Dear President Barack Obama,
I’m happy to see that you’ve finally come to the decision that we need to actively confront the evil of Islamic terrorism. However, the approach you have decided to take is very dangerous. You see, it’s about that Commander in Chief thing. For the second time during your presidency, you’ve chosen to use the American military without getting Congressional approval. That’s a big problem.
I know that you’ve read our Constitution before because you taught Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago. So you should already know that the Constitution doesn’t say that you are the Commander in Chief of our military. In Article 2, Section 2 it clearly states that:
“The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several states, when called into the actual Service of the United States…” (emphasis added)
The last part of that sentence is extremely important. It means that you don’t get to decide when to use our military. Only Congress gets to make that decision. Your role is simply to direct our armed forces after they have been called into service. Until then, you do not have the legitimate authority to order our military to confront an enemy that Congress hasn’t authorized.
President Barack Obama walks off Marine One after arriving for a fundraiser, on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, in Greenwich, Conn. Obama is traveling to New York and Connecticut for Democratic fundraisers. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Mr. President, surely you understand the importance of the separation of powers in our government. The Framers of our Constitution wanted to make sure that no one group of people in our government had enough power to destroy our freedom.
The power to wage war is one of the greatest powers that we grant to our government; it is certainly more than enough to take away our freedom.
So our Constitution protects the American people by splitting that power between two branches. Congress decides when the military will be used and the president commands the military while it’s in use. The key here is that neither branch has enough power to put our military into action on its own.
But if we continue with your tradition of using the military without Congressional approval, what is there to protect us if a future president decides to use this power for political purposes? Or even worse, if a future president were to use it to destroy our freedom? We can’t allow ourselves to be blinded by the crisis that is in front of us today. We also have to consider how the precedent you are setting could affect us in the long term.
For example, I agree with those who argue that President George W. Bush was wrong to get an Authorization to Use Military Force in 2002 instead of a Declaration of War. For far too long we have been allowing presidents to use military force without Congress formally declaring war. Had we required President Bush to get a formal Declaration of War, that would have forced Congress to more clearly define who exactly the enemy was that we were declaring war on. Once we clarified that, it would have been easier to figure out when we had won the war and when the President was no longer authorized to use the military.
Unfortunately, history has shown that when we allow one president to expand his power somehow, another president is going to build on that. So where President Bush shunned a Declaration of War in favor of a vague and open-ended authorization to use military force, you have decided to ignore Congress altogether. Can you imagine what a future president could do with the precedent that you have now set?
You see, Mr. President, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t confront ISIS. What I’m saying is that you need to go through the proper process and get Congress to pass an official Declaration of War. I know that’s a hassle and it seems like a formality. But believe it or not, the Constitution wasn’t designed this way just to make your life difficult. It was designed this way to protect the American people.
The ability to decide when to wage war is simply too much power to put into the hands of just one person; and it doesn’t matter who that one person is.
Chad Kent is an author and speaker with a unique style that makes the Constitution simple and fun. Listen to Chad every Saturday during The Chris Salcedo Show on TheBlaze Radio and visit his web site at www.ChadKentSpeaks.com.
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