During Korea, Harry Truman seized the steel mills when a threatened strike potentially imperiled production of war munitions. Richard Nixon went to court to block publication of the Pentagon papers until the Supreme Court decided publication could go forward.
This is not written to defend those war measures or those wars. It is to say that if a president takes a nation to war, and commits men to their deaths, as Obama did in doubling the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, he should be prepared to do what is within his power to protect those troops.
And if Petraeus says letting Jones set this bonfire could imperil U.S. troops, Obama should act to stop it. And if he is so paralyzed by uncertainty as to whether he can do anything -- and, as a result, soldiers die -- what would that tell us about their commander in chief?
Would stopping Jones and confiscating the Qurans violate Jones' First Amendment rights? Perhaps. And perhaps not. But if Eric Holder cannot find a charge against Davis, or an inherent power of a war president to prevent actions imminently damaging to the war effort, Obama should find some Justice Department attorneys who can.
Let the ACLU make the case that interfering with Davis' bonfire violates his First Amendment rights. Let a U.S. court decide whether Obama has the power to take a decision previous wartime presidents would have taken without hesitation.
And if Obama does not have the power to stop actions like this, imperiling our troops, then we should get out of this war.
This episode reveals the gulf between us and the Islamic world. Despite all our talk of universal values, tens of millions of Muslims, in countries not only hostile but friendly, believe that a sacrilege against their faith, like the burning of the Quran by a single American oddball, justifies the killing of Americans. What kind of compatibility can there be between us?
What do we have in common with people who believe that evangelism by other faiths in their societies merits the death penalty, as do conversions to Christianity, while promiscuity and adultery justify stonings, lashings and beheadings.
And what does it say about our ability to fight and win a "long war" in the Islamic world if our war effort can be crippled by a solitary pastor with 50 families in his church who decides to have a book burning?
Action creates consensus, Mr. President. People follow when a leader leads.