Andrew McCarthy at NRO Asks the Important Question

At the Point of the Spear

At the Point of the Spear

Are We Still At War?

Congress should update its military-force authorization.

By Andrew McCarthy
National Review Onlne

We remain a nation at peril, but are we still a nation at war?

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama signaled, yet again, that the war in Afghanistan is effectively over. Soon, in fact, it will be over by any honest measure: The presence of American troops will be halved to 34,000 in the coming months, and erased entirely by December 31, 2014. On this arbitrarily chosen date, the president claims, we will “achieve our core objective of defeating the core of al-Qaeda.”

This was just rhetorical fluff. The core of al-Qaeda will still be intact, even resurgent. It will simply have moved on to more hospitable climes such as northern Africa — thanks in no small part to a windfall of new arms from Libya, courtesy of Obama’s unprovoked, unauthorized, and strategically disastrous war to topple the Qaddafi regime.

Indeed. The 2001 AUMF is wonderfully vague.  In the hands of a competent Administration with a clear foreign policy and the will to pursue and exterminate terrorist organizations which are actively waging war on the United States, that would be a good thing.  In the hands of of the 0bama Administration, it has been a muddled mess which has been ineffectual.

McCarthy continues:

What, moreover, has Afghanistan got to do with “defeating the core of al-Qaeda”? We have been told for years that al-Qaeda has virtually no presence in Afghanistan. It has been a very long time since the mission of our troops there was to defeat al-Qaeda’s core. For several years, their mission has been incoherent: Prop up the ramshackle and often hostile sharia government we have birthed in Kabul, while simultaneously staving off and negotiating with the Taliban. You may think, as I do, that these are futile objectives and that it is irresponsible to put our troops in harm’s way for them. Or you may believe that, though difficult, they are worthy goals. One thing you cannot credibly believe, though, is that these are the aims for which we went to war in 2001.

By its very nature, a terrorist organization such as al Qaeda is geographically in-determinant.  Those Nations which choose to support, or turn a blind eye to the operations of, al Qaeda have suffered no consequences for doing so, while Nations which have supported the suppression and destruction of al Qaeda have enjoyed scant benefit (often times none) for their support over the last four years.

It is essential to remember those aims because it is they, and they alone, that determine whether we are still, constitutionally and legitimately, a nation at war. That is a very real question. It is one we must confront because on it hinges such crucial questions as whether the intensified drone campaign — the subject of heated ongoing debate — is lawful.
Understand: Though war is political act, it is also a formal legal reality. Its existence and legitimacy, in our constitutional system, are up to Congress.

Our system of government was established with three co-equal branches such that a delinquency on the part of one can, and should be, remedied by one or both of the other two branches.

How long will the Legislative branch tacitly ignore the delinquency of the Executive Branch?

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  • jim_m

    What Congress says is of no importance. Does anyone honestly think that if obama started a war with any other country that Congress would stand up and stop him? The Senate certainly won’t do a thing. obama won’t even make an unequivocal statement that assassinating Americans in the US is out of bounds.

    This President acknowledges no law that binds him. It does not matter whether anyone gives him formal authorization to do anything.

    • herddog505

      Sad but true. The Congress has discovered that a “strong” president is just the thing for them: they get the advantage of being able to pontificate on whatever suits them, but don’t have to take actual responsibility for anything. Passing a budget, discussing bills, declaring war, providing oversight… PFFT! Just a burden to the average congressman’s day, which is already filled to overflowing with seeking donations, running for reelection, arranging graft, and underaged prostitutes.

      • JWH

        A congressional tendency that goes back about two hundred years …

        • Commander_Chico

          Agree with all of the above.

        • herddog505

          I completely agree that our successives Congresses have not exactly marked themselves as a body of statesmen, but it strikes me that previous ones have at least managed to produce budgets and declare wars, things that seem beyond the abilities of the current pack of thieves, clowns and courthouse loafers that infests the Capitol Building.

          A Republic, gentlemen… if you can keep it.

          • JWH

            Have they? If you get a chance, read the first couple chapters of Arthur Schlesinger’s The Imperial Presidency. Right from the start, Congresses deferred to presidents, even on the war powers, because it was more convenient to do so.

          • herddog505

            It’s one thing to follow the president’s lead (we had bad experiences during the War for Independence with “war by committee”), but another to simply shrug the collective congressional shoulders and say, “Meh” when the president is bombing and invading and otherwise causing global mayhem.

            Some examples of when the Congress did their duty:

            1798 – “An Act to further protect the commerce of the United States” by reforming the Navy to deal with French attacks on US ships on the high seas, essentially declaring the “Quasi-war” against France;

            1801 – Congress authorized the president to order armed US vessels to engage Barbary pirates and “to cause to be done all such other acts of precaution or hostility as the state of war will justify.”

            [leaping ahead]

            1964 – Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

            Have the Congresses always done their duty? No, of course not: what else would we expect from a pack of grasping, thieving, selfish, rabble-rousing hucksters? But I suggest that the current crop of wardheelers plumbs new depths of negligence, and we should be very worried about the results of that.

          • jim_m

            I guarantee you that the overwhelming majority of congressmen read those acts that you cited. I have serious doubts that some of our congressmen today(Hank Johnson for instance) can even read. We already have multiple admissions from House leadership that they do not even bother to understand the legislation they vote on.

        • fustian24

          But isn’t this by design? You do not want committees deciding things when threats are fast moving. The point of the executive is not just to carry out the will of Congress, but also to take charge when that is necessary.

          And the check is impeachment.

          Which is apparently impossible today if the President involved is a democrat.

          We lost important checks and balances when we gave up the press and the greater culture in which it sits.

    • LiberalNightmare

      Thank god that we can count on code pink to make their usual moral stand.

      • MartinLandauCalrissian

        You mean immoral… right?

  • MartinLandauCalrissian

    Obama doesn’t like to use the word “war” whether it is or isn’t.

  • Commander_Chico

    The 2001 AUMF has never been a good thing – since it was passed it has been an instrument to destroy the Constitution. That’s been clear since Padilla.

    • jim_m

      Only because it granted authority to a GOP President. You wouldn’t say boo if it had been given to a President Gore.

      • Commander_Chico

        . . . . . and if pigs had wings they’d be pigeons.

        • jim_m

          By that I assume you mean that a dem president does not need congressional authorization. obama certainly believes this and you believe everything your lord and savior says.

      • Commander_Chico

        . . . . . and if pigs had wings they’d be pigeons.

      • Padilla was handled no differently than was Haupt (under FDR).

  • 914

    Until they are forcibly removed from the teat I suppose.

  • Plinytherecent

    A note on language: after we leave, the war will most certainly continue (the Taliban has clearly not been defeated) – we just won’t be in it. Thus, anyone saying that the war will be over next year is simply wrong.