United States Democrats said they want to avoid getting involved in another ground war in the Middle East, and signaled on Friday that they would put tough limits on President Barack Obama's military plans against the Islamic State in Iraq.
The United States military started carrying out air strikes in Iraq and Syria on Monday to combat Islamic State militants that have taken over large swathes of Iraq and Syria, destroying villages and slaughtering civilians. So far, the air strikes have been limited to Iraq, since Obama is reluctant to get involved in the ongoing civil war in Syria.
Obama has repeatedly stated that he would not deploy troops to Iraq and that any intervention will be restricted to air strikes and sending military advisers to the region. However, top U.S. generals have said that “boots on the ground” cannot be ruled out.
Democrats are now worried that military intervention could escalate into a full out war. Senior Democrat Chris Van Hollen said the party does not want to give the president the same freedom that congress gave former President George W. Bush in 2001, which allowed him to order U.S. forces to invade and occupy Iraq and Afghanistan.
“First and foremost, we want to make sure this does not become Iraq War 2.0,” he told Capitol Hill.
Van Holler called on John Boehner, speaker of the House of Representatives, to summon legislators back into session so that it could debate a new authorization for the use of military force.
The idea that Democrats are trying to limit U.S. military abilities in the Middle East has already angered some Senior Republicans.
“I don’t see how you beat ISIL (as Islamic State was previously known) anytime soon with just air power and the free Syrian army. How do you get them out and how do you hold the ground once you get them out?” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, using an alternative acronym for ISIS.
It remains debatable whether the president even needs permission from Congress to strike at Islamic State extremists or deploy troops to the area.
Randy Barnett, a constitutional law expert at Georgetown Law School, said if Obama does not get Congress' approval, “he needs to stop.”
“I think this is an offensive enterprise. Offensive actions require congressional approval. In fact, I think they require a declaration of war,” said Barnett. “Congressional authorization for use of force has been taken to be the equivalent of a declaration of war.”