Forty-five years after Congress passed the War Powers Act in the wake of the Vietnam War, it has finally used it for the first time, to try to end the U.S.-Saudi war on the people of Yemen and to recover its constitutional authority over questions of war and peace. This hasn’t stopped the war yet, and President Trump has threatened to veto the bill. But its passage in Congress, and the debate it has spawned, could be an important first step on a tortuous path to a less militarized U.S. foreign policy in Yemen and beyond.
While the United States has been involved in wars throughout much of its history, since the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. military has been engaged in a series of wars that have dragged on for almost two decades. Many refer to them as “endless wars.” One of the basic lessons we have all learned from this is that it is easier to start wars than to stop them. So, even as we have come to see this state of war as a kind of “new normal,” the U.S. public is wiser, calling for less military intervention and more congressional oversight.
The rest of the world is wiser about our wars, too. Take the case of Venezuela, where the Trump administration insists that the military option is “on the table.” While some of Venezuela’s neighbors are collaborating with U.S. efforts to overthrow the Venezuelan government, none are offering their own armed forces.
The same applies in other regional crises. Iraq is refusing to serve as a staging area for a U.S.-Israeli-Saudi war on Iran. The U.S.’s traditional Western allies oppose Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement and want peaceful engagement, not war, with Iran. South Korea is committed to a peace process with North Korea, despite the erratic nature of Trump’s negotiations with North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong-un.
So what hope is there that one of the parade of Democrats seeking the presidency in 2020 could be a real peace…