Commander in Chief

Posted Friday, March 25, 2011, at 6:19 PM
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  • One does not need a law degree to read the Constitution. Engaging in aerial bombardment of a sovereign nation is, by definition, an act of war. Therefore, the Constitution requires a declaration of war by Congress. It's really quite easy to understand. One only needs the ability to read and understand the English language. The sad fact that our leaders' ever increasing disregard of the Constitution since the end of WWII has resulted in an established pattern of ill advised military adventures throughout the world does not make those adventures legitimate. Mr Hear is right in one respect. Congress can use the power of the purse to restrict this type of misuse of executive power and should certainly do so. The President is the Commander in Chief, not the king! He does not have the Constitutional authority to commit our military to war without a declaration of same by the Congress, and calling acts of war by another name does not change the fact. Sorry Mr Hear, I believe you're wrong on this one.

    -- Posted by Bob E on Tue, Mar 29, 2011, at 2:37 PM
  • Dear Bob

    Literary you are right. The top dictionary definitions of War are:

    "A conflict carried on by force of arms, as between nations or between parties within a nation; warfare, as by land, sea, or air. A state or period of armed hostility or active military operations: The two nations were at war with each other. A contest carried on by force of arms, as in a series of battles or campaigns."

    If you are, as I suspect, someone who has served this nation in our armed forces, I thank you sincerely for your service. It is the dedication of you and the hundreds of thousands of others like you who have deterred those who would destroy us and destroyed those who have tried.

    Our founders did not intend the Constitution to be difficult to read or to understand. That said, there were none among them who were not among the best and brightest of our new born nation. Moreover, they often disagreed with each other, sometimes bitterly.

    While not a perfect way to understand the intended meaning of the various clauses of the Constitution, examining the conduct and statements of our founders is the best method we have.

    Thomas Jefferson, a man instrumental in the writing of our Constitution, our third president, accepted the nations attitude of, "Millions for defense. Not a penny for tribute." when he dispatched the newly formed U.S. Marines with our infant navy to Tripoli to destroy the Moslems there who proclaimed that their holy book told them to subjugate the infidels. These people were known as the Barbary Pirates.

    Congress did not declare war.

    After PanAm 103, the U.S. Air Force bombed Libya. There was no declaration of war.

    As Commander in Chief, the President can send our armed forces anywhere. This is inherently risky as they could come under fire at any point in time. Our military needs the ability to respond without waiting for congress.

    Does this make things messy between the provisions for declaration of war and establishing the President as Commander in Chief? You bet it does! Our founders knew it would. They understood that they could not predict all possible events. More over, those who would represent our blossoming nation would need to have flexibility. But not unlimited flexibility.

    I respect your disagreement with my point. Moreover, I cannot conclusively say you are necessarily wrong. Nevertheless, the genius of our Constitution lies in their faith that the governed, if given sufficient power, will minimize the abuses of their governors while at the same time giving those in power the ability to deal with the very messy reality of day to day life.

    Therefore, the President does have the ability use the military without declaration of war, but only to a limited extent.

    Thank you for sharing your opinion. I hope you will do it again!


    -- Posted by Charles Hear on Tue, Mar 29, 2011, at 8:40 PM
  • You mention Thomas Jefferson in connection to the Constitution. He had relatively little to do with its construction compared to James Madison, who is generally felt to be the document's primary author. This is what HE said about the subject of war in a letter to Jefferson: "The constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war in the Legislature."

    Note the following as well: At the Constitutional Convention, Pierce Butler "was for vesting the power in the President, who will have all the requisite qualities, and will not make war but when the nation will support it." Butler's motion did not receive so much as a second.

    I could go on and on, but will let the matter drop at this point. I do think a thorough reading of the history surrounding the development and ratification of the Constitution will lead one to understand that the Founding Fathers did not intend that the executive branch would have the authority to engage the country in war unilaterally.

    -- Posted by Bob E on Wed, Mar 30, 2011, at 1:05 AM
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