Thursday, August 29, 2013

SYRIA? SERIOUSLY?

I don’t read newspapers.

There are only so many bytes of memory left in my hard drive, and I don’t want to waste them on the trash that passes for news these days.

Once in a while I slip. Got ahold of a Wall Street Journal when visiting a friend. It was full of stories about Syria. The lead article was sheer, unabashed propaganda.

“Unnamed sources at the Pentagon,” “a high government official,” “sources close to the White House. ” Two full pages of speculation about how and when and why the President of the United States will be committing an act of war against Syria.

Article I, Section 8 of the constitution of the United States says that the Congress shall have the power to declare war.

Article II, Section 2 says that the President is the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States. Nowhere in the Constitution is the President given the power to declare war.

O.K. He can’t declare war. But that is not the question, is it? The question is: Can the President start a war? The President is the Commander in Chief. That means he can give orders to the Generals and the Admirals. Did the framers of the Constitution intend to give the President the power to invade Canada or Mexico or any place else?

James Madison reported that in the Federal Convention of 1787, the phrase "make war" was changed to "declare war" in order to leave to the Executive the power to repel sudden attacks but not to commence war without the explicit approval of Congress.

We’re not talking here about repelling an attack. Or even about responding aggressively to an attack. Although remembering the Alamo, the Maine and Pearl Harbor all involved actual declarations of war by the Congress.

No, the question here is, “Does the constitution authorize the President to start wars?

I don’t think so. I don’t think that the Founders of our nation intended to empower the President to embark on military adventures or prosecute geo-political warfare. And I am morally certain that neither the American people nor their Representatives in Congress would approve of committing American lives and fortunes to the Syrian civil war.

The preamble to the Constitution which the President is sworn to protect and defend announces that its purpose of to “provide for the common defense.”

There’s nothing about spreading democracy or Christianity or capitalism or freedom all over the planet.

Three days before he left office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower addressed the American people. His final farewell is often remembered as the speech about the military-industrial complex.

What Ike said that day bears repeating and remembering. He noted that, in his time, the United States had developed a huge armaments industry. His words:

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

When a prestigious newspaper carries unattributed puffing in favor of military action, when nightly news programs host a parade of retired generals to ruminate about strategy, when the Secretary of State and the Vice President publicly herald the launching of missiles, I have to ask the obvious question:

Who will profit?

3 comments:

  1. Judge, as a retired military and Civ Svc DOD employee I have to disagree with your assessment that it is the military/industrial complex that is driving the use of military force. You inadvertently make my point yourself when you quote Articles from the Constitution. Nowhere in the Constitution are any war making powers given to the "military-industrial" (M/I) complex. As you point out those powers are specifically given to the Congress and the Commander-In-Chief (CINC). There is no question that the M/I complex attempts to, and does, influence the size of the defense budget. Each "I" in the M/I complex also attempts to grab as much of that budget as they can for their specific company by offering a weapon system that meets a need stated by the military services. This weapon system is funded by Congress and the President as part of the budgeting process. I'm not naive, I also understand how the appropriations system really works. Money is appropriated and often "ear-marked" for a specific project with a tacit understanding that the beneficiary will make a completely "legal" campaign contribution to the person providing the "ear-mark".

    You might properly decry the influence of the M/I complex in the above process, but it is a big leap to accuse that complex of being able to wield enough influence to coerce the (CINC) to use those weapon systems to KILL people. It takes a morally bankrupt person to put members of the military in harms way, on missions that will result in loss of life on both sides of the battle, simply to get campaign contributions, or to be re-elected.

    My point is that while the M/I complex does influence the defense budget, it is the sole authority of the CINC, with Congressional approval as required,
    to determine when to use those weapon systems.

    Let's put the blame for the use of military force exactly where it belongs. It belongs on the backs of elected officials that exercise their Constitutional authority to authorize force. The blame does not belong on the backs of the military folks who obey their oath to the Constitution, or to the companies that build the weapon systems that our elected officials authorize.

    Let me ask you this question? As a judge would you approve a death sentence simply so you can get an entirely legal "campaign contribution" from the company that manufactured the lethal drug, and then turn around and blame the drug company, and the Dr who performed the injection, for forcing you to make your decision?

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  2. I agree with your assessment that getting people killed to make money is morally bankrupt. Which would explain why all the retired generals are on television insisting that missiles launched from the safety of the fleet against "strategic targets" are all that is needed.

    Now, of course, Assad is putting prisoners in all the strategic places so that the US can be accused of slaughtering innocent humans.

    I don't think Obama will attack Syria to get campaign contributions or in gratitude for contributions past. I do think he is worried about criticism for talking tough and then not acting tough. Theodore Roosevelt is remembered for saying, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." Obama can aptly be accused of "talking tough and carrying a wet noodle."

    Candidly,I think he was wrong to talk tough. But he would be equally wrong to launch a symbolic strike. It would be the first step on a slippery slope that nobody in America wants to slide down.

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  3. The Alamo? What declaration of war by the USA are you referring to? In what way was the USA involved?

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