What is clear is that it is already too easy to deploy special operations forces on lethal missions. According to the Times, 12,000 special operators are deployed abroad and have operated in 70 nations in the last decade. Other reports claim that special operations forces have lately conducted operations in Syria, Nigeria, Iran, Algeria, and even Peru. In some cases, the special operators are reportedly collecting intelligence, a job various intelligence agencies already have. In others, the special operations forces are seemingly committing acts of war, which should require explicit congressional approval.
It is not clear that Congress has been briefed on these operations, let alone debated them. One can argue about whether they are legal—the statutes governing the special operations forces or the 2001 Authorization of Military Force may provide sufficient authority. But that debate is academic until Congress remembers its war powers. As long as these deployments proceed with little oversight, debate or public knowledge, they will be undemocratic and unwise.