America Declares War

(This is for those who might find useful a little primer on the US Constitution and the matter of declaring – or not declaring – war.)

Poor America.

It’s hard to lead when nobody’s following. Harder still to know that nobody’s following because you’ve been a lousy leader these last few decades: alternately timid and bullying, mercurial, untrustworthy, self-obsessed. And hardest of all to realize that in this time of growing danger to all you claim to hold dear . . . you’re faking it.

And your enemies have taken note.

Time to get real again. Time to gird up your loins and whatever else you’ve got left that’s still girdable. Show that you mean it.

Declare war.

Sounds like a plan? Indeed. Now all we need is a declarable-war-against-able enemy.

Got any?

We’ll answer that question after a couple necessary preliminaries concerning the Constitution.

Article I specifies the powers of Congress. Section 8 authorizes the Congress to “raise and support armies.” Armies. An archaic 18th century word that meant standing professional forces. This clause places no limit on the size of such forces, nor does it restrict how those forces may be used (unlike the militia, back then). Nor does it preclude mercenaries or Foreign Legions.

Section 8 also gives Congress the power to “declare war.” The article does not specify against whom. The presumption has always been against other states only, but that’s a presumption only. Nor does the article enumerate what they have to do to merit such attention.

Historically, the United States has always been fighting somebody, but has only declared war five times since 1789. Three quaint squabbles followed by two biggies. The War of 1812; the Mexican War; the Spanish-American War; the World Wars. Never once during a century of chasing Native Americans from sea to shining sea did Congress declare war. These campaigns were deemed “internal matters.” Nor did the Union declare war on the Confederacy during the Civil War, issuing instead a “Proclamation of Rebellion.”

And of course, the United States has not declared war its last five wars: Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War, Afghanistan, Iraq, plus all the lesser stuff. These have been “authorized” by Congress either by mealy-mouthed legislation that might or might not meet the requirements of the War Powers Act, whose constitutionality the Supreme Court discreetly refuses to consider, or by appropriating the cash, or just by letting it happen.

Pity. A declaration of war can be quite useful. Legally, it does not require you to do anything. But it does establish a rather specific juridical framework.

Treason kicks in. Treason is the only crime specified in the Constitution (Article III, Section 3), and applies only to those citizens “levying war” against the United States or giving “aid and comfort” to the enemy. Yes, there can be a fine line between wartime dissent and “aid and comfort,” but it’s a lot easier to draw that line when you’ve got a declared enemy.

Further, a declaration of war establishes a new set of relationships with those nations and organizations that ally with your enemy, or provide aid and comfort of their own. There are lots of ways to deal with them, up to and including declarations of war which, to repeat, don’t obligate you to do anything in particular.

Further still, a declaration of war permits you to decree your enemies as legitimate combatants. These are accorded the rights and protections of prisoners-of-war under international and American law. Those rights do not include full civil liberties and endless access to the American civilian court system.

Which leads us to conclude:

If war may be declared against entities other than sovereign nation-states . . .

And if such declarations establish legal structures that permit a more effective prosecution of hostilities . .

And if legitimate enemy combatants may be accorded full prisoner-of-war rights, including the right to be interned until cessation of hostilities, whenever that might come about . . .

Why not declare war on all those Islamist organizations and their accomplices, accessories and aid-and-comforters? America has well over one million lawyers. I’m sure you could find a few score thousand to work it out. You might not even have to call the enemies by a name they recognize. “Death to Islamism” seems, well, a somewhat un-American way to head the list. How about “Jihadi Behaving Badly” or “Foes We’ve Majorly Unfriended”? Make liberal use of the old “AKA,” “Also Known As,” for card-carrying enemies who like to carry a variety of cards. Congress can even appoint a special committee to update the list periodically, maybe even daily on TV. Fox would love it.

What think? Would it work? And would it be good or bad for the Jews?

Next: Jim Webb for President? Good or Bad for the Jews?

About the Author
Philip Gold made Aliyah from USA in 2010 after several decades as a Beltway "public intellectual" of sorts.
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