All The President's Wars: How Foreign Policy Became One Man's Prerogative

As deadly and violent attacks on American embassies and consulates in Libya, Egypt, and elsewhere multiply in the Middle East, it's vitally important to remember that foreign policy decisions - especially acts of war - are not supposed to be the province of one man.

Zach Weissmueller's "All the President's War: How Foreign Policy Became One Man's Prerogative" originally aired on Reason TV on June 22, 2011, but it has never been more relevant than it is today.

Here's the original writeup:

As Barack Obama announces the beginning of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, a far bigger issue - one that goes to the heart of American history and government - remains unaddressed.

"That the President has the right to start a war at his pleasure is just completely divorced from the original meaning of the Constitution," says constitutional scholar Gene Healy.

President Bush declared a war on terror that could theoretically extend into any country accused of harboring terrorists, including the United States itself. President Obama not only expanded the war in Afghanistan soon after taking office, he decided to bomb Libya without consulting Congress.

Healy, author of The Cult of the Presidency and an analyst at the Cato Institute, offers a forceful critique of the increasingly expansive role of the president in not only conducting wars but in declaring them. While the Constitution delegates the declaration of war to Congress, Healy stresses that its members are usually more interested in "handing out the bacon and getting re-elected" than in being held accountable for the success and failure of military interventions.

Michael Ramsey, a constitutional scholar and law professor at the University of San Diego, believes that the Constitution grants the president fairly broad war powers, especially in response to attacks, but even he argues that President Obama's recent Libya intervention has no Constitutional justification.

Is this any way to run a country's foreign policy and military might?

Ramsey and Healy sat down with Reason.tv to discuss how presidential war powers have expanded over time - and whether that's a good thing for the United States and the rest of the world.

Produced and Edited by Zach Weissmueller; shot by Paul Feine, Josh Swain, and Jim Epstein. 

About 9 minutes.

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  • Lyle||

    Thomas Jefferson... what the fuck was he thinking going after the Barbary States?

    For shame!

  • ||

    "Immediately prior to Jefferson's inauguration in 1801, Congress passed naval legislation that, among other things, provided for six frigates that 'shall be officered and manned as the President of the United States may direct.' … In the event of a declaration of war on the United States by the Barbary powers, these ships were to 'protect our commerce chastise their insolence — by sinking, burning or destroying their ships Vessels wherever you shall find them.'"

    Jefferson got permission from congress.

    Twice:

    In 1802, in response to Jefferson's request for authority to deal with the pirates, Congress passed "An act for the Protection of Commerce and seamen of the United States against the Tripolitan cruisers", authorizing the President to "…employ such of the armed vessels of the United States as may be judged requisite… for protecting effectually the commerce and seamen thereof on the Atlantic ocean, the Mediterranean and adjoining seas."

  • Paul.||

    Having to get permission from congress is racist.

  • ||

    Only proto-Confederates like James Madison and Thomas Jefferson and Mephistopheles ask for permission in technical accordance with the restrictions of their offices. Bad muh-fuckuz like Emperor Barack I don't ask for nothing.

  • Calidissident||

    I love how this dude just ignore your counter-proof like it doesn't exist

  • Lyle||

    Didn't declare War though. And I don't think they ever had permission to attack the Barbary States on land... which they did unconstitutionally apparently.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Uh...the Barbary states were pirate states that pillaged Americans so the USG was duty bound to destroy them. So going after the Barbstates was logically sound constitutional procedural questions aside.

  • Lyle||

    Not necessarily. It was more complicated than fighting pirates on the high seas.

    Read this from Christopher Hitchens about it. He talks about how Jefferson got his war with the Barbary states by not adhering tightly with the Constitution.

    http://www.city-journal.org/ht.....erson.html

    "Jefferson had long sought a pretext for war. His problem was his own party and the clause in the Constitution that gave Congress the power to declare war. With not atypical subtlety, Jefferson took a shortcut through this thicket in 1801 and sent the navy to North Africa on patrol, as it were, with instructions to enforce existing treaties and punish infractions of them. Our third president did not inform Congress of his authorization of this mission until the fleet was too far away to recall."

  • Cytotoxic||

    Yeah Jefferson sucked but killing the pirates was right in and of itself. Just not the questionable means used by Jeffy.

  • DJF||

    Since Congress, specifically the Senate is the one who ratifies treaties how is enforcing treaties which are considered to be equal to the Constitution going against the Constitution?

  • Lyle||

    Probably because the treaty didn't authorize military force.

    Congress didn't back Jefferson until hostilities had commenced in the Mediterranean.

  • Lyle||

    military enforcement

  • R C Dean||

    Treayies are not equal to the Constitution. A treaty can violate the Constitution.

  • Lyle||

    Libya under Qaddafi was arguably a kind of pirate state.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Plus - bitchin' uniforms and babes!

  • Lyle||

    I wonder where those babes are today?

