Congress can declare war, not defeat

Published 8:18 pm Monday, March 5, 2007

By By Tray Smith
The Congress shall have the power…to declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water" – Article 2, Section 8, Constitution of the United States of America.
"Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled…the President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to: (1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq."- H.J. Resolution 114, Authorization for the use of Military Force against Iraq, signed into law by President Bush on October 16, 2002.
"We will be looking at a modification of that authorization in order to limit the mission of American troops to a support mission instead of a combat mission, and that is very different from cutting off funds"- Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee
Two months after taking the reins of Congressional power, the Democratic Party still has no consistent policy position on the most defining issue of this decade, the war in Iraq, public opposition to which won them control of Congress this past November. After labeling the Republican 109th Congress as a "do-nothing" group of lawmakers, the Democrats have proceeded to do nothing. Liberal foreign policy discussions begin and end with: "I am against what the President is doing, but I support the troops." The President has just made a decision to send an additional 20,000 troops into battle, and I am sure those soldiers felt the love when the Democratic Congress passed a resolution stating: "Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on Jan. 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq." We have men and women going into battle, and the Democratic Party defines a formal statement of opposition to their deployment as supportive. Next on the Democratic agenda: a nonbinding resolution disapproving of the consumption of Little Debbie cakes so that overweight people will feel more secure.
Fortunately for America, the resolution that passed was non-binding and has no legal force. Thus, it would have been ignored by everyone had the Washington press corps not treated the bill like it was the modern day equivalent of the G.I. Bill. Those ferocious Democrats are so encouraged by the reaction to that bill that they are starting to get anxious for "real action" on the war, and they are torn about which procedure should be followed as they trash the Constitution and seek to reinstate themselves as the 535 commanders-in-chief.
Democratic Presidential candidates consistently speculate about how a Democratic President would end this war, but as George Will has pointed out, a Democratic Congress could end this war by simply cutting off the funding for the effort. But that route is too politically risky. Instead Democrats are trying to find ways to place stipulations on war funding, thus moving the command center from the Generals at CENTCOM to Nancy Pelosi's living room. Another profile in Democratic hypocrisy: the Senate voted unanimously to confirm Gen. David Petraeus as the new U.S. military commander in Iraq, with all Democratic Senators voting yes. They then hastily expressed their opposition the President's troop surge that Petraeus designed.
Congress has the power to declare war. They do not have the power to order retreat. Current proposals to reauthorize the war with a limited mission of our soldiers to certain specialized task may or may not be unconstitutional, but stipulations on funding are. Either of these actions also sets a bad precedent of Congressional micromanagement in wartime. Congress is simply too large to be able to control and lead a military from its committee rooms and chambers. That is why our ingenious founders made the President the commander of chief, an issue upon which the Constitution is clear.
I do not believe the President's troop surge plan is the most effective way to secure our objectives in Iraq. But he is the democratically elected President of the United States, and that decision rests with him and him alone. He and his commanders are privileged to more military knowledge and important information in a day than most people will receive in a lifetime. And though progress on the battlefield has given us little incentive to trust this administration, it is hard to make the case that our goals in Iraq are unachievable.
As our troops flow into Iraq, they need to know they have our support. This could be our last chance for victory, putting the outcome of this entire struggle on their backs. While I believe other policies should have been pursued, I hope the policy that was chosen works for the sake of our country, for the sake of Iraq, and for the sake of the world.
That is the bottom line.
Tray Smith is a sophomore at ECHS and former intern in the Riley administration. He can be reached for comment at

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox