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Why the Constitution Matters in Military Affairs

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Week after week it’s easy for me to blog with compelling arguments that most things Congress does is unconstitutional. But, up until about two years ago with the advent of Ron Paul’s Freedom Revolution and last year’s birth of the Tea Parties, most Americans would have said, so what if something is unconstitutional? That document is outdated and irrelevant. These are modern times with issues unimaginable to the Founders. Nonsense.  The eternal truths contained in the U.S. Constitution are as relevant today as they were in the 1700s.

Take making war for instance. Article 1 Section 8 gives Congress, not the president, the power to declare war. In that same section, Congress has the power to finance the endeavor. Since the end of World War II, the clause pertaining to declaring war in the Constitution, like many others, has been almost totally ignored by both the Congress and president. Additionally, Congress has rarely if ever invoked its power to restrain presidential power by controlling the purse strings of the military during times of war. The consequences have been horrendous.

In the 1960s and 1970s it led to an 11 year war in Southeast Asia. Instead of a declaration of war the military action was justified on the basis of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution passed in 1964. The resolution gave President Johnson the authorization to do whatever was necessary in order to assist "any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty." This vague and open ended wording led to much criticism of the president and his Secretary of Defense over how they conducted the war. Specifically, President Nixon’s expanding of it to include the bombing of Cambodia made an already unpopular war almost an event that tore the country in two. It also led to over 50,000 American and countless Southeast Asian lives being lost. The conflict ended in defeat for the U.S. and spending for the war caused high inflation which hurt American households, facilitated the movement of our manufacturing base  overseas, and eventually brought on problems like the Savings and Loan crisis.

In current times we find ourselves mired in  conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. To be sure, Congress did not declare war in either circumstance. For Afghanistan, it passed a resolution authorizing the president to use all "necessary and appropriate force" against those whom he determined "planned, authorized, committed or aided" the September 11th attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups. For Iraq, the resolution authorized the president to use the Armed Forces of the United States "as he determines to be necessary and appropriate" in order to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq."

It seems like Washington never learns from its mistakes. Again, loosely worded resolutions instead of firm declarations with a narrow objective allowed President Bush to abuse his powers by spying on Americans, holding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay indefinitely, and expand the bombing to include other countries other than Afghanistan and Iraq, namely Pakistan. In addition to over 1 million Iraqi and Afghani deaths from the main theaters of war, 1 in 3 people killed in the expanded bombings of Pakistan have been civilians.

Because Washington has not followed the eternal truth that war should be entered into and conducted carefully, our government is primarily responsible for the destabilization of the Middle East. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that because of the threats of invasion that came from the previous administration and with American military might all around it, Iran is attempting to acquire nuclear weapons. Even though Saddam was a vile and ruthless tyrant his Iraq acted as a counterweight to Iran. Today, Iraq is in chaos and if U.S. forces do ever leave it will be ripe for a takeover by Islamic extremists.

A Republican Congress, unfortunately did not deny George W. Bush the ability to launch an unjust war on Iraq based on lies, misinformation and his desire for revenge against Saddam Hussein for allegedly sending a hit squad to assassinate his father. One man made the decision to start the war in which Americans would die and hundreds of billions of dollars would be spent. This was not the intent of the Founders who were wise enough to give the powers of declaring wars and financing them to the Congress. The Founders gave them to Congress because it is a deliberative body that represents the many viewpoints of Americans. These viewpoints, like in the enactment of laws, place a check and balance on the solitary power of the president. Congress has abdicated this constitutional power and consequently has propped up an imperial presidency – something the Founders, other than Hamilton and Adams, would have vehemently rebelled against.

In 2006 the Democrats took back control of Congress with a pledge to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. For a time there was hope that they would restore the constitutional balance of power in war making. They simply could have done this by cutting funding for the wars. But instead, Congress continues to finance the wars and in fact has gone along with President Obama’s wishes to continue funding bombings in Pakistan and to escalate the war in Afghanistan — so much for the hope that Congress would exert control over the powers granted to it and rein in the powers usurped by the president.

