Mark Collins – Saying “No” to American “Perpetual War”

Further to this post,

US Joint Chiefs Chairman “Dempsey warns of ‘perpetual war’”

excerpts from an impassioned piece at Defense One:

Why the Founding Fathers Would Object to Today’s Military
Today’s endless, undeclared and increasingly secret use of U.S. force is exactly what the founding fathers feared most. By Gregory D. Foster [scroll down here under “Civilian and Retired Military”]

Let us start with the Preamble to the Constitution. Whatever the framers’ intent, however aspirational the wording, and notwithstanding the fact that national security wasn’t part of the vernacular of the day, the Preamble stands as America’s enduring security credo.

Its importance is essentially threefold. It lists providing for the common defense (in lower-case letters) as merely one — not the first, not the most important — of the national aims the governing apparatus called for by the Constitution seeks to achieve. Semantically, it captures the normative essence of military affairs as self-defense (not aggression, not power projection). And it thereby implicitly cautions against purchasing defense at the expense of these other strategic priorities — national unity, justice, domestic tranquility, the general welfare, liberty.

The founders had a clear conception of war. It was what occurred whenever military force was employed against another party. It was called what it was — not something euphemistic like “police action,” “stability operation,” “counterinsurgency,” or “humanitarian intervention” — and it was clearly distinguishable from peace, the normal and preferable state of affairs. It had a beginning (to be formally declared by both houses of Congress, the people’s representatives),  a middle (to be executed by the president as commander in chief of the armed forces and funded by Congress with the people’s money) and an end (the determination of which was left unclear). It was undertaken only as a matter of necessity — a last resort, not a matter of choice…

Today, we live in a state of constant, potentially endless war — always, without exception, undeclared; invariably by choice (rhetorically disguised as necessity); frequently in secret (to increase the license to act, while minimizing oversight and accountability [see “Exclusive: U.S. Operates Drones From Secret Bases in Somalia“]; often labeled war (to engender fear and urgency), but just as often labeled something other than war (for reasons of expediency, convenience and legal circumvention); initiated and prosecuted by a now permanently imperial presidency, largely devoid of congressional consultation and consent before the fact, sometimes even with minimal congressional notification after the fact…
Today, we have much of what the founders would have feared most: a totally professional force, largely unrepresentative of American society, increasingly alienated from the public it is supposed to serve, huge in size, gluttonously expensive, more heavily and lethally armed than any other force in the world, deployed all across the globe all of the time, a source of recurring provocation and adventurism, principally prepared for a preferred American way of war that is no longer relevant…

America’s founders were sons of the Enlightenment. Their entire approach to government and politics was based on a foundation of reason. Reason today is in lamentably short supply among public officials presuming to be, if we are to bow to the logic that implicitly underlies representative democracy, the best of us who govern the rest of us. Accordingly, especially for those among us who are sworn “to support and defend the Constitution,” there is more than passing value in reminding ourselves of the enduring importance of these founding ideas.

Ouch.  And in Canada we rarely bother to debate such issues coherently or honestly.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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