Neither Trump Nor Obama Have Felt Constrained by the Constitution When It Comes to Starting a War
August 2, 2017
Ron Paul / The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity & Ivan Eland / The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity
Donald Trump seems to be impatiently racing toward at least one disastrous war. Maybe two. The big question is who will be first? North Korea or Iran? One unnamed Pentagon source has claimed that Trump "is to order a military strike against North Korea within a year." Barack Obama's claim that he didn't need congressional authorization for his wars in Iraq and Syria is equally troubling. However, history shows that Obama was not the first to believe that a president has the imperial authority for war by executive fiat.
North Korea or Iran . . . Where Will President Trump Attack First?
Ron Paul / The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity
(August 1, 2017) -- President Trump seems to be impatiently racing toward at least one disastrous war. Maybe two. The big question is who will be first? North Korea or Iran?
Over the past several days President Trump has sent two nuclear-capable B-1 bombers over the Korean peninsula to send a clear message that he is ready to attack North Korea. On Saturday he blamed China for North Korea's refusal to cease its missile tests. He Tweeted: "I am very disappointed in China . . . they do nothing for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue."
One press report from an unnamed Pentagon source claimed that President Trump "is to order a military strike against North Korea within a year," after this weekend's North Korean test of a longer-range missile.
Iran, which along with North Korea and Russia will face new sanctions imposed by Congress and expected to be signed into law by Trump, is also in President Trump's crosshairs.
He was reportedly furious over his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's certifying that Iran was in compliance with the nuclear deal -- even though Iran was in compliance -- and he seems determined to push a confrontation.
Twice in the past week the US military has fired at Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf. On Tuesday an Iranian military ship in the Persian Gulf was warned off by machine gun blasts from a US Naval vessel. Then on Friday the US Navy fired warning flares toward another Iranian ship operating in the Persian Gulf.
Imagine if the US Navy had encountered Iranian warships in the Gulf of Mexico firing machine guns at them when they approached the Iranians.
Facing new sanctions, the Iranian government announced that it will not end ballistic missile testing even under US pressure. The missile program is not a violation of the P5+1 Iran deal unless it is specifically designed to carry nuclear weapons.
So whom will Trump attack first? Let's hope nobody, but with continuing pressure from both Democrats and Republicans over the unproven "Russiagate" allegations, it increasingly looks like he will seek relief by starting a "nice little war." If he does so, however, his presidency will likely be over and he may end up blundering into a much bigger war in the process.
Although Trump's bombastic rhetoric on Iran and North Korea has been pretty consistent, the American people voted Trump because he was seen as the less likely of the two candidates to get the US into a major war.
A recent study by the Boston University and the University of Minnesota concluded that Trump won the most votes in parts of the country with the highest military casualties. Those most directly suffering the costs of war were attracted to the candidate they saw as less likely to take the US into another major war. These are the Americans living in the swing states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan that surprised the pundits by voting for Trump over Hillary.
Will Trump's legacy be blustering us into one or two wars that will make Iraq and Afghanistan look like cakewalks by comparison? Millions dead? It's time to make our voices known before it's too late!
Copyright 2017 by RonPaul Institute.
Reprinted from The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity
Presidents and the War Power
Ivan Eland / The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity
(October 8, 2014) -- President Barack Obama's claim that he doesn't need congressional authorization for his current war in Iraq and Syria is troubling. The country's founders would pass out upon hearing his claim that the post-9/11 congressional approval of force in 2001 against the perpetrators of those attacks and their abettors and the congressional resolution approving George W. Bush's invasion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq in 2003 give him the current authority for a very different war against very different people.
However, Obama is not the first president to believe that he has the rather imperial authority for war by executive fiat.
Up until 1950, for major conflicts, presidents followed the nation's founders' intent in the US Constitution to obtain a declaration of war from Congress. For the Korean War, however, Harry Truman, really the first imperial president, decided that this vital constitutional requirement was optional.
Unfortunately, as I note in my new book -- Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty -- once a bad precedent is set, meaning that the chief executive gets away with an unconstitutional act, future presidents will cite it in carrying out their own questionable actions.
Over American history, that process has thus resulted in an expansion of presidential power much past what the founders had envisioned when they wrote their constitutional blueprint.
Thinking of the powerful European monarchs of the day, who took their countries to war on a whim and let the costs in blood and treasure fall to their unfortunate citizens, the founders wanted an executive with severely restricted powers. Congress was to be the dominant branch of government, and the executive's role merely was to narrowly execute and enforce laws passed by that body.
Even the president's commander-in-chief role, much abused by modern chief executives, was to be restricted narrowly to commanding the US military in battle. In fact, contrary to the conventional belief in Washington and among the American public, the Constitution gives most of the powers in defense and foreign affairs to the Congress, not to the president.
The erroneous notion that the chief executive is the "sole organ of American foreign policy," derives from the non-binding part of a Supreme Court decision in the 1930s (that is, fairly recently).
In the Constitution, the founders signaled their intent for Congress to approve even minor uses of force by the United States. The document says that Congress will issue letters of marque and reprisal. At the time, letters of marque were issued to private ship captains to raid an enemy nation's commerce.
So it is curious from his past behavior that Obama, a constitutional lawyer, believes that if he avoids putting "combat troops" on the ground -- defining this narrowly to exclude Special Forces hunting terrorists and American military trainers of local forces -- and limits his attacks to air strikes, it's not a real war that would require congressional approval.
His criterion seems to be that if no Americans would be killed, it's not a "war" that the Congress needs to bother with authorizing. Yet aircraft can get shot down or malfunction and pilots can be captured or killed.
Also, the people being bombed would probably call it a war, and so the people's representatives in Congress might want to comment on whether the United States should be in a state of hostilities with them.
The people's representatives don't always make the right decision -- as they didn't in President James Madison's pointless War of 1812, James Polk's war of aggression against the weaker Mexico to steal its land, William McKinley's colonial Spanish-American War, or Woodrow Wilson's ruining of the twentieth century by American entry into World War I -- but they should at least get to vote, as the nation's founders intended and the Constitution states.
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