President Trump isn't known for eloquent defenses of his foreign policy, but last week he stood up for a crucial American principle. His veto of a congressional demand that the U.S. withdraw support from the Saudis in their war in Yemen keeps responsibility for foreign policy in the White House, where it belongs.
Lest anyone forget -- and Congress seems to -- the Saudis are leading a coalition against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Tehran aspires to use its proxies to build an arc of influence across the Middle East. Yemen is an inviting target since it controls the passage from the Red Sea into the Arabian Sea, and offers a convenient base from which to launch rockets into Saudi Arabia.
These facts don't make the war in Yemen less of a humanitarian disaster, or the Saudis more savory as allies. But they explain why both the Obama and Trump Administrations concluded the U.S. has a stake in supporting Saudi Arabia in this fight.
This is true despite the murder of U.S.-resident journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year, perhaps with the knowledge of Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the country's de facto leader. That event and Trump's evident lack of concern beyond raw national interest inspired a rebellion even among some Senate Republicans, who joined Democrats in invoking the discredited War Powers Act to force the U.S. to stop offering Riyadh intelligence and other support.
This is a case study in why that 1973 law, passed over the veto of a weakened Richard Nixon and resisted by every administration since, is a bad idea. Congress has repeatedly supported administration efforts to deter Iran, yet it now also wants to grandstand over the Khashoggi murder in the middle of a violent proxy battle with Tehran. The founders vested broad foreign-policy responsibility in the executive to avoid precisely such waffling and confusion while still holding the President accountable to voters.
Trump reminded Congress of this constitutional principle in his veto message: "This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future." Voters can pass their own verdict on Trump's foreign policy in the 2020 election, as the framers intended.
-- The Wall Street Journal