2004 Election Issues - War Powers

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The Congress exercised legal and Constitutional authority in giving President Bush the power to wage war on whomever, wherever, and whenever the President deemed persons had any role in supporting or harboring the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. However, such a move was, in the opinion of some, not in the best interest of the American people. To his credit, President Bush sought the support of Congress before invading Iraq in full force. To have done otherwise would have invited Supreme Court review of presidential powers to usurp congressional power to declare war, and court review of congressional authority granted by the War Powers Resolution passed in 1973.

While there has been a great deal of scholarly review of these issues and even a few lawsuits intended to limit President Bush's war making powers granted by Congress, there has been little debate among the citizenry in America. Polls show the American people have, and continue, to support the powers granted to the President to fight the 9/11 terrorists and their supporters, and wage war in Iraq. Perhaps it was the wisdom of some congressional members who forced compromise upon the President's initial request for war powers that has left the public supportive. The President asked for the power to war against any he deemed may enact future acts of terrorism; Congress wisely deleted such sweeping military freedom from the President's discretion.

The threat of involvement of military troops in circumstances not acceptable by Congress or the people, however, still exists. The historical tug of war between the executive branch and the Congress is a never ending battle. This tug of war stems from the Constitution itself. Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution states, "Congress has the power to declare war." Article II, Section 2 states, "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States,..." In addition to these powers, Congress shares powers with the President in areas like framing U.S. foreign policy and controlling the military. For example, while the President negotiates treaties, the Senate must approve them. While Congress can declare war and approve funds for the military, the President as commander-in-chief of the military has the power to direct military hostilities throughout the world using already appropriated military funding.

The President may introduce forces onto foreign soil claiming preemptive action to curtail aggression against the U.S., all the while, keeping secret from the Congress and the people the intelligence suggesting such potential aggression exists except in the most general terms. This precedent was established by President Bush in the solicitation to Congress for approval to invade Iraq. While he did acquire congressional approval, the facts supporting his rationale for invasion were kept secret in the name of national security; facts which have not been substantiated in the aftermath of the invasion. Yet, Congress has done nothing in reaction to the lack of substantiation of the premises for invading Iraq.

In effect, the President, may strike anywhere without having to disclose any facts supporting the decision. President Bush said in his 2003 State of the Union,

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words and all recriminations would come too late.

The President has made the case for preemptive strike policy. And such preemptive strikes require the element of surprise to minimize American casualties. It is then reasonable to conclude from the President's own words, that he is willing to engage America in war without notice and without congressional review if he can politically withstand such a move. Once our troops are engaged, the Congress and the American people are left with only two choices should it become apparent that the attacks were baseless on the stated premises. First, is the option to withdraw the forces prior to victory, or defeat. The cost of such a move in prestige, credibility, and face for both the government and the people would be staggering. The second choice, as has been witnessed in the aftermath of the war in Iraq, is to don the patriotic rhetoric of standing by our troops and justify the attacks on other premises.

The major political parties have varying positions on the war powers allocation between Congress and the President. In as much as these parties represent various portions of the American people, the voters do have a choice in November, 2004 on this, and many other issues. There is no greater and burdensome issue facing the American public, than this issue of government's authority to spend the lives of American youth and 100's of billions of dollars of tax payer money in the pursuit of war. Below, as best as can be ascertained by the parties' web sites and news releases, are the war powers issue stand of the various political parties.

Democrats and Republicans: In light of the overwhelming congressional support for sharing war powers with President Bush in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, it is safe to say that both of these parties support broad war powers under some constraints, being issued to the office of the President. In fairness, it must be said, that the Congress did choose to retain key provisions of the War Powers Resolution unto themselves.

The Green Party 2000 platform calls for a strictly defensive military. Further, it calls for a non-interventionist military role in foreign affairs. These statements would suggest that the Green Party would take necessary measures to fight terrorism against the U.S., but, not sanction regime change, nation building, and war on terrorism throughout the world. Thus, the Green Party would not sanction any delegation of Congress' war power to the office of the President.

The Libertarian Party 2000 Platform states the following: "American foreign policy should seek an America at peace with the world and the defense -- against attack from abroad -- ..." and "The principle of non-intervention should guide relationships between governments. The United States government should return to the historic libertarian tradition of avoiding entangling alliances, abstaining totally from foreign quarrels and imperialist adventures, and recognizing the right to unrestricted trade, travel, and immigration." It is clear from these words that the Libertarian Party would support military pursuit of the terrorists who attacked the U.S. and their infrastructure. However, the LP would not have sanctioned the invasion of Iraq until confirmation of the Iraqi threat to the U.S. had been evidenced and confirmed. The LP obviously would not grant Congress's delegation of its war power to the executive branch.

The Constitution Party (CP) platform is difficult to pin down on this issue. On the one hand, the CP calls for making the U.S. military superior to all others on land, air, water and in space. On the other hand, the CP holds an isolationist foreign policy stance. Nothing clearer can be construed from their 2000 platform. However, on their web site is a resolution passed in the Spring of this year which states: "Be it resolved by the Constitution Party National Committee, that we publicly demand that no further expansion of the use of U.S. military force occur without a full and complete debate and consideration of the matter by Congress that results in a positive vote that declares war on a specific foreign enemy or enemies." There is a clear choice here for American's who believe that no war powers should ever be delegated to the executive branch except upon imminent threat to America or Americans.

The Natural Law Party which endorses Dennis Kucinich, while not addressing the issue on their web site, can safely be represented by Kucinich's platform found on his web site. There Kucinich states: "America will return to its role as the most admired-not hated-nation. The doctrine of "pre-emption" will be retired, as will an aggressive, unilateralist foreign policy that makes our homeland less secure, not more." Thus, the Natural Law Party would in all likelihood, oppose delegation of war power to, or exercise of war power, by, the executive branch.

The America First Party web site states the following: "The America First Party has reaffirmed the Party's strong stand that this war against Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States.... We have reaffirmed our love, support, and respect for our brave sons and daughters who are being misused by President Bush to fight a war that violates our Constitution and the principles so many have fought and died to protect." It is clear the America First Party does not stand with empowering the presidency with the power to engage America in war without the people's consent.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on September 5, 2003 8:57 AM.

Unfair and Unbalanced was the previous entry in this blog.

The President's short sighted military model. is the next entry in this blog.

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