Wars are costly both in terms of human life and money spent. Unless an attack on U.S. soil is imminent, Congress must retain its constitutional power to declare war and use its authority over funding it to limit the president’s actions. By not following these constitutional mandates we have become a militaristic society almost constantly at war in adventures far beyond what the Founders envisioned. This has caused a drain on our families, our finances, and our country’s reputation in the world. Fortunately, many Americans are finally waking up to this reality.

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About Kenn Jacobine

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Hm. Let me see.

    You’re blaming the Democratic congress for not simply ‘de-funding the war’. This goes in the file of “sounds nice, but simply doesn’t work in the real world”.

    Why? The president at the time had already shown himself capable of signing an executive order that would effectively have allowed him to run the entire country by executive fiat – Executive Order #51. Look it up sometime.

    And ANY president coming into office with the temerity to just pull out all the troops is not only committing political suicide, he is also falling afoul of a certain truism: “Nature abhors a vacuum”. If you’ll check the recent history of Pakistan, you’ll find that one of the biggest problems they faced was not unlike that of Vietnam back in the 60’s – the insurgents simply hid across the border in Afghanistan (as the Viet Cong did in Cambodia) to regroup and retrain before going back into the fray. This allowed the Pakistani insurgents to mount an offensive this past summer that got them within 50 miles of the capital, Islamabad.

    Now think about that for a moment, Kenn – a successful insurrection by the Pakistani insurgents would have put nuclear weapons into the hands of al-Qaeda. That’s not a ‘maybe’. That is a certainty!

    Now, the presence of our forces controlling eastern and southern Afghanistan (even to the limited amount that we currently do) PREVENTS the insurgents from using Afghanistan as a safe haven from the Pakistani military.

    So…is keeping nukes out of the hands of al-Qaeda worth keeping our forces there, despite the cost of blood and treasure that we’re paying every single day, worth it?

    Is it worth it? That’s a hard question…and completely different from the questions that LBJ and Nixon faced. Remember – it’s not the superpower with ten thousand nukes that’s an immediate danger. It’s the one evil man (or small cadre of evil men) with a single nuke that’s the real danger.

    “Bring them all home!” Sounds nice in theory. Real nice. But in the real world, it ain’t that simple.

  • Kenn Jacobine

    Glenn,

    First of all, if the president doesn’t have money and the support of the American people, executive orders mean nothing.

    Secondly, what is the alternative? – to stay forever and fight a foe that is inexhaustable.

    I suppose we should bomb or invade Iran before it gets a nuke? For sure they will also supply terrorists with bombs. Where does the lunacy end? We are doing what bin ladin can’t, bankrupting ourselves and losing our country.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    “Inexhaustible?”

    Hardly. Unlike the Viet Cong, al-Qaeda doesn’t have a superpower backing it up with essentially unlimited logistical support. All that IS required is to get al-Qaeda weakened to the point that it no longer presents a serious threat to the Pakistani military, and (this is the difficult part) build a cohesive nation in Afghanistan that will be strong enough to prevent al-Qaeda from regrouping and rebuilding enough to present a threat to Pakistan.

    And as for Iran, what would you have us do? Invade or bomb them? Those are the very last things we should do.

    Kenn, you call your column “The View from Abroad”. I recommend that you read up on just how serious the Sunni-Shi’a split is. Remember the one-time al-Qaeda #2 man Zarkawi? He once wrote a letter to his followers telling them how bad America is…but told them to remember that the REAL enemy is the Shi’a Iran! THAT, sir, is the opportunity that we must not miss! The Sunni and the Shi’a hate us and they hate the Jews…but they hate and distrust each other even more!

    If we were to bomb or invade Iran…sure, we’d “win” the invasion – but we’d unite the entire 1B-strong Muslim world against us, and they’d use all the incredible financial resources they have at hand to send terrorists in our direction.

    And nuclear-armed Pakistan is a SUNNI nation. Do you think for one moment that they wouldn’t gladly help their Sunni brothers by giving them a nuke-on-a-yacht to pull up pierside in NYC if they really thought America was on a mission to destroy all of Islam?

    Bombing or invading Iran would be among the most foolish things we could do.

    =====================================

    So do we let Iran build a nuke?

    In all seriousness, can we really stop them in a place the size of Texas, half of which is mountainous? The more we try to stop them, the more their people (most of whom really do NOT like Ahmedinejad) would rally around their president (just like we all (even liberals such as myself) rallied around Bush after 9/11.

