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    Who Will Declare War on Syria?

    09/05/2013
    Personal Freedom and Prosperity 110: The Rule of Law

    A government with moral and legal authority promulgates written rules and universally, impartially and uniformly enforces the rules, which provides a predictable and stable legal order on which to base economic and personal decisions. The law prevails, not the proclamation or arbitrary decision of a ruler, government bureaucrat, enforcer (e.g., policeman) or judge

    Who Will Declare War on Syria?

    Civil war has raged in Syria for over two years.  Thousands of defenseless people of all ages and diverse, ethnic groups have have been killed, maimed and had their livelihoods destroyed.  Recently, there have been reports that the Syrian government is killing people with poisonous gas.  What is America's moral duty, if any, to intervene?  What is our national interest?  What is the appropriate force?  What are the consequences.  Who will be impacted? What is the cost?  Who makes the decisions?  

    These are very vital moral, political and practical questions.  If America selects to use force or collaborate with others employing force, our Constitution requires Congress to declare War; Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution says “Congress shall have Power … To declare War.”  The clear intent of the Constitution in terms of declaring war:  It will not be in the power of a single man, or a single body of men, to involve us in such distress.
     
    In 1995, Doug Bandow wrote an excellent paper on the Constitution and the necessity of a Congressional and national debate before “declaring war.”  Bandow recalls the consensus among our Founders that a President is not entrusted to start a war.  As Bandow wrote in The Future of Freedom Foundation: 

    … 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.

    Wrongfully and harmfully, Congress and many Presidents have not honored and abided the Constitution.  Congress has not Declared War since World War II.  Yes, Presidents have had discussions with Congress and a War Powers Resolution was enacted (questionably constitutional), but every use of power since World War II has not had the full debate of Congress and an open and honest discussion with the American public.  

    Two years ago, President Obama unilaterally declared war on Libya by ordering a bombing on them.  Congress did not vote to "declare war," and hence there was no open debate with America.  President Obama knew this violated the intent and purpose of the Constitution.  In 2007, then Senator Obama, responding to a question pertaining to the President's power to initiate a bomb attack on Iran, strongly asserted that a President did not have the power to unilaterally declare war.   

    “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

    America's attack on Libya is a prime example of why Congress must Declare War.  A debate and vote (politically dreaded by Senators and Members of Congress) would have caused a complete appraisal of the mission; an investigation of the human and material costs, the objectives, and potential repercussions between the combatants and the impacted individuals and societies. 

    A serious debate will invariably produce better decisions than the unilateral actions of the President and/or his administration.  Again, as James Wilson said over two hundred years ago: 

    It will not be in the power of a single man, or a single body of men, to involve us in such distress.  It is impossible to know or speculate what decisions would have been made. 

    Congress and the American public would have had the opportunity to have known of the many militant forces, including Al-Qaeda,  associated with hostile ethnic and religious groups active in Libya and the entire region of North Africa.   An honest debate would have forewarned us of the stealing and spreading of weapons to American enemies.  It is reasonable to presume that America, Libya, North Africa and the world would have benefited from a thorough and honest debate.   

    Right now, similar to unilaterally ordering the bombing of Libya, the Obama Administration is setting the stage to execute an attack on Syria.  Secretary of State Kerry has proclaimed the gas attacks by the Syrian government are undeniable and are a moral obscenity. 

    “The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity,” Mr. Kerry said.

    “By any standard, it is inexcusable,” he went on . “And despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable.”

    Tragically wrong and ignorant is the Speaker of the House Boehner's understanding of the Constitution and the duty of Congress to declare War.  The Washington Examiner reports

    “The president is commander-in-chief.  With that power comes obligations,” Boehner said.  “One, of course, is to consult with Congress on the options he sees as a viable response,” Boehner said. “Meaningful consultation should happen before any military action is taken.”

    No.  Syria has not attacked the United States.  As then-Senator Obama correctly stated in 2007:

    “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

    Shamefully and dishonorably, Congresses and Presidents have intentionally failed to abide by the Constitution.   It is time for the President and Congress to abide by the Constitution and choose together to declare war... or not.  Are we not a nation of laws?  This is a vital question.  Does the law prevail?  Does the Constitution prevail?  Or does the arbitrary decision of the ruler prevail?