Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Hamilton and Lee Back to the Rescue Again? UVa Launches the National War Powers Commission

Posted by K.E. White on March 1, 2007

I guess trying to save Iraq wasn’t enough for Hamilton and Lee. Now there trying to resuscitate our nation’s Constitution.

Say what?

Proliferation Press has chatted on the constitutional construction of our nation’s war powers, and today notes the University of Virginia has launched a commission to investigate that very question.

While it might seem academic, it’s exactly quite vital. Why did Congress not play a more forceful role in interrogating the Bush administration’s plans for war? Why does the Congress no longer “declare war” but merely “authorize” the President to exercise war powers.

In a Republic should not there be serious deliberations before war—with a state or non-state entity?

Warren Christopher and James Baker III are examining just that, or—as the Miller Center puts it—they hope to “examine how the Constitution allocates the powers of beginning, conducting, and ending war.”

And of course who’s coming along for the ride but Lee Hamilton.

More from the Miller Center:

When armed conflict is looming, debates about separation of powers and the uncertainty they often generate can impair relations among the branches of government, cast doubt on the legitimacy of government action, and prevent focused attention on policy. Armed conflicts with non-state actors and other non-traditional “wars,” as well as the courts’ involvement in war powers questions, make the Commission’s work relevant.

The Commission intends to produce a report making recommendations to assist Presidents, Congresses, Courts, and other policymakers in addressing war powers issues. When they are issued, the Commission’s recommendations will be entirely prospective in nature and not applicable to the present presidential Administration or present Congress.

But how significant is this fourteen member Commission?

The topic is not new: scholars have often tackled the subject of the growing dominance of the executive in matters of war. It seems three factors have led to this condition: 1) the expansion of America’s military since WWII and the greater burden placed on the executive to command it, 2) the lack of nation-state threats, but proliferation of non-state threats to American interests and 3) a media-sensitive Congress, unable to match the volume of the President’s bully pulpit.

But it is clear that there must be some re-thinking of the Constitutional responsibilities for war in this age of terrorism. It is imperative that Congress play an active and responsible role in determining America’s national security policy: lest the nation wishes to risk more strategic blunders.

Hopefully this Commission is provide the academic backdrop necessary for politicians and the public to demand a more deliberative process before our nation’s plunges into war.

Faith in our nation’s military operations cannot solely rest with faith in our President. The nation and, particularly, its political representatives have a responsibility to take responsibility for America’s military strategy.

This is a Commission to watch. While it will probably not rival the celebrity status of the Iraq Study Group, it may prove of far more consequence than its well-known counterpart.


This blog also appears on Campus Progress.

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