James Leroy Wilson's blog

Friday, December 02, 2005

Undeclared War

One reason I hate George WMD Bush is that he wages war without a formal declaration of war by Congress. I feel the same about Clinton, Bush, Nixon, Johnson, and Truman. And I have nothing but scorn for those who believe the Congressional declaration is an "anachronism" or that Presidents should have that power. This is not an issue of "honest disagreement." The issue is not "complex," and this is not a point on which "reasonable people may disagree." One may "debate" these closet fascists, but only as a political tactic. Such bloodthirsty apologists for Presidential dictatorship - whether Republican or Democrat - deserve to be on the receiving end of the bombs they drop on other people.

But then I think about 1898 and 1917. We had no reason whatsoever to declare war against either Spain or Germany, but we did anyway. Worse, World War I and then World War II instigated massive crackdowns on free speech and civil liberties.

The question is, would Congress have officially declared war for Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Serbia if it had been asked to? Well, they did "authorize" the carnage, and in the case of Korea, Vietnam, and the first Iraq war, there were theoretical reasons for doing so that were far better than any we had for the Spanish-American War or World War I. So I suspect that Congress would have declared war if asked. That would have made those wars more "just" because a "legitimate authority" would have declared it - although no more just in terms of war aims and means.

I'm afraid that a declared war would have given Congress and the President the opportunity and excuse to do to the American people what they did in the World Wars - silence them and arrest them in droves. Yes, Americans have lost a lot of liberty under Bush, but very little of that has to do with Afghanistan or Iraq. War critics haven't been rounded up and jailed.

Perhaps that's the "mixed" blessing of the undeclared war. We are probably freer than we would have been had war been declared. But, of course, we'd be yet more free and far better off in every way had we avoided all these wars in the first place.

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