December 20, 2005

Solemn processes...

Good sense from John Yoo...(Thanks to Orrin)

...Let's consider the president's right to start wars. Liberal intellectuals believe that Bush's exercise of his commander-in-chief power has exceeded his constitutional authority and led to a quagmire in Iraq. If only Congress had undertaken the solemn process of declaring war, they have argued, faulty intelligence would have been smoked out, the debate would have produced consensus, and the American people would have been firmly committed to the ordeal ahead. But they are off the mark.

Neither presidents nor Congress have ever acted under the belief that the Constitution requires a declaration of war before the U.S. can engage in military hostilities abroad. Although this nation has used force abroad more than 100 times, it has declared war only five times: the War of 1812, the Mexican-American and Spanish-American Wars, and World Wars I and II. Without declarations of war or any other congressional authorization, presidents have sent troops to fight Chinese Communists in Korea, to remove Manuel Noriega from power in Panama and to prevent human rights disasters in the Balkans. Other conflicts, such as the Persian Gulf War, received "authorization" from Congress but not declarations of war.

Critics of these wars want to upend this long practice by appeals to an "original understanding" of the Constitution. The Constitution, however, does not set out a clear process for starting war. Congress has the power to "declare war," but this clause allows Congress to establish the nation's legal status under international law. The framers wouldn't have equated "declaring" war with beginning a military conflict — indeed, in the 100 years before the Constitution, the British only once "declared" war at the start of a conflict...

...Would outcomes be better if Congress alone began wars? Not necessarily. Congress led us into two bad wars, the 1798 quasi-war with France and the War of 1812. Excessive congressional control can also prevent the U.S. from entering into conflicts that are in the national interest. Most would agree now that congressional isolationism before World War II harmed U.S. interests, and that FDR should have been able to enter the conflict much earlier....

The liberals mentioned are loathsome hypocrites--the issue is just another club to hit Bush with, and if a Dem were in the White House they would be arguing that the President's powers should be expanded...

I wouldn't call the War of 1812 a "bad war." It wasn't the sort of conclusive triumph we are used to in more recent American wars, but considering that we were fighting an opponent far stronger and a military far larger than ours, one honed by two decades of war with Napoleon, we didn't do too poorly. When Washington's administration signed the Jay Treaty in 1794, they knew it was just a way to gain time for the country to grow, and that in another 20 years we would be strong enough to finish the fight that had been stopped inconclusively by the Treaty of Paris. And so it was. And we did well enough that Britain never again wanted to tangle with us, and most importantly, we gained the port of New Orleans, and thereby opened the vast lands of the Louisiana Purchase to exploitation.

Posted by John Weidner at December 20, 2005 1:44 PM
Weblog by John Weidner