    Now, Kenn…think DEEPER. WHY does Iran want to build a bomb? Is it to bomb Israel, which has 200-odd bombs ready to go at a moment’s notice? Is it to bomb America, when we’ve got thousands? NO. Whatever you may think, the Iranians aren’t stupid. They don’t want to see their whole country turned to glass. Furthermore, even if they gave a nuke to a terrorist and said, “go forth and nuke the Great Satan”…what do they risk if and when the source of that nuke is found? Nuclear annihilation.

    So WHY does Iran want a nuke? Believe it or not, Kenn, it’s for SELF-DEFENSE. You see, Iran’s a Shi’a country, and there’s this not-so-stable nuclear-armed SUNNI country right next door…named Pakistan.

    America and Israel are NOT why Iran wants nukes, Kenn. It’s Pakistan.

    If we bomb or invade Iran, we’ll be in for days darker than those we dreamt following 9/11. Far better to exploit the hatred that the Sunnis and Shi’a have for each other. Inflame THEIR hatred for each other…and sit back and watch the fireworks!

    Kenn, things are a lot better when your enemies are fighting each other instead of uniting against you.

  • http://www.objectivism101.com Antony

    Just for sake of clarity, it was the Ron Paul Revolution that started the Tea Parties, back in ’07. It only seems a year ago, since the media was not covering these events until after the election.

    My two cents, take it or leave it.

  • Kenn Jacobine

    Glenn,

    I didn’t mean we should bomb Iran – I was being facetious assuming you would. Why aren’t you

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Kenn –

    Sorry – I didn’t catch it. Looking back, you were indeed being facetious.

    But in any case, I’ve presented our choices, the consequences if we make the wrong choice, and the advantages of making the right choice (which is playing our enemies off against each other).

  • pablo

    4 Antony

    You are quite right, it is a shame that almost everybody seems either ignorant of that fact, or in the case of the few by omission that choose not to reveal that fact. Nice job in bringing it to light, the Tea Party does have its roots in the Ron Paul revolution.

  • http://www.pgpf.org/ Kenn Jacobine

    And viva la revolution!

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    La revolución.

    [pays royalties to Clavos]

  • zingzing

    “But, up until about two years ago with the advent of Ron Paul’s Freedom Revolution and last year’s birth of the Tea Parties, most Americans would have said, so what if something is unconstitutional?”

    um… no they wouldn’t… you’ve got a pretty flawed argument here. at least it starts poorly. why do you think a lot of americans said the war in vietnam was “illegal?”

    other than that, however, i completely agree, although it’s almost impossible to stop this shit once it’s started. we’re almost a decade into both… idiotic ideas, i guess. pulling out now is like a guy realizing he’s impregnated a girl, so he’s running out the fucking door. too late. far too late.*

    *yeah, a bad, yet apt, metaphor. i’m not erasing it.

    all that said, i do find it pretty “funny” that now it’s the political right calling for us to bring the troops home… and the political left saying “wish we could.” we’re in a mess. glad we can all blame w.

  • http://www.pgpf.org/ Kenn Jacobine

    Zing,

    I love the metaphor! It is actually true. It is hard to make the decision to leave but how long do we stay = forever? I mean al-qaeda does seem inexhaustible in that fresh recruits will always be available to fight the “Great Satan”. How come most other developed countries don’t have the same problems with al-qaeda?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    We stay until Pakistan is no longer threatened by al-Qaeda. The nukes of Pakistan are the ONLY real reason why we need to be in Afghanistan.

  • Kenn Jacobine

    So we will be there for a long, long, time.

  • zingzing

    kenn: “How come most other developed countries don’t have the same problems with al-qaeda?”

    because they don’t meddle in the middle east to the degree that we do.

  • Kenn Jacobine

    Zing,

    I was being facetious again. To Glenn’s point that we need to be in the Afghanistan until al-qaeda is no longer a threat to Pakistan and its nukes – the longer we are there the more we encourage extremists to join the cause to fight against us. Therefore, al-qaeda will always be a threat to Pakistan and we will always need to be there.

    Perhaps if we got out and stopped supporting Israel at all cost the threat would diminish against us.

