home > archive > 2002 > this article
Bush does not need a declaration of warBy Alan Caruba
web posted September 9, 2002
To all those whining about whether President Bush has the authority to attack Iraq in order to achieve a "regime change", the answer is that history is on the President's side, as well as the legal authority to act.
A friend who is well versed in history provided a wealth of examples in which the US exercised military power to defend its interests without requesting a formal declaration of war. The fact is that Congress has declared war on only five occasions; the War of 1812 against Britain (1812-1815), the Mexican War (1846-1848), the Spanish-American War (1898), World War I (1914-1918), and World War II (1939-1945).
There are more than two hundred instances in which presidents have sent armed forces into hostile situations to protect US lives and property without a declaration of war. On our own lands, US forces fought many battles with Native Americans from the 1840's to the 1860's to protect settlers and clear routes to the West for Americans seeking a new life to farm, mine and log the vast reaches of the nation beyond the Mississippi. Our first intervention outside the US was an undeclared war with the Philippines with intense battles between 1899 and 1902. Prior to that, in 1887, US power established our claim to Hawaii.
In more recent times, the US fought 95% of the modern wars in Korea (1950-1953) and in Vietnam (1959-1975) without a formal declaration. Desert Storm in 1989 and our incursion into Afghanistan were and are full-blown conflicts. The hard reality is that only the US has the military power to address threats to peace in the world. No other nation comes close.
There are so many examples of the assertion of US power in our history that one wonders why there is a fuss about deposing a modern day dictator that everyone knows is capable of killing his own people and launching weapons of mass destruction against his enemies. Saddam Hussein has made war on Iran and on Kuwait. The first ended in a stalemate and the second required US power to dislodge him. Despite the outcries from Europe and Arab nations, there isn't one of them who wouldn't welcome the removal of this madman.
The US is very good at this if history is any measure. We occupied Mexico's California province in 1848 and, between 1848 and 1855, US Marines were sent to Panama to protect US lives and property. The Marines participated with Europeans in crushing the Chinese Boxer rebellion in 1900. In 1906, US Marines restored order in Cuba, which is why we still occupy Guantanamo.
In more modern times, former President Reagan sought to assist Christian Lebanese in 1982. A year later, a suicide bomber killed nearly 250 Marines and other service members. That same year, 1983, Reagan invaded Grenada to remove a Marxist dictator. US troops have been used to restore order in Haiti, Somalia, and Bosnia. All of this occurred without a formal declaration of war.
One should bear in mind that many of those Democrats demanding a declaration of war were reluctant to support Desert Storm. On January 12, 1991, the resolution to initiate American involvement was subject to "no" votes from Senators Dodd, Biden, Hollings, Leahy, Byrd, and the current Senate Majority leader, Daschle. The vote in the Senate was 52-47. It can be argued, too, that former President Clinton's feckless use of our military power or failure to use it simply emboldened bin Laden and other crazed Islamists to view the US as a paper tiger.
In my view, we are better off without the formal support of our European "allies" or any other nation. Only Great Britain has been vocal in its support, but quietly, behind the scenes, we are receiving plenty of cooperation from many nations, including Arab nations, despite all the claims that we are acting "unilaterally" or the suggestion we will kick off World War III. Removing Saddam will prevent World War III.
Intervention will also provide Iranians the opportunity to overthrow the dictatorial ayatollahs against whom they have been marching in the streets for a long time now. What will happen in Syria and even Saudi Arabia is anyone's guess, but the likelihood is that they too will be forced to adopt modern, democratic governments in the fullness of time so long as American power is there to back up the demand for freedom. And we will be there because once into Iraq we will own it and we will be obligated to guide it for several decades toward democracy.
We are going to liberate the Middle East. The "Arab Street" may not like the idea now, but they will thank us for it later. We have no other real choice except to wait for the next attack on our nation and the next and the next.
The real lessons of history teach us that failing to take action is far more dangerous than permitting tragedies like the last two World Wars. Nor should we forget for a minute that our nation has been attacked by Islamic Jihadists, supported by Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab nations.
The claim that this is all about oil is a smokescreen, but neither should we forget that this nation requires oil, as do all other industrial nations. Try functioning for an hour without electricity. Try thinking about filling your refrigerator without the trucks necessary to move food throughout this nation every day. And ask yourself who is blocking our ability to access and extract 16 billion barrels of oil in Alaska? Answer: Democrats and their environmental supporters.
On September 11, 2002, we must resolve to right the terrible wrong perpetrated on this nation by our enemies. They killed over 3,000 of us on a single day. We must remember our history and we must exercise our power to fight the enemies of freedom and liberty.
Alan Caruba writes "Warning Signs", a weekly commentary posted at www.anxietycenter.com, the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. (c) Alan Caruba, 2002
Other related stories: (open in a new window)
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!
© 1996-2019, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.