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… Virginia's George Mason, the president "is not safely to be entrusted with" the power to decide on war. Mason therefore favored "clogging rather than facilitating war." James Wilson, though an advocate of a strong presidency, approvingly observed that the new constitutional system "will not hurry us into war." Instead, "it is calculated to guard against it. It will not be in the power of a single man, or a single body of men, to involve us in such distress." Doug Bandow,1995Libya - Rule of Law - Freedom
In the Wall Street Journal, Fouad Ajami of the Hoover Institute exuberates for the freedom fighters in Libya:
Who, today, does not thrill to the spectacle of freedom in Tripoli? A brave people, civilians in the main, exiles who returned to their devastated country, students with no military skills—all headed to the front in their pickup trucks to reclaim their homeland from a tyrant who had turned it into a laboratory for his mix of megalomania and derangement. These are the people who have made this rebellion.
We wish the Libyan people a speedy victory and the blessings of freedom.
However, the questions of the greatest importance to freedom is: was America’s freedom diminished by our participation in this war? In particular, was the unilateral decision by the president a violation of the rule of law? Again, is the unilateral decision of the president to order military action and expend a billion dollars to expel a cruel dictator a violation of the philosophy and laws protecting freedom in America?
Fearing the enormous power of government, the American founders intended to restrict the powers of the president, such as to declaring war and no one person should have controlling power. Thus, in the Constitution the Founders empowered Congress to declare war and made the president Commander and Chief of the military. Clearly the guiding principle was no person should make the decision to engage in war, but once war was declared it necessitates one person to be in command.
So, how does the president have the power to order hostile airstrikes on thousands of Libya military positions and installations? Unfortunately, over the years many presidents and members of Congress have ignored the philosophy and purpose for the restriction imposed by the Constitution. For example, Congress has not declared war since World War II. Needless to say, America has had serious and some inglorious military adventures to the detriment of America and millions of humans outside the United States.
Having relinquished their constitutional duty to declare war Congress in the 1970’s enacted the War Powers Resolution giving the President the authority to commit troops before seeking Congressional authority. The intent was to allow the President to act in an emergency. Many presidents and political elites claim this is unconstitutional. However it is the law. This, too, was violated in the current Libyan war. There was no emergency and plenty of time to consult with Congress. The President purposely failed to follow the law. Ridiculously, the Obama administration attempted to obfuscate America’s war by claiming this was simply “kinetic action.”
If President Obama adhered to the Constitution, what would have been debated?
The list is almost endless. Here is a small beginning:
What is the purpose?
Revenge for Libyan aggressions
What is the probability of success?
What is success?
Anybody but Gadhafi
What is the military plan?
Do we have an exit strategy?
How does our action affect relations?
What is the cost?
Is the military capable of sustaining wars in Iraq, Pakistan, Libya and potential hostile conflicts in Iran, Syria, and North Korea?
Simply, no person should unilaterally make such a momentous decision.
Harmfully, the philosophy and intent of the rule of law has been badly diminished by many Congresses and Presidents. The greatest political philosophers that possessed the power to enact a Constitution, the America founders, clearly intended no person to have the power to unilaterally declare and make war. President Lincoln appreciated the Founders intent, as explained by Doug Bandow:
Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object." He (Lincoln) rejected the contention that presidents have expansive war-making powers independent of Congress: "This, our Convention, understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they naturally resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us." The opposing view, he concluded, "destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood.
Politicians, especially presidents, lust for power, and thereby erode the restraints of the Constitution. Presidents, Congresses and the Supreme Courts cannot be trusted to uphold the Constitution. Only strong and continual disapproval by the citizens can hold politicians to the rule of law.