From the September 2002 Idaho Observer:

Debate over president's power, authority to declare war absurd

by Don Harkins

The federal government recently determined that the president has constitutional authority to declare war. The issue has become important due to the Bush administration's “war on terrorism” and the planned war against Iraq.

Such authority may be argued if only constitutional language is considered. However, the Constitution was not drafted in a vacuum. The best resource available from which the intent of the Founding Fathers may be determined is The Federalist Papers.

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to, among other things, declare war. Federalist Papers #41 and #69 provide the rationale for the vesting of this power in the hands of Congress.

“The President will only occasionally command the militia, only after the Congress has called it into the actual service of the nation by legislative provision.” ~Federalist #69.

To give the president the power to declare war also empowers him to raise and provision armies and place into the hands of one man the authority to determine what constitutes a threat to national security.

Federalist #69 argues that such power is equal to that of a king. All constitutional constructs and separations of powers are intended to insure that no one seat in government accumulates the power of a king.

“Both the President and the king of Great Britain have the title “commander-in-chief,” but the President's power is far more limited than the king's. It is nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces, as first general and admiral of the Union.”

Federalist #41 argues that, “Security against foreign danger is one of the primary objectives of civil society. It is an avowed and essential objective of the American Union. Federal councils must be entrusted with the powers required for attaining it” [emphasis added].

The Federalist Papers examine the cause and nature of war. Federalist #4 states, “The safety of the people of America not only depends on their not giving other nations just causes for war but, also, not putting themselves in situations that invite hostility. It need not be observed that pretended and just causes for war exist.”

Claims by Congress or the president that President Bush has the authority to declare war are absurd and wholly without foundation. The Founders expounded at length on the politics of war and provided that the people shall declare war -- not the president.

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