“The Congress shall have the Power …  to Declare War”

Article I, Section 8, US Constitution

Not since December 8, 1941 has the United States Congress passed a Declaration of War.  Yet, since then our country has sent its men and women in “harm’s way” in no less than 27 conflicts, nearly all of which, by any rationale definition, were “wars”.

For seventy years, Congress shirked its solemn responsibility and permitted Presidents to take American to war despite the fact that, while the Constitution designates the President as Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces, its language is crystal clear that only Congress has the power to declare war.

Further, there no language whatsoever permitting any Branch of Government to abdicate or delegate their Constitutional duties to any other Branch of the Federal Government.

Nevertheless, Congress did just that when passing the War Powers Resolution of 1973, which gave the President the authority to send U.S. armed forces into action in case of “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.”  It also requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing troops and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30 day withdrawal period, without a “specific authorization” from Congress for the continued use of military force or a formal declaration of war.

While intended to check the powers of the Executive Branch, it did just the opposite, enabling both Democratic and Republican Administrations to unilaterally wage war against dozens of nations.

Although Congress still holds the purse strings, once troops are committed, few, if any, members of the Legislative Branch want to be seen as not “supporting our troops” … and thus continue to write whatever checks the Administration and Pentagon demand.

And what has been the result of these conflicts our presidents have been so quick to enter and our Congress equally willing to fund?

  • These wars have resulted in 101,796 military deaths, more than 300,000 wounded, another 7,251 still listed as missing-in-action and a financial cost of at least $6,500,000,000,000!
  • True, Osama and many of his chief lieutenants have been dispatched to spend eternity with Allah and we clearly beat the pants off such military super-powers as Grenada and Panama.   And, let’s not forget riding the world of 9/11 scapegoat, Saddam.
  • Korea resulted in a stalemate in which our former enemy and its insane leaders continue to represent a clear and present danger to America and its Pacific neighbors.
  • Vietnam became a humiliating and costly defeat.
  • Somalia was a huge embarrassment.
  • After more than a decade of war against Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and scores of two-bit warlords in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is highly probable that the same sectarian and radical religious rivalries which existed before 9/11 will re-emerge and result in the Balkanization of one or both nations.  Meanwhile, while American is sinking in some $16 trillion in debt, the Administration is promising billions in additional military support over the next decade to the unstable governments of these two international basket cases.

For the good of our Republic, the American public must abandon its complacency and narrow partisan politics when it comes to electing people to Congress and demand candidates live up to their oath of office, “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”   This does not mean passing the buck on its Constitutional responsibilities.

Wars are a deadly business and if they need to be fought, they must be formally declared by Congress and a the end game clearly articulated, understood and agree to by its members, the President, the military establishment and the American public.

At the same time, responsible financing of such adventures is a hallowed obligation.  However, if any wars cease to be in our national interest, Congress must have the testicular fortitude use its fiscal authority to force the Administration to end those conflicts and bring our troops home.

If Congressional and Senatorial wannabees are unwilling to commit to such responsible policies then they do not deserve the publics’ votes.