Saturday, April 8, 2017

Purists vs. Realists

"Today however, Congress has become a great deliberating (and maybe debilitating) organization. Translation = nothing happens in Congress quickly." 

For the first time in a while, we have fired something, anything, in anger. And we did it by the authority of the President, who by the way, is also the Commander in Chief. So what is wrong with this picture? The bad guys (Assad's forces) gassed innocents and deserved what they got. Again, what is wrong with this picture? We did not lose any troops and only spent a few million dollars on Tomahawk missiles. Big whoop.

Oh yes - that pesky thing call our Constitution. It spells out who is responsible for declaring war, and once war is declared, who is in charge of it. Article One, Section 8, Item 11 of the Constitution declares:

[Powers of Congress] "Congress shall have the power to declare war, grant letter of Marque and Reprisal, and make rules concerning capture on land or water."

In another part of the framework (Article 2, Section II), it is designated that the President is to be the Commander in Chief once war is declared. This is the purist way of looking at the roles and responsibilities of those in power.

However, here is reality. And probably why we have not had a declaration of war since World War II. After Pearl Harbor, it took next to nothing for FDR to get Congress to formally declare war on Japan. Today however, Congress has become a great deliberating (and maybe debilitating) organization. Translation = nothing happens in Congress quickly. In today's environment with perishable intelligence, sometimes "go time" is now. 

On Tuesday, we had a gas attack in Syria. Our force commanders immediately started to war game a response. By Thursday evening, we were ready. Right before the attack, Russian forces close to the target were advised and so was congressional leadership. Both calls were for notification and not consent. Then the trigger was pulled. To have waited, to have brought this up for debate within the Congress (don't forget - they are now on leave for two weeks), would have postponed a response from us until July.

How do we fix this? How do we stay true to our Constitution and still be nimble enough to react quickly in needed situations? If I knew the answer to that one, I would be running for office. We need to come up with something. We can't have this never ending debate between the purists and the realists every time our military needs to take care of business. The world just does not work that way any longer.    

1 comment:

  1. This, above all else, is what is worrying about Trump on foreign policy: He is unpredictable and driven by whims. He is unmoored from any coherent philosophy of America’s role in the world, and no one — perhaps not even him — truly knows what he’ll do in the event of a crisis.

    Obama’s policy on Syria was perpetually paralyzed by fear of escalation. Trump’s policy on Syria is volatile precisely because he doesn’t seem to have thought through questions of escalation. This is a foreign policy based on intuition and emotion, and there is danger in that.