Who decides whether war continues or not in Iraq? Some might answer Gen. David Petraeus. Others might say Congress. But most probably believe the president has oversight of foreign and war policies. After all, he is the commander in chief, correct?
But to whom did our Founders point? They believed the president's duty is to carry out policy, not make it -- something that is the duty of Congress. That is why so many strict constitutionalists have labeled our battles in Iraq as unconstitutional. Many accuse our president of not only going to war without a congressional declaration but also making other unilateral international policies.
On the other hand, pro-Bush allies say executive government officials always have initiated emergency war decisions, such as in Korea and Vietnam. Still others say Iraq is a continuation of the same Middle East war that began in Afghanistan. Some even point to Thomas Jefferson, who confessed and appealed to Congress in 1801 that he was "unauthorized by the Constitution, without the sanction of Congress, to go beyond the line of defense" when he sent a small regiment of warships to the Mediterranean to ward off attacks by the Barbary States.
I completely honor and support our service members. That is why I've been to Iraq twice, shaking hands and encouraging nearly 40,000 troops. I believe we ought to enforce our borders better, as well as carry out tactical means abroad to deter terrorism at home. And I don't believe our Founders could have imagined the type of global terrorism we wage war against today. But my devout patriotic support and beliefs do not take away from the fact that we must continue to follow constitutional protocol in engaging in and disengaging from any war.
I'm not a constitutional lawyer. I'm not pretending to be. But I've gained a great appreciation for our history and Founders. And they didn't bottle up the choices of war in one person, but many. Those are the checks and balances of power they provided for us. Here are a few of their select thoughts:
-- "The Congress shall have Power … To declare War." (Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution)
-- "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States." (Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution)
-- "This system will not hurry us into war; it is calculated to guard against it. It will not be in the power of a single man, or a single body of men, to involve us in such distress; for the important power of declaring war is vested in the legislature at large." (James Wilson, 1787)
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