I have just seen another story that misrepresents the whole war powers argument. Both stories I read were from reputable sources and both stated that Article 1 Section 8 clause 11, which states “To declare War,Grant Letters of Marque and reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water” under the enumerated powers of Congress was end all be all of war. That is not true. When people understand the whole truth it makes much more sense and reveals a lie that has been spread for decades.
Article 2 Section 2 tells the rest of the story. It reads: “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”. That means simply that the President is only the Commander in Chief when there is a war that is declared. The Congress is the one who declares war and they are in charge of the military the rest of the time.
The idea is simple. When there is no war the armed forces should not be deployed. They need no immediate leadership to guide them through important situations. This time would be used organizing and training the troops. But when war is declared, it must be one person who leads the military. War by committee has some awful drawbacks with the most serious being quick decisions that may be needed. It is not that the President was thought to be going to the front lines but there needs to be a civilian authority who oversees the big picture of what needs to be done. He is the one to make the decisions that affect the course of the war effort. The President is also checked by the Congress if he gets out of control. Congress can easily take back control of the military with a vote. This is a major check and balance.
The Founders never envisioned the President being the full time Commander in Chief. The whole idea of the War Powers Act and the use of AUMF (Authorization to Use Military Force) is in violation of the simple meaning of the Constitution. On this point the document is quite clear. It is not convenient for those who want aggressive actions taken, but that is how the Constitution is structured.
When war is declared a number of things change. Enemy combatants become a reality. Interactions with the declared enemy becomes illegal. The rules on the high seas change and many other lawful acts are initiated. There is much upheaval caused when a war is declared in addition to the actual fighting. One other interesting point, it is recognized that after a declaration of war that the enemies are given a chance to make amends before hostilities can commence.
Washington DC wants it both ways. No declaration of war but a way to initiate hostilities when convenient. A President who is in full time control of the military, taking the burden off of Congress. The power to tell the President when he can go into battle without declaring a war. In this the press has been complicit. How many times have you heard the President referred to as the Commander in Chief? The United States has not declared war since 1941 initiating our entry into WW II. That is the last time a President has rightfully been the CIC.
I write this because President Trump has just taken the action of sending missiles against a sovereign country, Syria. There has been no declaration of war. The United States is supposed to take the high moral road but in this case like so many others as of late we are breaking our own laws to invade a sovereign country. Our blatant statements about regime change are repugnant to this American. Unless it is a threat to the security of our country then American lives nor resources should not be expended. In cases of true threat or where we need to engage in war then we declare war and fight accordingly. We should respect the sovereignty of other countries like we want our sovereignty respected.
Atrocities were committed in Syria. That is not being questioned. What is being questioned is how relevant the Constitution is anymore. I fear for our future if we continue to disregard the Constitution of the United States so often and so completely.