  • Cytotoxic||

    Er...maybe...hence our right to bomb it, because Libya's government was not rights-respecting.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    Except they weren't attacking US shipping, so the Barbary logic doesnt apply

  • Lyle||

    Well, it does work, I think, under just war theory. You're right it's not a piracy analogy, but a just war theory analogy which were arguments Jefferson also used... if we're talking about Obama's intervention in Libya.

    Responsibility to protect is just a modern formulation of just war theory.

    ... and Qaddafi was definitely guilty of air piracy. He made angels out of the people on that Pan Am flight. And of course he bombed a bar in Germany killing some U.S. soldiers. Those weren't reasons for Obama's intervention on the side of Libyan revolutionaries, but Qaddafi was a despot and gave the world a lot of reasons to end his regime.

    He was probably also trafficking people into your Europe for sex work.

    My bringing up of Jefferson though wasn't to make an analogy, but to show how early on in our history Presidents abused the Constitution to get their way in foreign policy matters.

  • juris imprudent||

    Now finally we have a difference between Team Blue and Team Red. Team Blue only supports war when their Team is in charge (go Big O), whereas Team Red has to think really, really hard about when blowing shit up isn't a good idea.

  • Brett L||

    O-H-uh oh?

  • ||

    This is crazy.

    Obama clearly got permission from the UN for its actions in Libya.

    Why would Obama need Congress's approval when he already has the UN's approval.

    Absurd.

  • ||

    Why the fuck haven't we withdrawn from the United Nations? Extranational slavemakers are the sort of people we really don't need.

  • ||

    Cut the funding.

  • ||

    How? By setting ourselves on fire to avoid taxation by dying?

  • ||

    Washington and Jefferson are spinning in their graves. It's looking more and more as if the President's a monarch and Congress is an advisory conference rubberstamping his usurpations of power.

  • Paul.||

    How's this for foreign policy:

    1. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi met with his ministers on Wednesday, all of whom demanded that the U.S. government show a clear-cut stance against a filmmaker whose movie they say insults the Muslim Prophet Mohammed http://www.examiner.com/articl.....-filmmaker

    2. Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, said the White House has “reached out to YouTube to call the video to their attention and ask them to review whether it violates their terms of use.”

    However, the video remained on the site as of Friday afternoon, and it is posted many other places on the Internet.

    Messages to YouTube, and Google, which owns the site, were not immediately returned Friday. On Wednesday, a YouTube spokesperson said the video “is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube.”

    [Youtube said] that the site restricted access in Libya and Egypt because of the unrest. “We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy and which also enables people to express different opinions. This can be a challenge because what’s OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere,” the spokesperson said.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....ingtonpost

    So it looks to me that the State Dept snapped-to and immediately went to work on this request.

  • Paul.||

    Can we speculate a bit here?

    Since Youtube has done a half-measure, left it on the site but restricted it overseas, it's possible this won't satisfy the state dept.

    Could the state department initiate an FTC complaint that Youtube is violating its terms of service with its users, thus getting a court to order it taken down or face FTC fines?

  • ||

    Google issued a statement directed at the federal government that basically amounted to "eat shit and fuck off". It was in the newsfeed. I hope the State Department isn't retarded enough to fight Google on this.

  • Paul.||

    Given that Carney went way... way WAY out of his way to critique the film on its artistic merits, I'm guessing that the Art Critic in Chief's administration will not be satisfied and will take further action.

    They have proven to be utterly craven and shameless in regard to diplomatically defending the 1st amendment rights of Americans, I now expect them to start aggressively moving against the citizens of this country to squelch any speech which they "...have judged to be reprehensible and disgusting" -- Jay Carney's words, in case you were wondering.

  • ||

    Yeah. At the very least, the administration's going to issue further condemnations of the filmmaker and his work. And that's if we're lucky and Barack I and his cabinet of sycophantic mongoloids refrain from actively buttfucking Google for its insolence.

    At this point, I find myself gagging in utter disgust every time someone calls Obama "President". What a fucking joke he and his executive department are.

  • Paul.||

    He is no longer my president.

    He and his administration have conclusively demonstrated that they will not defend me in my 1st amendment rights* to foreign people who would kill me.

    I would never fully expect my president to defend what I said, but I would demand that he would defend my right to say it. He and his cabinet have failed utterly in this regard.

    *all dependent, of course, on how he views the artistic merit in the content of that speech.

  • ||

    Oh, don't worry. In an era like this, one where Americans are generally content to be ruled by domineering fucks like Obama, you can expect anything but the fulfillment of the duties for which the offices of the aforementioned domineering fucks were actually instituted.

    Take it in the ass and make nice to the murderous theocrats. Jay Carney told you to, so do it.

  • Cytotoxic||

    I think this presidential election is all carefully to force libertarians to vote for Romney, thereby making them dead inside. I of course wouldn't do it because I don't give in to terror!1 But Obama is really doing a bang-up job of making Willard look good.

  • Killazontherun||

    When Obama's press lackeys started calling this statement by Romney:

    America will not tolerate attacks against our citizens and against our embassies. We’ll defend also our constitutional rights of speech, and assembly, and religion. We have confidence in our cause in America. We respect our Constitution. We stand for the principles our constitution protects. We encourage other nations to understand and respect the principles of our constitution, because we recognize that these principles are the ultimate source of freedom for individuals around the world.

    a gaffe, a bungled performance clearly showing the man is unfit for the office, I felt like I was in that surreal land that you describe above.

