Wednesday, April 06, 2011

What Happened to Declarations of War?

The last country against which we ever declared war was Rumania, in 1942. I have been wondering lately, what happened the requirement, which in the Constitution seems so clear, that Congress is the branch of government that decides whether we are at war or not. Is it somehow obsolete? Is it another of those quaint eighteenth-century ideas that just don't apply to this oh-so-complicated world of ours?

In this essay George Friedman answers these questions and more. He tells the tale of the slithering cowardice and stone-headed arrogance that led to the death of declarations as a Constitutional imperative. He also shows how the new way of doing things has proven to be a moral, political, and -- most surprisingly -- a military disaster.

The genius of the framers' provision was to force the attention of the voters on the horrific nature of what they are about to do and compel a decision -- a real decision with no evasion no ambiguity, and no vagueness -- whether to do it or not. Part of the reason the imperative died, he argues, was that presidents wanted to wage wars for which they knew Congress could not give them a declaration, because voters would not be able to stomach it. So the president went to war without them. One obvious result of this practice, which Friedman does not mention, is that the US inflicts a great deal more slaughter and mayhem on the rest of the world than it otherwise would.

1 comment:

Matt Olver said...

Doctors Ron and Rand Paul have been wondering the same thing. I have a couple of links to pass along on this.

Here's Ron Paul in 1998 calling for the impeachment of Bill Clinton for more legitimate reasons than Lewinsky, and eerily predicting what turned out to be 9/11:

Flash forward to some déjà vu in 2011, here's Rand Paul a couple of weeks ago: