Thanks to this video from Fusion, you’ve got a great new drinking game this election season.
For every country America is currently bombing that you can’t name, take a shot. Fun, huh? You’ll probably get one or two at least. I mean Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are kind of obvious, but can you name the others? Did you realize there were others?
According to the Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the US Constitution, the President of the United States is not supposed to go to war with another country unless Congress (the theoretical representatives of the people) vote on it and allow him to. Only Congress can initially commit our troops into a new battle, not the President. Strange then, that we are actually actively dropping bombs on seven different countries, yet we’re not officially at war with anyone. Seven? Yep, the President (Commander in Chief) is currently dropping bombs on seven different countries. Some estimates put these bombings at having killed up to 1.5 million people so far. Yet… Congress hasn’t declared war on anyone. Hmm…
So how is the President getting to drop bombs on seven different countries, kill over a million people, and spend $4 trillion dollars doing it, without any Congressional check from the American peoples’ representatives? Well, by still citing the 14-year-old War Authorization Congress granted to then-President Bush to retaliate against the perpetrators of 9/11.
But maybe what’s even more troubling than a President actively waging war on seven different countries without having to answer to anyone because of a 14-year-old authorization is that our impotent Congressional representatives appear ready to cede even more of their authority to the next President. This Huffington Post article explains in more detail how Congress seems determined to give away their (the American people’s) right to decide who we go to war with, and just allow the next President full authority to drop bombs or send troops wherever (s)he wants without restraint.
It’s not within the scope of this article to argue which of our current seven wars are strategically or morally right or wrong, or what future action is justified; only to point out that the Constitution was designed for a reason. Surely some military actions are justified, and some probably aren’t… which is why we were supposed to have Congress debate it. Our founding fathers saw it as a grave danger for any one person to have the ability to start wars based solely on his or her personal whim. Congress, as the representative of the American people, was collectively meant to have the authority to commit America to battle so that American citizens as a whole did not get their country entangled in wars they did not support.
Unchecked war powers for any President, whether Republican or Democrat, and no matter how often draped in claims of patriotism, is a corrosive threat to our democracy. If the next President is going to be allowed to start wars wherever he or she wants without justification to the American people, is there any chance we can get two new choices before November 8? Alternatively, Congress can start doing its job, and stop giving away the little power it has left.
James R Duncan’s novel, Blood Republic, is a fictional thriller about two-party corruption breaking the country into a second civil war of Republicans vs Democrats. It can be found at Amazon, and other major retailers. You can follow Jim on Twitter or Medium.