Posted by Wordsmith on 9 September, 2007 at 1:00 am. 24 comments already!


No war should ever be fought without a declaration of war voted upon by the Congress, as required by the Constitution.– Ron Paul, on his website under war and foreign policy

Much bellyaching has been made as to "undeclared" wars and the Constitutionality of said wars.  Most of the articles I’ve come across point to the Korean War as the beginning of undeclared wars, with leaders citing Article II, section II of the Constitution, which refers to the President as the "Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States", as justification for the President to initiate foreign wars without formal declaration.  Critics say this is a gross misinterpretation of the provision allowed the President.  They often cite Alexander Hamilton as having stated that the President would have "the direction of war when authorized" by Congress, after a formal declaration of war.

Thomas Jefferson, when he was President, also said that he was  “unauthorized by the Constitution, without the sanction of Congress, to go beyond the line of defense.”

Interesting, considering Thomas Jefferson waged an undeclared war against Islamic corsairs and state-sponsored piracy.  He did so enthusiastically, without bothering to seek Congressional approval.  The first presidential flip-flop?

Just as in debates about "Separation of Church and State", I’m sure you can cherry-pick and find all sorts of "gotcha" quotes by the Founding Fathers that (especially when taken out of context) appear to support one’s arguments.

The Constitution is one of the most brilliant documents ever written.  But as brilliant and revered as the Founding Fathers are, they are not gods, the Constitution is not holy scripture, and Ron Paul is most certainly not their prophet.

When one speaks about departures from "original intent"….that happened almost right away; and certainly happened  far before the Korean War.  The isolationist/non-interventionist belief Ron Paul has of America is of a romanticized, quixotic past that never existed.  We’ve been intervening, and we’ve been doing it for a very long, long time.  Military campaigns waged without a formal authorized declaration by Congress is not a modern transgression of Constitutional requirements.

Congress has other ways of giving approval, other than formal declarations.  This happens anytime Congress appropriates funding. 

There have been only five declared wars by Congress.  Yet our Presidents since the time of Thomas Jefferson have engaged in at least 12-17+ undeclared wars (depending on how you count them), with some of them having been vitally important to America’s self-interest.

Other examples of the distant past (excerpt from Max Boot’s The Savage Wars of Peace:

Woodrow Wilson, for instance, ordered the marines to land in Veracruz in 1914 before the Senate had finished debating the matter.  The Philippine War, too, broke out before the Senate ratified the Treaty of Paris annexing the archipelago.  Congress has generally voted a declaration of war only in the event of hostilities with another major industrialized power and sometimes not even then; witness the quasi-war with France in 1798-1800.  Military operations in Third World nations have seldom been seen to require a formal declaration of war.

One of Ron Paul’s stock analogies goes along the lines of the following quote by him:

Can you imagine what it would be like if parts of the United States were occupied by a foreign power, if China was building military bases the size of the Vatican in Kansas? People would be up in arms!

His analogy is horribly flawed.  With Iraq, the U.S. is not a hostile power.  Neither are we a hostile, imperialistic force in ANY country we are in.  Germany and Japan benefited greatly from our "occupation", and continue to do so.  They are able to save money on military expenditure because they piggyback and rely upon us, as allies, to protect them.  It was in our best interest to help their countries, and in helping to build France back up as a consequential country on the world stage.  Really, after the 2nd War, France was nothing.  But we needed to help our European allies recover and become strong again, in light of the Stalinist threat.

I’ll also add to here, a comment Scott Malensek left in response to a RPer (who listed "150" countries, probably because RP himself mentions "130"):

the US has forces in a lot of countries, and in almost all cases as guests and at the request of those countries even to the benefit and request of their citizens. Too often paranoid politicos see the presence of US forces in 150 countries as imperialistic, but in places like Ramstein, or the UK, or Canada, or perhaps 130+ other countries, those troops are awfully welcome and help protect those people. American forces aren’t invading 150 countries, or terrorizing them, or even hurting them-quite the opposite. In fact, I’m not even sure the 150 country claim is accurate, and it certainly isn’t accurate to portray an image that the US is alone or even in a small group of countries that have forces in other nations (see also nations that contribute to UN peacekeeping etc).

More in a new post from Scott.

Maybe RP’s watched Red Dawn one too many times; but analogizing a China takeover of the U.S. to what our forces are accomplishing over in Iraq or elsewhere in the world is just logic-impaired.

Furthermore, historically, it is quite the norm for us to turn our warriors into social workers, as an occupying force.  As Max Boot writes,

Soldiers follow orders, and presidents have often found it convenient or necessary to order the armed services to perform functions far removed from conventional warfare.  Throughout U.S. history, marines at home and abroad have found themselves providing disaster relief, quelling riots, even guarding mail trains.  Soldiers also have often acted as colonial administrators- in the Philippines, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Veracruz, to say nothing of post-World War II Germany and Japan or the post-Civil War South.

In fact occupation duty is generally necessary after a big war in order to impose the victor’s will on the vanquished.  If ground forces win a battle and go home, as the Powell Doctrine advocates and as actually happened in the Gulf War, the fruits of victory are likely to wither on the vine.  Only boots on the ground can guarantee a lasting peace.

