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Let’s Pass a War Powers Resolution for Meddling in Other People’s Elections

With recent advances in technology, it may be the case that it’s now much easier to meddle in US elections than it used to be.

Let’s pass a War Powers Resolution for “election meddling” in other people’s countries. In other words, let’s pass a law that before the executive branch can meddle in elections in other people’s countries; a proposal to do so has to be debated and authorized — or rejected — by Congress.

Historically, from the point of view of many people in Washington, meddling in other people’s elections was a free hit.

But with recent advances in technology, it may be the case that it’s now much easier for foreigners, including non-state actors, to meddle in US elections than it used to be. Thus, the probability of blowback from meddling in other people’s elections may have significantly increased.

Historically, most people in the US clearly have not been bothered very much if the US government meddles in other people’s elections; indeed, many Americans have welcomed it. But mostly, they haven’t cared.

But reportedly, a bunch of Americans do care if foreigners meddle in our elections.

So, if it’s the case now that messing around in other people’s elections significantly increases the probability that other people will mess around in our elections, a bunch of Americans might care about that and want to have a say in the foreign policy choices that might lead to blowback.

This is the sort of situation for which the War Powers Resolution (WPR) was created. The War Powers Resolution is supposed to help prevent the executive branch from unilaterally deciding to entangle us in a military conflict, contrary to the intent of the Constitution that the decision to engage in military conflict should be taken by Congress. The WPR doesn’t just say the president needs Congress’ permission to invade somebody else’s country. It says the president needs Congress’ permission to put US forces anywhere they are likely to get entangled in military conflict. It was hoped that this formulation would help prevent the president from sneaking us into a war.

If election meddling might be considered a form of “war,” then Congress should have to explicitly authorize it before the president can do it, since it might blow back.

So, for example, the US intervention that helped topple the democratically elected government of Ukraine should have been explicitly authorized by Congress or voted down, after full Congressional and public debate. The US intervention that “overthrew a presidential election” in Haiti, as former Associated Press Haiti correspondent Jonathan Katz put it, should have been voted up or down by Congress. The US intervention that protected the coup in Honduras should have been voted up or down.

And, going forward, any proposed US intervention to interfere with a democratic election or undermine a democratically elected government should be explicitly authorized or rejected by Congress, after full Congressional and public debate.

Furthermore, Congress should require that if the US government receives credible information about a potential coup attempt in a country with a democratically elected government with which the US has diplomatic relations, that information must be disclosed somehow. Congress could require notifying the government threatened by the coup. Or Congress could require notifying congressional committees, so there would be a paper trail of what the US government knew and when it knew it; this would be a form of indirect pressure for notifying the targeted government.

If you think that senators who didn’t say boo when the US interfered in Ukraine, Haiti and Honduras should ease up a bit on the current hysteria about Russia — people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks, as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Sen. Thom Tillis [R-NC] have noted — you can tell them so here.

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