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Monday, March 28, 2011

PRESIDENTS NOW WAGE WAR TOO EASILY


THE PREZ WHO STARTED IT ALL: Late 1940s President
"Give 'em Hell" Harry Truman - the first undeclared war-wager.


By Ed Gauthier
Stuck In A M*A*S*H* Unit
With Dr. Hawkeye Pierce

(CNS) -- The U.S. was recently told by the United Nations to jump over and attack Libya, and the U.S. said, "How high?"

Not surprisingly, President Barack Obama sending American fighting forces to interfere in Libya on March 19 via a new version of a "no fly zone" has many prominent political icons wondering, which is no small feat in light of all the other crazy things happening in the last year or so. They have observed with disgust that Obama failed to provide an adequate explanation for making this choice, for starters.

"Lots of confusion," said Republican Tea Party twit Sarah Palin. "What is the mission here in Libya?" Yes, you just read correctly - Palin actually made some sense for once.

A number of prominent Democrats have also scratched their heads as to why the President entered this fight when Congress was not sufficiently consulted.

Sen. James Webb, D-Virginia, and a Vietnam veteran, said, "This isn't the way our system is supposed to work."

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, called the attack an "impeachable offense."

Hopefully, aside from the obvious mission of stealing Libya's oil, the US will also grab that $147 million in gold that the Dhafi one has hoarded up somewhere. At this point, they might as well now go for the whole enchilada!

But how did this happen so quickly and easily? Especially in the case of a foreign country that never attacked America, and in view of the fact that we're busy with several wars already. Surely US Presidents still have to plan and debate such things for many months, and then take it to Congress, do they not? Well, more increasingly, they indeed do not.

Presidents have become far too used to employing military force at their own behest, with few voices demanding democratic consent, and this goes back to the time of Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon in the 1960s doing end runs around Congress, and even before. So when did this insanity start?

Well, shortly after World War II, Congress delegated authority to the President (who at that time was FDR's successor Harry Truman) to start military operations by no longer insisting on an official declaration of war. But it gets worse:

Ever since Truman first used this agreement to send "police action" troops to Korea in 1950, with congressional acquiescence but without a declaration of war, his successors have become more and more comfortable repeating this practice - even to the point of not protesting much when the President didn't even get that initial acquiescence.

However, it must be noted that Truman was a wartime President, so at that time military decisions were never expected to be made by any President during peacetime. Would that some solid "wartime only" language had been added to that Truman era authority delegated by Congress, but sadly they instead left that part wide open.

But if that wasn't bad enough, around that same post WWII period, Truman experienced a huge expansion of his executive powers that increased the institutional resources available to them to analyze information, debate policy and even conduct covert warfare - that's because the National Security Council was created in 1947, which gave the President in-house counsel and expertise on national security decisions, paving the way for Presidents to do much more without Congress.

Another major change came in 1973 with the end of the draft, a measure put out there by Nixon when he was trying to placate the public during the vietnam War in order to get the spotlight off his guilt in the Watergate scandal. change was the end of the draft. In 1940 Congress had passed a permanent draft that remained on the books until Nixon killed it 43 years later.

It was a system that drew from a broad portion of the population, which forced the President to pay close attention to public opinion when going to war and to justify the decision, since many middle-class families, and voters, would feel the cost of war as their sons went abroad. The opposition to the draft played a central role in the anti-war movement in the 1960s.

But after the draft was dismantled during the Nixon era, the government instead relied on a professional volunteer army that was far more removed from the daily life of many middle-class Americans. So now the President could send troops into conflict without prompting most of the country to worry about whether members of their families would have to fight abroad. To add to that, the government can no longer call on the nation to pay for the financial costs of war.

This was an essential element to wartime politics up through Vietnam. During World War I, Congress expanded the progressive income tax and taxed corporate profits. During World War II, the government adopted a system of withholding taxes from paychecks and vastly increased the number of Americans paying income taxes from four million to 44 million. During the Korean War, taxes were raised and during Vietnam, President Lyndon Johnson, in a politically dangerous move, even got Congress to pass a tax surcharge in 1968. But today, no one is asked to sacrifice to pay for war.

The conservative movement shifted public debate to the right, and tax increases became much harder to accomplish even in times of war. During President George W. Bush's administration, for example, Congress cut taxes. As former Majority Leader Tom DeLay once said, "Nothing in the face of war is more important than cutting taxes."

As with the draft, lowering the obligations required of citizens during wartime has made it politically easier for Presidents to enter into conflicts. Strategically, the nation has also tended to fight wars that are different than the massive ground troop operations of World War I, Korea, World War II and Vietnam.

Before 9/11, the U.S. focused on short and limited wars, often against much weaker nations, where the emphasis was on the use of air power rather than ground troops. The U.S. invasion of Grenada in 1983 boosted the morale of American foreign policymakers and bolstered public opinion about the military, despite the extremely limited nature of the operation.

More significantly, Operation Desert Storm (1990-1991) came complete with a huge build up and dramatic rhetoric, followed by the U.S. driving Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait quickly and without suffering many casualties. Even though the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq required substantial commitments of ground forces and lasted for long periods of time, the confidence from the success of Operation Desert Storm has continued.

And in case you thought that all of the above boring history hadn't greased the wheels enough for war-mongering Presidents - during peacetime or otherwise - let's not forget the sheeple-herding media! Since cable news began in the late 1970s, much of the effect of any military operation on the public mind has greatly diminished.

The mass fragmentation of the visual and print media gave Americans far more choices about what to focus their attention on and when. Anyone who wanted to watch TV news in the 1960s would mainly have been forced to rely only on nightly reports about Vietnam on the three major networks. But now they can choose to focus 24/7 on all kinds of semi-scripted reality shows and dozens of other topics on hundreds of channels.

The competition among media outlets for limited audiences also creates immense pressure to find the next big story. Following an initial period of saturation, when every outlet jumps on a story such as Libya, there is a tendency to quickly move on. Therefore, much earlier military operations such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan can become almost invisible to the media eye.

Congress has retained considerable power to cause Presidents political problems after troops have been sent abroad, if they ever decided to use it. This would be done through hearings and threats of funding cuts, as well as by legislators taking their case to the media, but although they've rattled a few sabers over the years, they've done virtually nothing to cause any real roadblocks.

And so Obama's decision fits into a long-standing pattern, one that people should find very troubling, of war becoming far too easy to start, though not necessarily easy to win. In fact, there has been no large scale "victory" declared by the US since WWII.

You know, WWII... just shortly before Congress delegated authority to the President to start military operations without any declaration of war. Coincidence? I think not!


LIBYA? KA-BOOM-YA! The USS Barry (as in Barry Sataro?) launches a
Tomahawk tomato at Libya March 19 in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn.
This was just one of about 110 cruise missiles fired from assorted U.S.
and British ships and subs, targeting about 20 totally awesome anti-
aircraft and radical radar sites along Libya's Mediterranean coast.
Odyssey Dawn - I think that was a stripper I once dated back in the 1980s!

* * *

Recommended reading: PROTOCOLS OF THE ELDERS OF ZION. Contains a new foreword by Texe Marrs. Yes, it turned out it was a compilation of similar-themed works, but ultimately it is NOT fiction. Much of what's going on today in the middle east is predicted in that book. Need I say more? No, but you know I soon will, anyway.

(Boato Photo: Getty Images)