Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution provides that Congress has the power
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies . . .
To provide and maintain a Navy;
Today, Leon Panetta told the Senate that if the Administration decided that war with Syria is in our best interests, he could not promise that Congress would be consulted. Panetta did indicate that the Administration would seek an international mandate, but he made clear that Congress, despite the clear words of the Constitution quoted above, plays second or third fiddle on these calls. Anti-War.com has this post on Panetta’s insults to the Senate.
The debates surrounding the Constitution of 1787 make clear that Congress was given this power because the Framers were mindful that the monarchy or executive branch in other nations frequently involved their countrymen in unnecessary foreign adventures. The English monarchs, for example, were often sending troops across the Channel to defend the land of a cousin or to lay claim to some ancestral holding that meant nothing to their subjects back home. The Constitution meant to save us from such misadventures by giving the people’s representatives the decision-making authority on war.
Like so much of the Constitution, the Administration prefers to ignore that which does not give it maximum authority.