Saturday, February 10, 2007

Who Gets to Start Wars? (And End Them?)

From the Constitution of the United States:

Article II

“The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.”

“The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.”

Article I, Section 8

The Congress shall have the power “To declare War”.

I’ve looked at the U.S. Constitution (again) to see if I can find anything which gives a president the right to start a war, and I can find nothing.

By the way, I have not studied the Supreme Court constructions of those portions of the Constitution. The Supreme Court has left the original Constitution unrecognizable in many respects (the present construed Constitution would certainly come as a shock to the people who wrote the original, probably cause for another revolution), and I wanted to see what the original intention was.

If Bush and other presidents have argued that as Commander in Chief of the military they have the right to order the military to invade other countries without a declaration of war by Congress, they are being illogical. What if the writers of the Constitution had not made the President the commander of the military, so that the highest generals and admirals were the commanders in chief? Would that empower the generals and admirals to invade other countries without a congressional declaration of war?

A civilian commander in chief should have no greater power to start a war than a military commander in chief. By the same reasoning, neither does the commander in chief of the military have the power to continue or end a war without congressional approval.

Let’s not forget that it is the “executive” power which is vested in the president. He comes second to the legislative branch in the Constitution, and his job is to execute – that is, to carry out and put into action – the enactments of Congress. There is nothing at all in the Constitution that says the president is “the decider”. Congress is the decider and provider; the president is the lackey who carries out what Congress tells him to carry out.

I hope, without optimism, that the Democrats of today will wrest back some of the power of a president who mistakenly considers himself top dog. Maybe one reason Congress has been so weak-kneed about retaining its constitutional powers is that it's easier to let somebody else get the blame for decisions. "Who cares, as long as I get re-elected."


Nabila Harb said...

The power of the Executive in the U.S. is completely out of 'balance' as far as the old 'balance of powers' equation is concerned. Since his election, Bush Jr. steadily has overstepped his authority. Americans speak of foreign 'dictators' as if it is a blight that the landscape of the U.S. never will experience, not realising that virtual dictatorship can exist under many guises.

Zoey & Me said...

That "Who cares . . " comment sadly goes to the entire US Congress because that IS the name of the game . . . get re-elected. I'm sick of it.

Fleming said...

Nabila, thank you. Yes, there are announced dictatorships and disguised dictatorships, and we in America have the latter. I’m starting to think that freedoms can be as restricted under governments called “democratic” as under so-called authoritarian governments. Personally, I would rather be under the government of one wise and benevolent person than swarms of greedy, cowardly, dishonest “democratically elected” bozos.

As for the Constitution, I avoided classes containing the words “civics” or “government” and chose Constitutional Law as the law course I could pass without study, and so I’m aware of my shortcomings in that field, but as I read the early articles of the Constitution this morning I had the impression that the authors had intended for the legislative branch to be the primary and most powerful body, and the president to be secondary in power and importance.

Fleming said...

Thank you too, Zoey and friend. I'm glad you share my feelings about the reelection clown show.