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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Why not declare war?

I am sure many people wonder why we didn't just "declare war" on Iraq and others instead of the rather flimsy "authorization to use force" that the Congress ultimately gave President Bush.

This Congressional Research Service report (115 pages) outlines the differences between a declaration of war and the authorization of use and details, in depth, the various versions of each throughout the history of the United States.

Here's the main reason we don't want Congress to declare war:
But a declaration of war automatically brings into effect a number of statutes that confer special powers on the President and the Executive Branch, especially concerning measures that have domestic effect. A declaration, for instance, activates statutes that empower the President to interdict all trade with the enemy, order manufacturing plants to produce armaments and seize them if they refuse, control transportation systems in order to give the military priority use, and command communications systems to give priority to the military. A declaration triggers the Alien Enemy Act, which gives the President substantial discretionary authority over nationals of an enemy state who are in the United States. It activates special authorities to use electronic surveillance for purposes of gathering foreign intelligence information without a court order under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It automatically extends enlistments in the armed forces until the end of the war, can make the Coast Guard part of the Navy, gives the President substantial discretion over the appointment and reappointment of commanders, and allows the military priority use of the natural resources on the public lands and the continental shelf. (page 35)

The report is an interesting read and highlights how certain Congressional members are able to "have their cake and eat it too" when it comes to the Battle in Iraq.

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