One of the strangest things the week following Bin Laden’s death has revealed is some very odd reactions. None stranger than the comments I have seen in several places “Now that he’s dead, can the soldiers come home.” There are a lot of insults about liberal naïveté here, I’m just going to skip them and get to my main point. We need to start declaring war again.
We haven’t declared war since WWII…yet somehow there have been actions in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq (twice), Libya and half the Caribbean. Now I’ll admit that the problem of modern warfare do not always allow for a formal declaration of war to proceed to hostilities….but what we’ve come to is having military actions that can span multiple administrations and thus dependant on the whim of whoever is in the office (and their whim is often dependant on the whim of the latest polls). This is not how you conduct a cohesive foreign policy. We need to start having declarations of war.
We need declarations of war which defines goals that we wish to accomplish, and conditions for the ending of a state of war….after all when exactly will we be done in Afghanistan? Given the BS of Presidents Carter (for letting the Soviets take over), Bush (for not going in and rebuilding after the collapse of the USSR), Clinton (for letting the Taliban gain power), Bush (for not going in with a plan) and Obama (for having a bipolar policy of doing everything and nothing) that country is so screwed up it will literary take us generations to fix all their problems…do we want to stay in Afghanistan for generations?
What should those conditions for leaving be? Usually it should be something like unconditional surrender (unlike what we did in Iraq where we literally let the army go off and do their own thing) or there not being anyone left alive to surrender (which I really think should be our policy with the Taliban, since they are far beyond the capacity to reason and be dealt with in any civilized manner).
But more importantly the reason for this is that Congress has let the power to declare war, a power given by them and only to them by the Constitution to the President. Giving this kind of power to one person is far far too dangerous and far far too short sighted to be practical. Congress needs to either declare war in Afghanistan and Libya, reasserting this is their power and not the president’s (any president’s, this is not just a problem with Obama) or they need to pass a law ordering the immediate withdrawal from both theaters (honestly, I think we’ve botched these area so much it might just be best to carpet bomb the enemy controlled area and leave).
This will have the advantage of putting more oversight on any war, requiring more planning, and making it clear what our objectives are and when we can and cannot leave.