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PORTSIDE  March 2011, Week 3

PORTSIDE March 2011, Week 3

Subject:

Wars Should Be Declared by Congress, Not Merely Launched by Presidents

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Date:

Mon, 21 Mar 2011 20:49:14 -0400

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (172 lines)

Wars Should Be Declared by Congress, Not Merely
Launched by Presidents 

John Nichols | March 20, 2011

The Nation 

http://www.thenation.com/blog/159353/wars-should-be-declared-congress-not-merely-launched-presidents

The grotesque extremes to which Muammar Qaddafi[1] has
gone to threaten the people of Libya--and to act on
those threats--have left the self-proclaimed "king of
kings" with few defenders in northern Africa, the
Middle East or the international community.

Even among frequent critics of US interventions abroad,
there is disgust with Qaddafi, and with the palpable
disdain he has expressed for the legitimate aspirations
of his own people.

So it is that the advocacy for military intervention
has spread far beyond the usual circle of
neoconservative hawks.

The circumstance is made easier by the fact that the
bombing of Libya by US and allied planes is being
carried out under the auspices of the United Nations.
And with his words and his initial reluctance with
regard to taking military action, President Obama has
seemed to avoid many of the excesses of his
predecessors.

Yet, now the headline on CNN reads "Libya War."

And anyone who takes the Constitution seriously should
have a problem with the fact that, once again, the
United States is involved in a war that has neither
been debated nor declared by the Congress of the United
States.

The penchant of presidents of embark upon military
adventures without consulting Congress is now so
pronounced that it is barely noted anymore that the
Constitution says [2] "Congress shall have power
to...declare War."

Unless the United States is immediately threatened,
presidents aren't supposed to declare wars or launch
them on their own.

Of all the checks and balances outlined in the
Constitution, none is more significant than the power
to declare war.

Yet, since World War II, presidents have launched
attacks, interventions and wars without declarations.
And now that has happened again.

There are plenty of explanations for why this happens.
Treaties that require to bind the United States to the
United Nations [3]. The War Powers Act. The general
sense that members of Congress would prefer to let
presidents call the shots.

But the Constitution does not establish any exit
strategies for members of the Congress, They are
supposed to provide advice and consent--or to deny it.

Unfortunately, that just does not happen anymore.

When the United States ratified the United Nations
treaty after World War II, Henrik Shipstead and William
Langer were the only senators to cast "no" votes on the
UN Charter. Other senators, California's Hiram Johnson
and Wisconsin's Robert M. La Follette Jr., expressed
reservations.

What was their fear? The senators worried that, under
the agreement with the United Nations, presidents would
involve US troops in wars launched by the United
Nations--without ever consulting Congress.

That fear proved to be well founded, as history would
soon confirm, when President Truman sent US troops to
Korea as part of a UN mission--but without a
Congressional declaration.

President Obama's approval of an intervention in Libya
has also skipped the Congress.

Was this necessary? Of course not. Obama could have
consulted Congress; indeed, if the issue was pressing,
he could have asked that the House and Senate be called
into session over the weekend.

That is what Congressman Dennis Kucinich proposed, when
he declared last week that "Congress should be called
back into session immediately to decide whether or not
to authorize the United States' participation in a
military strike. If it does not, the action of the
President is contrary to [the] US Constitution. Article
1, Section 8 of the Constitution clearly states that
the United States Congress has the power to declare
war. The President does not. That was the Founders'
intent."

The Ohio Democrat sent a letter to Congressional
leaders "indicating that the national interest requires
that Congress be called back quickly to Washington to
exercise its Constitutional authority to determine
whether our armed forces should participate in the UN
mission."

"Both houses of Congress must weigh in," Kucinich
added. "This is not for the President alone, or for a
few high ranking Members of Congress to decide."

Consulting Congress does not mean that Congress will
block a war. The constitutional system of checks and
balances was not established merely to stop wars,
although the wisest of the founders did hope that the
requirements they imposed would "chain the dogs of
war."

The decision to place the power to declare wars was
placed with the House and Senate in order to allow
members of Congress to add their insights, to propose
timelines, to set limits and parameters for military
initiatives.

The debate, the discussion, the sifting and winnowing
of information: This is the point.

Unfortunately, it is a point that Obama has missed.

The United States is now deep into what CNN calls the
"Libya War," yet there has been no Congressional
debate, no advice or consent, no checks and balances.

The Republic was well served by the drafters of a
constitution, who gave the war-making power to
Congress.

They were wise, and right, to do so. And any president
who steers the country into an offensive war without
consulting Congress ill serves the founding document
and the republic.

Links: 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muammar_Qaddafi
http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution.html 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_and_the_United_Nations 
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nationnow/id399704758?mt=8

___________________________________________

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