Louis Fisher Offers Thoughts on Presidential War Power

9780700619313President Obama’s plans to expand U.S. military involvement in Syria and Iraq without congressional approval continues the unconstitutional conduct of Presidents after World War II.  Although Congress deserves a strong rebuke for failing to protect its constitutional authority over the war power, the real fault lies with the pattern of unilateral presidential actions.  In June 1950, President Harry Truman launched offensive action against North Korea without coming to Congress for prior authority as required by the UN Participation Act of 1945.  President Lyndon Johnson decided, after receiving the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution for a limited military response, to escalate the war year after year in the face of public and congressional opposition.  President Bill Clinton used military force on numerous occasions, including in Bosnia and Kosovo, without ever seeking statutory authority.  President George W. Bush took the nation to war on the basis of six claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, with each claim proven to be empty.  President Barack Obama, after promising not to repeat the unilateral actions of Bush II, supported military action in Libya in 2011 without ever seeking congressional support, leaving that country as a failed state and a breeding ground for terrorism.  After exceeding the 60-90 day limit of the War Powers Resolution, his administration falsely defended the Libyan initiative by claiming that seven months of military action constituted neither war nor hostilities.  A succession of presidential lies and deceptions from 1950 to the present time have greatly damaged constitutional government and the aspiration for democracy.

–Written by Louis Fisher, author of Presidential War Power (3d ed., 2013).

Let’s Stop Making Veterans

9780700621361Every year on Veterans Day, I call my dad and brother, both Veterans. I’m proud they are, but I wish they weren’t. My hope is that one day we will stop making Veterans, a hope that seems increasingly naive as our president “intensifies” efforts against ISIL by putting “boots on the ground” in Syria. There will be more Veterans next year.

Ten years ago on Veterans Day, my brother was in Iraq on his first deployment—on the road to becoming a Veteran like our father, who had been in Vietnam 37 years earlier. My brother kept a journal during his deployment in East Hit. I want to share some excerpts as we mark the ten years since he became a Veteran.

[Dec 23, 2005] The [locals] have been very friendly thus far, I have even smoked the hookah with them, also got to try some food that I think was bean based, but very good. I do sincerely hope that we do not upset the locals too much and that the rest of days will go on peacefully as they have thus far.

[Dec 31, 2005] The Iraqi troops have quit on us. They no longer want to go on patrol or stand post. I’m not quite sure why that is, hopefully they are not bitter at us. I understand that they are under great pressure from their people and some go to great extents to hide their faces and identities while on patrol to protect their families, but obviously they could not last more than one week out patrolling with us Marines.

[Jan 21, 2006] I honestly do not see how they [Iraqi soldiers] will ever be able to maintain law and order in this country.

These diary entries are from ten years ago. Ten years ago, my brother recognized, with genuine and heartbreaking disconcertion, the impossibility of stabilizing Iraq. Ten years ago, we had far fewer Veterans then we do today.

So here we are on another Veterans Day. And with a mixture of gratitude and shame, I find myself choking on the realization that tomorrow we will have the most Veterans we’ve ever had; and if we keep going at the rate we are going, the fewest we ever will. But we can stop it. We can do something different. When I call my dad and brother to thank them, I will again say a silent prayer for peace, hoping that next year I won’t have to.

–Written by Lisa Ellen Silvestri, author of “Friended at the Front: Social Media in the American War Zone