  • zingzing

    “Perhaps if we got out and stopped supporting Israel at all cost the threat would diminish against us.”

    BUT THEN THE TERRORISTS WIN!

    of course, doing what you say above would most certainly ease the tensions. they’ve told us to do just that. then again, a destabilized middle east keeps the price of gas down. pick your poison.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Kenn –

    the longer we are there the more we encourage extremists to join the cause to fight against us. Therefore, al-qaeda will always be a threat to Pakistan and we will always need to be there. Perhaps if we got out and stopped supporting Israel at all cost the threat would diminish against us.

    Kenn – I never said that remaining in Afghanistan was the only solution…but it IS a critical part of the solution. I also believe that we need to make nice with the Islamic nations – because the more they like us, the less they will fund the extremist groups like al-Qaeda.

    Personally, if I were president I would:

    1 – Take a harder line against Israel to abide by their agreements of years past to stop building settlements where they agreed to not build any more settlements. We would, however, maintain our promise to support Israel militarily and logistically in time of war (as long as Israel doesn’t start the war).

    2 – Sink a billion or so into building schools and necessary infrastructure in the Palestinian areas – Hamas did, and that’s how they got elected into office.

    3 – Get our bases out of the entire Middle East except for Afghanistan…but we’d still patrol in the Persian Gulf and use Dubai (Jebel Ali, actually) and Bahrain for naval logistical support. – this shows our determination to have a hands-off policy to the Middle East.

    4 – Significantly increase our ELINT and our clandestine HUMINT – not only in the Middle East, but worldwide. Any serious student of WWII knows that without good intel we may well have lost the war despite all the advantages we had. Two words come to mind: Purple (the Japanese code)…and Enigma (the German encryption machine) – we broke them both and won the crucial battles of Midway and of the Atlantic.

    5 – Find out who the Chinese spies are in the MIddle East and anonymously expose them to the world, or, failing that, engineer a red herring of some sort to turn the Islamic world against China. Considering the ongoing persecution of the Uighur of the Xinjiang province of western China, this might not be so difficult to make happen. This is necessary because it’s much more profitable to have your enemies fighting each other than to have them fighting you…especially if you make nice with both of them at the same time.

    There’s lots of other options, too – as many options as there are people on Earth. But these would do for now. Unfortunately, most of these options require Diplomacy, and we all know how averse Republicans and conservatives are to any kind of ‘D’ word, whether Democratic, Diplomatic, or Downright Sensible.

  • http://www.pgpf.org/ Kenn Jacobine

    Glenn,

    With the exception of #2 this is what we are doing right now and it is a failure. We need to cut ties with Israel, reduce our military presence in the region, not spend anymore money we don’t have, and learn from the Chinese and how they make deals – i.e. business deals that don’t give a rat’s butt about telling other countries how to behave. The Middle East needs our veracious appetite for oil and we need them. If we would stop meddling in their affairs this market relationship would maintain the peace between us. But, we have never given this option a try.

  • Cannonshop

    Kenn, Glenn, the only thing that will make the “Islamic Street” NOT want to kill us, is if we outright turn against Israel and help them re-start an old fashioned genocide directed at Jews, followed by the WEst adopting Sharia Law and suppression of all non-Muslim religions.

    You’re not DEALING with people who are rational enough to understand that god isn’t going to step in and save them, or reward them with Paradise if they burn the fucking planet down with nuclear weapons.

    Haven’t either of you ever dealt with a Fundie Christian before? Fundie Islam is WORSE-it’s like…Fred Phelps on Meth, with Falwell’s worst character flaws and Jim Jones’ commitment, and Rambo’s arsenal, with followers who’re not just willing, but EAGER to die for the Cause.

    The only reason they’re not as active against the Chinese, is that the Chinese aren’t the target today-the West is seen as ‘weak’ and therefore an easier target than China with its closed society and willingness to get its hands dirty.

    They won’t ‘love’ the U.S. if we betray Israel, they’ll just see it as proof of our ripeness to be plucked. Get a grip, know your enemy.

