The power of the Presidency grows inexorably for many reason. One is the political ratchet: each Administration increases some aspects of the Executive’s powers, amidst praise from its partisans and impotent criticism from the loyal opposition. Eventually they trade places, but seldom do these expanded powers get reversed — only a new wave of growth begins.
The latest TomDispatch provides more evidence of this ominous trend.
Introduction by Tom Engelhardt
October 7th marked the eighth anniversary of the Bush administration’s invasion of Afghanistan and so of the… well, can we really call it a war?… that won’t end, that American commanders there now predict could last for another decade or more. And yet, here’s the weird thing: because Congress no longer actually declares war, we officially must be fighting something else entirely. Put another way, we are now heading for the longest undeclared war in U.S. history (depending on how you count up the Vietnam years).
The Obama administration, having doubled down on Afghanistan in March, sending another 21,000 or more U.S. troops as well as extra contingents of civilians, deciding to put a billion dollars into a new embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, and build new or expanded embassy and consular facilities, roads, bases, and prisons in Afghanistan, is now considering yet another expansion of the [you fill in the blank], including up to 40,000 — some reports now say 80,000 — U.S. troops, more drone air strikes, and more training of Afghan forces. And yet, the U.S. is still operating on the pallid “authorization for use of military force” passed by Congress on September 18, 2001 at the behest of the Bush administration. It only authorizes the president “to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States.” No more. War itself — despite all the fighting, the death, and the money spent — has never been declared, and in our present era of ever expanding presidential power, it never will be.
In other words, we are at war without being at war. As in every war since World War II ended, we find ourselves once again in a presidential conflict backed by Congress. Although Senator John Kerry’s Foreign Relations Committee has held hearings on “how the nation should declare war” (a subject that you might think the Constitution had definitively settled), don’t count on the Obama administration to return to Congress for an actual declaration of war as it moves forward in the Af-Pak theater of operations.
George W. Bush is gone, but as David Swanson, TomDispatch regular and author of Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union, makes clear, our increasingly engorged presidency remains essentially untouched, despite the new occupant in the White House.
David Swanson explains how Presidential Power Grows
“Will You Love Every Future President?“, By David Swanson, TomDispatch, 15 October 2009 — Reposted in full with permission.
Presidential power has been on a pathway of expansion beyond what the Constitution outlined, and what a government of, by, and for the people requires, since George Washington was president. That expansion, which hit the highway after World War II, got a turbo boost during the co-presidency of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
Some of the new powers that those two stole from Congress, the courts, the states, and us the people are being abused less severely in this new age of Obama; others, more so; but far more crucially, in a pattern followed by recent presidencies, all are being maintained, if not expanded, and thus more firmly cemented into place for future presidents to use. Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, you are likely to strongly oppose some major decisions of some future presidents. So it shouldn’t be hard to envision some pretty undesirable consequences that might flow from presidential power that increasingly approaches the absolute.