Dan Popp
By Dan Popp
August 31, 2013

...a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. – Declaration of Independence

At the time of writing this, the United States has not yet initiated hostilities against Syria.

The Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution for "a moral and religious people," but with caution against an ambitious and proud leadership. They anticipated Lord Acton's axiom that "power corrupts," and took measures to prevent absolute power from corrupting absolutely. They pitted the Executive Branch against the Legislative Branch against the Judicial Branch – and the feds against the States – assuming that each would jealously guard its own power against attempts at usurpation by the others. These wise guardians of our liberties were prepared for future rascals, narcissists and tyrant wannabes. They didn't expect a government of cowards.

When the Framers put the power of declaring war into the hands of Congress, and the power of directing the armed forces into the hands of the President, they did not foresee a time when our representatives would have so little self-respect that they would surrender their important power just so they wouldn't be blamed if things went badly. That surrender is called the War Powers Act.

Being a mere law, and not a Constitutional Amendment, the War Powers Act cannot give the President the power to start a war. The Commander-in-Chief has the responsibility of directing our armed forces in such wars as Congress may declare, but he cannot have the power to prosecute a war that has not been declared, and thus does not exist. You remember when Congress gave President Bush (43) the "authorization" to use force in Iraq – and later when many leftists, including Congressmen, blamed Bush for "starting a war." This is "having one's cake and eating it, too." Congressional cowards can hide behind the President for whatever results that the public, as disinformed by the media, doesn't like; and step to the podium to take the credit for whatever appears to be a success.

This was a moment of extreme spinelessness by our Congress. Not that it was without precedent. As a boy I was corrected when I said "Korean War" rather than "Korean Conflict" because somehow not calling it a war made it OK for everyone in power to evade the Constitution. War? What war? Oh, you mean this li'l ol' conflict? By the time of the Viet Nam war, I guess we'd gotten used to undeclared wars, so we could call it a war.

But in a rational world, precedent is not justification. Unconstitutional cowardice then does not excuse the same now.

This is also a cowardly way for a President to behave; not insisting that Congress do its duty and declare war when he thinks war is necessary. He, as well as they, took an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. To abandon that oath for fear that CNN will take him to task for the inevitable fumbles of war is gutless. And I said the same for Bush, Clinton and Reagan, by the way.

It used to be understood that attacking another country without a declaration of war was cowardly and shameful. The Japanese did their best to officially declare war on the US moments before the attack on Pearl Harbor commenced because civilized nations just did not go around attacking others without first announcing their intentions. Our forbears called this ethic "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind." Today, the same people who publicly fret about America's "image in the world" when a terrorist is waterboarded don't give a thought as to how it may look when our leaders ignore our laws, ignore the code of human conduct and bomb countries that haven't bombed us first. It should be easier to declare war than it is to make war, but to cowards in office, it isn't.

The Congress is in recess right now, thank God. If the President wants to wreak destruction on the people and property of Syria, he should ask Congress to convene an emergency session, and the legislature should vote on a proposal to declare war. By that declaration the agents of the Republic would have to explain to the sovereigns of the Republic, as well as to the enemy and to the world, why force is justified. This is what the Constitution demands. It is what the standard of civilized behavior demands. It is what righteousness demands.

© Dan Popp


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