- Paperback: 378 pages
- Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (October 2, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226960323
- ISBN-13: 978-0226960326
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 21 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,588,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs after 9/11
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From these three certainly true facts, he concludes that, "Declarations of war serve a purpose, albeit one that does not answer to the sole authority to initiate hostilities. Declarations do simply what they say they do: they declare. To use the eighteenth-century understanding, they make public, show openly, and make known the state of international legal relationship between the United States and another country" (151).
Yet, unless one is already predisposed to believe that presidents have "sole authority," it is difficult to agree with Yoo's conclusion. The point he ignores is that, in 1776, the colonists rebelled against all royal prerogatives, thereby radically changing the definition of executive power. Further, in 1787, the Founders drafted a Constitution specifically designed to repudiate kings, their prerogatives, and all the trappings of monarchy, including the royal prerogative to declare war. Consequently, the revolution that is the Declare War was drafted specifically to overturn the "original understanding" of previous centuries. That the Congress has subsequently been incapable of exercising its responsibilities under the Declare War Clause is both true, and not a reason to celebrate. Rather, it is a reason to rededicate oneself to the unfinished anti-royalist revolution of 1787.
Still, if one is already predisposed to believe that presidents have "sole authority to initiate hostilities," then Yoo's account is about as strong a defense of that position as has been made.
9/11 overwhelmed the Bush administration. But I do not fault President Bush too much -- realize that such an attack would overwhelm ANY president of either party. Generally, serious terrorism can easily knock over any democratically elected government like a tsunami, and the United States is no exception. Democracies under attack by serious terrorist conspiracies typically revert to an authoritarian structure to fight the attack, and government usually wins its war, but during these times citizens suffer. This happened in the Philippines under Marcos and in Chile under Pinochet. That the Bush administration resorted to extra-legal tactics to try to protect people is understandable but problematic because it undermines freedom and the rule of law. But I think partisans on the left are as clueless as those on the right about what to do.
How can we cope with mysterious thugs hiding in caves seeking weapons of mass destruction? For me, that's the underlying problem. Solve terrorism; and you'll solve the problem of illegal activity by government and make everybody safer. And this requires a non-partisan overhaul of the Constitution.
Thomas W. Sulcer
author of "The Second Constitution of the United States"
(free on web -- google title above + sulcer)
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