One reader with the catchy nom de plume of "PickYourBattles.net" wrote:
Despite the suspicion that PYB is probably not a policy hawk, let's consider his comment. Like so many Americans he brings up the Constitution without apparently having really given it a lot of consideration. I've been unable to find any phrasing regarding winking, blinking, blessing or nodding by Congress as prerequisite to military employment nor do I encounter a definition of "war" as killing foreigners with your military.Ed, you say, "That's a catchy title, but the essence is that you are the sole determinant of what the US military will or will not do."
The sole determinant? Strange, I thought the Constitution mentioned something about the Congress having to approve, bless, nod, wink, or something along those lines before we could engage in military action (what some might call "war" when you're killing foreigners with your military).
What is he referring to?
It could be that the Congress has the authority to "raise an army." That you might recall was a sticky point about the Articles of Confederation which manifested the reluctance of the states to cede their independent militias to a national government. It give Congress a budgetary power to define the US military. But that isn't really a determinant of who, when or where that military will be employed.
The Constitution also gives Congress the authority to "declare war" which is certainly linked to the President's C-in-C responsibility. The only problem there is that the last time we declared a war was 1941. We have quite obviously engaged in many wars since then. So, that doesn't seem to be a stumbling block anymore. In fact, you could make a very strong case that the threat of modern war makes Congressional action, debate, posturing and bloviating totally impractical before forging a response. We will never again see a declaration of war prior to significant military action.
Does Congress have to approve of a C-in-C employing the military?
Well, yes. They will have to authorize the funds at some point. Does that need to be done before the action? Not if you have a trained and equipped force in being, which we do.
Is that funding threat a constraint? Hardly! What politician in his right mind (that leaves out Dennis Kucinich and Sheila Jackson-Lee) would stand before the voters on a platform of having abandoned America's fighting forces in harm's way without a supply of beans and bullets?
So, Congress doesn't have a vote in the employment of the US military. At some point they offer a check/balance, but it isn't in advance and it isn't a very powerful one. I stand by my contention that a President doesn't have to beg, whine, plead, or petition the United Nations prior to taking action with the military in furtherance of American policy goals.