Sunday, September 8, 2013

Good Morning Justin...

Letter to my Son
Sunday, 8 September

Roosevelt's 1941 War Speech

Good Morning Justin…

I hope you are able to follow the news in the coming week.  You are about to witness an event unusual in recent years.  The President is requesting authorization from Congress to use military force against an adversarial government – Syria.  This is not to be mistaken with seeking a formal declaration of war.  That hasn't been done since President Franklin Roosevelt appeared before Congress following the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in 1941.  Still, any military action against another nation is an act of war and President Obama is clear that he wants to use deadly force against Syria’s military capability. 

It is a controversial position but recent presidents have believed they already have the Constitutional power to act in a limited military manner without first having Congress sanction their action.  The Constitution actually stipulates that the power to go to war resides with Congress and through much of our history the President of the United States sought authorization from the legislative branch before dispatching our military against any hostile nation.  Technology developed in the twentieth century changed that arrangement.  By the 1960s this nation was confronted with an adversary armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles that could cause nuclear destruction to our military and cities, taking less than twenty minutes from launch to detonation.  It became obvious the president as Commander in Chief would have to launch our own missiles without first consulting Congress.  This situation opened the door to a Constitutional view that granted the Executive branch of the government limited military authority when the interests of this nation demanded timely action. 

Congress was not consulted prior to President Reagan’s attack on Libya in the 1980s.  President George Herbert Walker Bush launched a military action on Panama without Congressional approval.  President Clinton fired cruise missiles at targets in Afghanistan and North Africa in early efforts to combat terrorism.  Congress was once again left out of the decision making.  Each of these presidential actions was widely believed to be justified but they weren't taken to prevent an imminent threat to the security of this nation.  The Executive power to use military force without Congressional authorization was, once again, expanded. 

Like his predecessors, President Obama also believes he has the Constitutional authority to launch a military attack on Syria without first getting Congressional approval.  Nonetheless, he has included the people’s representatives on Capitol Hill in the deliberative process.  His stated reasons for doing this are that military action is more effective when backed by the resolve of the nation and that it is a healthy exercise in democratic government to vote on life and death matters. 

As of today, Sunday, the President’s request for war powers authorization is likely to be turned down by Congress.  There are reasoned arguments on both sides of the issue but, after years of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the public is wary of possible new military involvement in the Middle East.  They have reason to be concerned.  United States involvement in the region has often led to disappointing results.  Poor decisions by our leaders have sometimes brought about costly failures.  Military actions are measures of focused violence in an attempt to further one’s own political goals.  The goals in this instance go beyond discouraging the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons.  They also include a demonstration of resolve by our nation in preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.  How does Iran interpret the actions of our leaders?  How do nations threatened by Iran, particularly Israel, respond if diplomacy fails to forestall Iranian nuclear ambitions?  How does Japan and South Korea respond to North Korea’s further development of their nuclear potential if the credibility of U.S. protection is brought into question? 

What is the likelihood of U.S. military involvement if new threats to our allies result in new conflicts?  Had you been born a citizen of the Netherlands or New Zealand or Norway you could go about your life not having to be concerned with constant foreign entanglements.  You wouldn't need to go to the map to find out where the hell is Kandahar or Benghazi or Aleppo.  You wouldn't need to pay taxes to cover the cost of aircraft carriers everywhere.  You could bitch about that meddling Uncle Sam with his fingers in all the pies.  But that isn't the case, is it?  You’re here.  You’re stuck.  Poor baby.


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