September 15, 1994

September 15, 1994 | FYI on

Will Congressional Approval of Haiti Invasion Weaken Presidential Prerogatives?

(Archived document, may contain errors)

September 15, 1994


Kim R. Holmes Vice President and Director of Foreign Policy and Defense Studies Throughout the Reagan and Bush years, conservatives were skeptical of congressional micro- managment of foreign policy. Conservatives worried that the prerogative of the President as commander in chief was being weakened by the 1973 War Powers Act, which requires congres- sional approval of a military deployment within 60 days. Conservatives also were concerned that Congress was adding unnecessary pork to defense bills and wasting taxpayers' money on unwork- able foreign aid projects. Moreover, conservatives were apprehensive that Congress was leaking classified information and unnecessarily interfering with the smooth running of intelligence opera- tions overseas.

Conservatives are still concerned about the "imperial" Congress, which continues to microman- age foreign policy in the same old ways. But many fmd themselves torn between their opposition to an invasion of Haiti and their distrust of Congress. Habituated by years of protecting conservative Presidents from the meddling of a liberal Congress, conservatives find it difficult to use the only tool at their disposal-the Congress-to stop an invasion that they believe will be disastrous. Conservatives need not be so tom. There is a principled conservative position for obtaining con- gressional approval prior to an invasion of Haiti. Conservatives have always maintained that the President should have the right to use force without congressional approval if American lives are in danger or if U.S. vital interests or allies are threatened. This clearly is not the case in Haiti. No vital U.S. interests are endangered in Haiti. The reason the Clinton Administration gives for invading- maintaining U.S. credibility-has been artificially created by the President himself, with his re- peated threats. Far more harmful for U.S. credibility would be the unwise use of force where no vi- tal interests are at stake, or worse, the failure of the whole operation, as occurred when the U.S. invaded Haiti in the early part of this century. Conservative opposition to the War Powers Act never meant blanket approval of every military operation launched by any President. Rather, it meant constraining Congress's appetite for interfer- ing with the President's duty to defend American security. No one-not even the President-has said that Haiti endangers American security. Conservatives need not apologize or feel reticent in de- manding a congressional hearing of Clinton's plans before American lives are lost in a fruitless exer- cise of liberal gunboat diplomacy.

About the Author

Kim R. Holmes, Ph.D. Distinguished Fellow
Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy