WASHINGTON (WNCN) – Rep. Madison Cawthorn (NC-11) delivered a message before Congress Wednesday that even some of his biggest critics might agree with, at least in part: that the United States should be careful in considering the prospect of going to war.
In doing so, the representative from western North Carolina channeled country artist Toby Keith, who he called a “great philosopher.”
“As the great philosopher Toby Keith once said, ‘We put a boot in their ass. It’s the American way,” Cawthorn began. The line is a quote from Keith’s 2002 song “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.”
One of Cawthorn’s arguments was that lawmakers and leaders must “define what victory looks like” when declaring war, adding that “the sons and daughters of America are too precious to waste.”
He also argued that Congress’ responsibility for declaring war, as granted by Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, has been whittled away.
“Overzealous executives have wrenched away a precious power bestowed upon this body (Congress),” he said. “I am here to remind them Congress declares war, not Joe Biden, not some woke general. Congress.”
To that point, Congress has, in fact, approved all 11 declarations for war in American history. The first was against Great Britain in 1812. The three most recent were against Bulgaria, Hungary, and Rumania in June 1942.
However, Congress and the president have also enacted authorizations of the use of force as opposed to formal declarations of war. It does not create a state of war under international law. These declarations have been largely unused since World War II. Laws of war like the Geneva and Hague Conventions apply to armed conflicts, whether or not a formal declaration or authorization was issued, according to the Congressional Research Service.
The last successful authorization of use of force was made against Iraq in 2002. Another against Syria in 2013 was not enacted into law.