The biggest casualty in the struggle against the Islamic State so far has been the American Constitution. One year into the battle, the president and Congress threaten to destroy all serious restraints against open-ended war-making by the commander-in-chief. President Obama waited for half a year before even submitting a draft resolution authorizing his initiative. But it is now obvious that the Republican-controlled Congress finds it politically convenient to stand on the sidelines and let Obama take the blame for the escalating instability. That leaves only the Supreme Court to halt this transformation of the president into a latter-day King George III.
As The Atlantic’s Garrett Epps rightly emphasizes, allowing the president to go unchallenged will produce a terrible precedent. As the rise and rise of Donald Trump suggests, future presidents may make aggressive use of their powers as commander in chief—and they will predictably point to Obama’s unilateral war on ISIS to justify their own military adventures.
Enter the Supreme Court. Since the justices would deny standing to the bipartisan group of legislators on Capitol Hill who have failed to convince their colleagues to take their constitutional responsibilities seriously, everybody has assumed that the Court will remain on the sidelines as Obama’s war continues. This is a mistake.