Several weeks ago, Trump ordered the execution of Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani, via an airstrike.
There are some figures in both the Democratic Party and mainstream media who have taken exception to Trump not notifying Congress he was carrying out the strike. There are also some domestic voices who challenge the legality of the airstrike. While these questions are legitimate, they are not condemnatory. The Trump Administration’s actions were unusual, but not illegal and not unprecedented.
For starters, the President has the ability to authorize airstrikes of this fashion in extreme situations. An airstrike or raid designed to take out specific people or cells of people are “targeted killings” and since the War on Terror began, they have become a more regular occurrence. If an individual or threat poses an imminent danger to United States, the Commander-in-Chief can and must be able to turn that individual into a pile of ashes.
General Soleimani posed an imminent threat to the people of the United States. Days before his death, he organized a non-military assault on a U.S. embassy, which was set on fire, as well as coordinated rocket attacks that resulted in the death of an American contractor. In the previous year, he orchestrated the seizures of oil tankers that belonged to U.S. allies.
These acts made Soleimani a man who posed an imminent threat to the United States for several years. Whether or not the general had any specific attacks pending execution, which is extremely plausible, he had already made himself an imminent threat.
The other issue under contention is the manner in which the strike was conducted. Congressional Democrats have been calling for more restrictions on presidential powers concerning foreign airstrikes, claiming they should have been informed of the strike before it took place. This disgruntlement has led to an attempt to address the discretion the Oval Office has when it comes to launching violent strikes against foes of the United States. However, there is plenty of precedent for the President to make military decisions without Congressional approval.
Two notable cases from the previous president, Barack Obama, was the order to bomb Libya, which was in response to no American deaths, and his decision to neutralize Osama Bin Laden. Not to say that these were mistakes. Arguably, they were correct decisions.
The point is when he made those decisions, Congress was not informed; nor were they asked for approval; nor was Obama pressed to depend on Congressional approval after the fact.
The notion that the President does not have the power to act without approval for specific targeted killings is born purely out of partisanship and not out of legal or historic precedence.