Boot goes on to point out (page 345-347 of The Savage Wars of Peace) how pacification campaigns and occupation of many third world countries made life better 

Many of these interventions also delivered tangible benefits to the occupied peoples.  Although American imperial rule was subject to its fare share of abuses, U.S. administrators, whether civilian or military, often provided the most honest and efficient government these territories had ever seen.  Haiti offers a particularly dramatic example.  The 1920s, spent under marine occupation, saw one of the most peaceful and prosperous decades in the country’s long and troubled history.

  Where we have been most successful with lasting impact, are in those places where we kept our forces for a long period of time. 

What does all this have to do with America’s national security interests?  If you cannot see it, then you are more than likely an isolationist; and being an RPer, one who demands we draw a distinction between an isolationist, and a non-interventionist.

And what is the price of non-intervention? 

Stalin was testing…probing America’s will and reach during the Cold War; what if we had sent a clear message to the Kremlin, that America was practicing a non-interventionist policy by allowing communism to spread to other countries?  Would the world be safer today?  Subsequently (because the answer would be a resounding "NO!"), would we be safer?  No. 

In 1939, what if Franklin Roosevelt did not find a way to provide military aid to Britain and France against the rise of Adolf Hitler?  Our late intervention in the war….did it make America safer?  Is it in America’s best interest, not to practice an interventionist policy to help protect our allies?  The very fact that we trade and do commerce with foreign nations, entangles us.

If one were to practice Paulian non-interventionism in one’s personal life, you would stand neutral or turn aside, not lifting a finger, while your girlfriend got mugged.  After all, you wouldn’t want to experience blowback from the mugger’s wrath, and have him mug you as well.

The Price of Nonintervention

In considering whether, based on the lessons of the past, we should undertake small wars in the future, we ought to remember not only the price of a botched intervention- Vietnam, Beirut, Somalia- but also the price of not intervening, or not intervening with sufficient determination.  Two examples come to mind:  Nicaragua and Russia.

In the former case, President Coolidge in 1925 withdrew from Managua the legation guard of 100 marines that had helped preserve stability for 13 years.  Within a few months, Nicaragua was once again embroiled in revolution, and many more marines returned for a much longer stay.

In revolutionary Russia, Woodrow Wilson and David Lloyd George missed a prime opportunity in 1918-1919 to help topple the nascent Bolshevik regime.  There is reason to believe that with slightly more Western help the Whites could have won the civil war- and in all likelihood changed the course of twentieth-century history immeasurably for the better.  These examples are worth balancing against the Vietnam analogies that inevitably, tiresomely pop up whenever the dispatch of American forces overseas is contemplated.

Chapter 15 Pax Americana, pg 346 The Savage Wars of Peace, by Max Boot

This RPer, at least has a well-reasoned constructive critique of Ron Paul’s "bring the troops home immediately" from everywhere, attitude:

I have serious reservations about the foreign policies Dr. Paul espouses. I do believe in non-interventionism in principle, but I do not believe that a nation’s foreign policies should be changed drastically in a very short period of time, and this is the impression I get of what Dr. Paul would have the US do if he became president. If the United States withdraws from South Korea and gives China a carte blanche to invade Taiwan, as Dr. Paul has suggested it do, that will cause a serious disruption in the world and decline of US’s economic strength. Even if the policy to get involved in East Asia was wrong to begin with, the US has made commitments to that region and has to live with the consequences of its commitments. Trillions of US investment dollars have flowed into Taiwan and South Korea as a result of the understanding that the US would protect by force any armed invasion of those countries by socialist nations. To change course and withdraw that guarantee of support is a betrayal of the highest magnitude and I believe cannot be justified in any way. Besides Taiwan and South Korea, China itself could nationalize trillions of dollars worth of American assets if it perceives that the US will no longer militarily respond to such a move. I’m not suggesting that if Ron Paul becomes president, then the next day China will nationalize all industries. What I do believe though is that if a policy of non-interventionism takes effect, China will probably take over Taiwan, and eventually, North Korea will take over South Korea. With a strengthened military and economic position, I very much believe China would then feel confident in nationalizing foreign owned assets in its country. The strategic landscape will be significantly altered to China’s advantage and Americans will lose hundreds of billions, if not trillions of dollars in assets they have invested in that country. This scenario is absolutely intolerable and must be avoided at all costs.

We live in an age where America can no longer enjoy the protections of two oceans, as it once did.  Although the Constitution is our compass and the North Star by which we may steer this nation, we must not be so inflexible as to not adapt to a world that our Founding Fathers could not have foreseen us living in.   America’s self-interest of free trade and commerce must extend to helping to protect the welfare and safety of our friends and allies.  Evil regimes must be stopped beyond our waters edge.

A nation’s first duty is within its borders, but it is not thereby absolved from facing its duties in the world as a whole; and if it refuses to do so, it merely forfeits its right to struggle for a place among the people that shape the destiny of mankind. – Theodore Roosevelt
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