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The Constitution Requires a Congressional Declaration of War against Libya

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riceby Jacob G. Hornberger

Given the battlefield success of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s standing army against Libyan rebels, President Obama has now shifted his tune. Instead of simply advocating a no-fly zone over Libya, Obama is now requesting the United Nations Security Council to authorize the United States to bomb Libyan tanks and artillery.

Did you catch that? The president of the United States is going to the UN to seek permission to attack a sovereign and independent country.

Where is the Tea Party when you need it? Aren’t they the ones that carry the miniature-sized versions of the U.S. Constitution in their pockets? Attention Tea Partiers: Check out the section of the Constitution that requires the president to secure a formal declaration of war from Congress before he can wage war against a foreign regime. Let’s hear from you. This is no time for silence.

The fact that Obama decides to go to foreigners to seek permission to wage another war of aggression just goes to show, once again, how far our nation has strayed from its founding principles.

For one thing, America was founded on the principle of no standing army. Our ancestors knew that a standing army is antithetical to the principles of a free society, a principle that the rebels in Libya and other Middle East countries are now discovering.

But there is another reason that a standing army is dangerous, as Americans have discovered: It can be used by a ruler to involve a nation in endless foreign military escapades, which oftentimes are so expensive that they bring financial bankruptcy down upon a nation. I’d say just ask the British Empire or the Soviet Empire but they’re out of existence owing to bankruptcy.

What’s fascinating is how virtually no one, except libertarians, brings up the U.S. Constitution when it comes to foreign wars, specifically that part that prohibits the president from waging war without a congressional declaration of war.

It’s almost as if Americans have just come to accept the fact that the president is now a ruler with omnipotent powers when operating in foreign affairs. The notion is that the president, operating through his military and paramilitary forces (who are always ready and willing to loyally obey whatever orders he issues, no questions asked), can do whatever he wants with respect to foreign policy.

The Constitution is the highest law of the land. It embodies the constraints on federal power that were imposed on the federal government as a condition of permitting the federal government to come into existence. The Constitution is the law that we the people have imposed on federal officials, including the president and his military and paramilitary forces. Just as federal officials require us, the citizenry, to obey laws that they impose on us, they are required to comply with the law that we have imposed on them.

The Constitution requires a congressional declaration of war before the president can wage war against Libya or any other nation. If the president uses his standing army to attack Libya without a congressional declaration of war, he is a lawbreaker and should be impeached for his high crime. The fact that this critically important part of the Constitution has been ignored in the past should not be permitted to serve as a defense or an excuse at the president’s impeachment trial. The law is the law. If Obama or anyone else doesn’t like it, they’re free to seek a constitutional amendment authorizing the president to both declare and wage war. Until then, the law should be enforced.

Should the U.S. Congress declare war on Libya? Should the president wage war on Libya? No to both questions. Like Iraq and Afghanistan, Libya has not attacked the United States, which would make the U.S. government, once again, the aggressor in the conflict. Wars of aggression were condemned as war crimes at Nuremberg.

What can Americans why sympathize with the Libyan rebels do to help them out? They can take personal responsibility for their beliefs and travel to Libya and join the rebels. Not surprisingly, not one single American interventionist has done so.

Our ancestors brought into existence a nation with no standing army, no militarism, and no empire, no Federal Reserve, no federal torture, no federal kidnapping, no war on terrorism, no CIA, no war on drugs, no foreign wars, no public schooling, no paper money, and no wars of aggression. They brought into existence a government based on limited powers expressly enumerated in the U.S Constitution, an economic system based on free-market principles, and a society deeply committed to the preservation of civil liberties and fundamental rights.

The time arrived has arrived for Americans to return to first principles.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.


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