign policy blunders, certainly had their fair share of controversy. Few Americans need to be reminded their administration went so far as to invade Iraq on fabricated, inconclusive evidence. However, Biden and then-Senator John Kerry, who is now Obama's secretary of state, both voted to give Bush the authority to attack Iraq. Less controversially, Congress also gave the Bush administration broad, overarching power in Afghanistan in the name of the artificial War on Terror.
While there is little reason to suspect that Obama's impending attack on Syria will amount to Bush's Iraq War fiasco, Biden and Obama are about to do what they themselves threatened to impeach Bush for. Reports indicate that Obama intends to limit intervention to a series of surgical strikes on the al-Assad regime's military infrastructure as a deterrent against further chemical weapons use. However, doing so without Congressional authorization is a blatant violation of the War Powers Act of 1973 and Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which explicitly states that only Congress has the power to declare war.
An attack on Syria would be the second intervention which Obama did not obtain congressional approval for. When Obama led the NATO humanitarian intervention in Libya, he similarly disregarded the War Powers Act and the Constitution, even though he had approval from the UN Security Council. Obama, a former constitutional law professor, ludicrously maintained that his actions were legal on the grounds that a no fly zone, wherein U.S. planes repeatedly bombed the Ghaddafi regime's infrastructure, did not constitute a war.
Based on the Obama administration's track record in Libya, it is likely that they will employ the same logic in Syria in order to pretend that their actions are not an unconstitutional violation of the War Powers Act. Although Americans can reasonably debate the merits of a human rights intervention in Syria, anytime one country attacks another, it's unquestionably a war.
Acting without Congressional authorization and pretending that it is anything but a war is a dangerous expansion of the imperial presidency. Under the hypocritical logic of Obama and Biden, the executive branch can safely bypass Congress simply by coming up with a nonsensical definition of what war entails.