Sunday, November 04, 2007

George Will's Wishful Thinking

Warning lights went off in my mind when I noticed the author of this article titled Congress's Unused War Powers, George Will. One of the founders of our modern conservative movement, of late Will has settled into a comfortable position of blaming the commander in chief for most of our problems in this ongoing war on Islamic Fascism, not too far off from common liberal talking points. His latest tale is no different, concerning a bill introduced in the House to limit the President's war making powers:

Introduced last week by Rep. Walter B. Jones, a North Carolina Republican, it technically amends but essentially would supplant the existing War Powers Resolution, which has been a nullity ever since it was passed in 1973 over President Richard Nixon's veto.

Jones's measure is designed to ensure that deciding to go to war is, as the Founders insisted it be, a "collective judgment." It would prohibit presidents from initiating military actions except to repel or retaliate for sudden attacks on America or American troops abroad, or to protect and evacuate U.S. citizens abroad.

In other words, preemptive strikes would be off the table. This might have worked well, say in the 19th Century, when there were two oceans and the British Royal Navy protecting us from external threats, but in this era of airpower and the British Empire long a memory, all bets are off. Israel learned the need for preemption to defend itself and restrain rogue states from possessing nuclear weapons. Thanks to globalization, the frontline in the struggle against Al Qaeda and Iran is now our major cities.

Will also cites examples from history when the Congress used its Constitutional powers to restrain the President:

Sending draftees outside this hemisphere (1940-41); introduction of combat troops into Laos or Thailand (1969); reintroduction of troops into CambodiaSoutheast Asia (1973); military operations in Angola (1976); use of force in Lebanon other than for self-defense (1983); military activities in Nicaragua (1980s). In 1993 and 1994, Congress mandated the withdrawal of troops from Somalia and forbade military actions in Rwanda.

In all cases, the argument can be easily made that our legislature was WRONG, bending to public pressure and not making us safer. Their interference in keeping us out of World War 2 was likely a relief to the Axis in their attempt at world conquest, and probably emboldened the Japanese to launch their own first-strike against us. How well we remember the micromanagement of politicians during the Vietnam War, and please tell me what do the families of our 400+ dead Marines who were killed by a terrorist preemptive strike think of Congress' interference in Lebanon? Of course, the penalty for hesitancy over tribal genocides in Africa has done little to help the millions already slaughtered or made homeless.

He is correct in stating that the Congress had the right to interfere in the President's actions in those previous wars, but in this new age of instant information and the quick second response needed to deal with modern terrorism, I don't think they have right or reason any longer to stop the commander in chief from exercising his Constitutional mandated powers to defend and protect this nation. Stopping genocide, as President Clinton learned, and blocking terrorist attacks before they hit our buildings require split second timing.

If Congress can't pass a budget on time, likely they would never be able to adapt to this new kind of warfare, which is best leave to the experts. Oversight, yes, but interference when we are at war is too dangerous.