Law Scholars Debate Legality of Syria Attack

Two constitutional scholars debated whether President Barack Obama must first get approval from Congress to legally launch a military attack against Syria during a conference call organized by the Federalist Society. John Yoo, a professor at the University of California Berkeley School of Law and prominent conservative, argued that the idea that lawmakers must preapprove any attack is “a misinterpretation of the Constitution.” Yoo pointed out that the United States has used force abroad at least 130 times, but Congress has only formally declared war five times in American history. “If President Obama wants to use force in Syria, constitutionally I think he can,” he told the National Law Journal. Yoo faced off against University of Virginia School of Law Professor Saikrishna Prakash, who took the opposite position, arguing that the “declare war clause takes away any implicit grant of executive power that the president would otherwise have.”