  • Kenn Jacobine

    Cannonshop,

    You are generalizing it to a whole race of people. Not all Muslims are terrorists or hate America. At my school here in Doha, we have a lot of Muslim kids who also have an American passport. They are loyal to both sides. There are also a lot of well-off Qataris walking around who don’t think about blowing up Americans. As a matter of fact our money is green like theirs and so they allow us and others to outnumber them in their country by about 4-1. The way to solve the Middle Eastern problem is to stop propping up corrupt dictators causing poverty and dispair for the masses. Stop meddling in their affairs militarily because of oil. Stop condoning Israel’s bombing of defenseless people and illegal settlements. Notice Netanyahu is still building those settlements even though we complained. The Israelis know we are weak when it comes to them because of the Jewish and Evangelical lobby in this country. Any other country and there would have been sanctions. The U.S. is its own worst enemy when it comes to the Middle East. Uncle Scam is the biggest recruiter for al-qaeda.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Boy! I missed this to go and step in Dave Nalle’s shitty little article on public prayer? I’m still wiping my shoes off from that mess!

    Shame on me!!

    Kenn, you’re my kind of guy. And unfortunately, Glenn is writing like the dumb centurion who can’t figure out when to hang up the sword, shield and buckler.

    Pakistan is just not holding together. The centripetal pull of it’s constituent parts are too strong for it to hold together. There are the Pashtun and Baluchi on one side, the Sindi and Punjabi on the other (I know I’m missing one or two of the other Pakistani minorities here), and then there are the independent institutions like the Taliban, al-Qaeda (locally known as the LeT), the army, the ISI, and finally, there is that golden prize that Glenn talks of – the Islamic bomb.

    What Glenn doesn’t comprehend is that the Taliban are a local organization with a local agenda, the al-Qaeda has an international agenda, and NEITHER of them are Sunni Muslim – they are both Wahhabi heretics – like a lot of those nice folks around you, Kenn, and like the scum who run the rest of the Arabian peninsula like a Puritan prison.

    The ISI is fighting one battle, the Pak army is fighting another, the Pak government is sitting there like the proverbial monkey who sees no evil, hears no evil and speaks no evil. The three are not working together. This is on top of the state and “tribal” minorities who eye each other angrily in the “Muslim paradise”.

    There is another thing you really need to comprehend. You will not – repeat will not get accurate reporting from the mainstream media anywhere. You need to have ties of some kind with the mountain Pashtun in the north of Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan to get this kind of information – or really honest Arabs around you who will tell you the truth instead of some line of bullshit for dumb, soft Americans to consume.

    Now for the stuff that makes mincemeat of the ol’ centurion’s (Glenn’s) arguments. The Pakistanis have been helping the Persians put together a bomb. That is not the action of an enemy trying to keep his goodies to himself. And Glenn’s central thesis is that Persia is afraid of Pakistan. Persia is afraid of the Pashtun, and they are afraid of the United States – but Pakistan is falling apart – and its scientists are helping the Persians build their own bomb. The question is whether the golden goose of Pakistan, its nuclear armaments, will fall into the hands of the US, Russia, China or Persia – or al-Qaeda.

    This is the only reason that Obama keeps soldiers in Afghanistan.

    Obama is a fundamentally weak man, and he is trying to cover America’s ass when (notice, not if) Persia becomes a nuclear power. So, on the one side, he “reaches out” to the Muslim countries and attempts to impose and unjust “peace” – a suicide solution on us here – while maintaining just the necessary amount of “hostility” to the Persian regime to keep them scared.

    The irony of all this is that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was designed to annex Afghanistan to the Soviet Union. It succeeded in destroying the Soviet Union; it is succeeding in destroying Pakistan, which was the condom state the Americans used to oppose the Soviet Union; and it may well bring down the United States as well – as the Americans make the same mistake the Soviets did and go broke attempting to fight there.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    1 – Take a harder line against Israel to abide by their agreements of years past to stop building settlements where they agreed to not build any more settlements.

    What are you whining about, Glenn? Your president is doing exactly what you want, just not as openly as you suggest. Read these two articles.

    1. Israelis Funding Israel’s Destruction and
    2. Obama pushing Israel to carve up Jerusalem? Both should make you very happy.

    Both show who the REAL enemies of Israel are. And as I have been telling you for a long time, they are not the Arabs – they are the enablers of the Wahhabi bastards (the Americans), and their treasonous Israeli running dogs.