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InsiderOnline Blog: March 2007

War by Committee

David Rivken and Lee Casey:

There is a good question whether Congress, constitutionally, can forbid the president—even using its spending power—from engaging the declared and active enemies of the United States wherever he can find them. Significantly, the Constitution requires the three branches of government to defend the United States. After all, providing for the common defense was one of its primary stated purposes.

Realizing, perhaps, that it is on thin constitutional ice, Congress appears willing to grant the power for the president to prosecute “counterterrorism” operations in Iraq, even while cutting off the funding for combat missions. Unfortunately for its proponents, this language—whatever its merits as a political gimmick designed to demonstrate Congress' anti-terrorism machismo—makes the problem even worse. It would amount to true congressional micromanagement—telling the president, for example, that he may attack an al-Qaeda training facility in Fallujah, but cannot engage the local militias operating alongside al-Qaeda.

This type of militarily nonsensical splitting-the-difference compromise, of course, is a perfect example of war by committee—and confirms the Framers' wisdom in vesting the power to direct America's armed forces in one individual, the president of the United States.

Posted on 03/29/07 04:21 PM by Alex Adrianson

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