  • ||

    Wow.

    I have a passionate, acute hatred for the man and his abettors. Seriously. Fuck them all to death.

  • Cytotoxic||

    I remember the media going on about that. We've entered the fucking Twilight Zone.

    I don't want to make excuses for Romney or Team Red, but the play field is really slanted against them. If they were as radical as we wanted them to be, the'd be New Hitler. That's just how it would be. Of course, that seems to happen anyway so whatever. Team Re'd persecution complex is less of a complex than I thought.

  • Killazontherun||

    Bill Maher ranted about Muslims in his movie as well. I guess it's different when your lefty buddies in Hollywood do it, but if an Egyptian man furious about how the minority he belongs to his persecuted does it, well that's intolerable bigotry straight up. Don't fear, SPLC is on the case!

  • Killazontherun||

    he belongs to his persecuted

  • ||

    There was a clip on the news today of the filmmaker being mobbed by journalists, and they were all spinning the GUILTY AGIGATOR BIGOT OMG WTF angle in his face.

    "You INSTIGATED this MASS CIVIL UNREST with your INTOLERANCE and you have NOTHING TO SAY?!"

    What a fucking farce.

  • Cytotoxic||

    The death of the media industry cannot happen soon enough. I keep hearing about how the internet and bloggers are diluting the MSM power is there any evidence of that?

  • VG Zaytsev||

    The death of the media industry cannot happen soon enough.

    I completely agree.

    In the recent past I thought they were just irrelevant but they've demonstrated that they are active and joyful enemies of freedom and liberty.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    He and his administration have conclusively demonstrated that they will not defend me in my 1st amendment rights* to foreign people who would kill me.

    But, but, but HATE SPEECH!

    I was told by an Obamabot that the "film" maker needs to be prosecuted for what others around the world have done because he has upset the greater good.

    Really.

  • juris imprudent||

    What really fucking fries me about Carney isn't that he is such a twisted turd that he actually believes a single word that passes from his lips. No, it is that he thinks that anyone else will believe them. Sadly he is partially right, and the leftist halfwits in this country grab their spoons to feast on his projectile vomit.

  • juris imprudent||

    Are you kidding? Please Hilary - send the goon squad to Google this minute. Please make it crystal clear what is important in this matter!

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    Speaking of free speech, the website for the Irish Daily Star has gone offline after they printed the Naked Kate photos.
    http://metronews.ca/scene/3708.....taly-next/

  • ||

    There's not a single country in Europe whose government does not have plenary discretion over media censorship. Not one.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Europe is the scum of First World.

  • Killazontherun||

    I have to say, I saw a lot of pro-American comments from Europeans on the comment section attached to the video. Really took me back. You are essentially right because the people of Europe have even less ability to control their bureaucratic elites than we do. Several votes clearly went against the EU in the 90's and those were merely shrugged aside as the EU 'crats asserted their power.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Hm maybe I was harsh but Europe really is 'different'. We think us libertarians have it bad here. Hey at least we have a fight. Libertarians are hated here because they are understood. In Europe they are not even known.

  • ||

    You weren't harsh at all -- especially not in the context of governance. We shouldn't be pulling any punches in our censure of domestic authoritarianism, and we sure as fuck shouldn't be pulling any punches with the outside world.

  • Ted S.||

    The impression I get, largely talking to people on a Finnish board, is that there's a substantial minority of people who feel that the reality isn't what the Brussels Class in politics and the media would want the people to believe, and a resentment that this establishment class won't listen to them.

    It's especially the case when it comes to multiculturalism and immigration from the third world, and this sector of the Finnish really resents the expats who try to lecture them about how uncosmopolitan Finland is in their eyes.

  • ||

    Imagine how unconscionably frustrating and disheartening it must be to be a libertarian Frenchman, say, or a libertarian Brit. If it's a nightmare for us, it's Satanic perma-rape for them.

  • Cytotoxic||

    I don't feel as much pity because there is one thing they should do and one thing only: LEAVE. Come to America or better yet Canada! Yay Canada!

    Europe is going to get worse. I see ugly clouds on the horizon. Seriously GTFO now.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    They'll wait too long. Soon it will be East Berlin '61 again and they'll have to tunnel out.

  • ||

    It depends on the country. I've met libertarians from multiple European countries, and what they deal with differs from nation to nation.

    The Canadian libertarian I know eventually wants to move to the U.S.

    Not sure how the British libertarian feels. He never got into what it's like back home, at least not around me.

    Surprisingly, some parts of Georgian government are pretty open to free-market ideas. The guy I knew had worked for the Ministry of Economic Development. It actually has a Privatization Department. That's what he was a part of. He also mentioned that he'd talked to government figures about libertarian ideas. So it's not unknown there.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Georgian president Saakishvili is a huge free-market buff and a general champion of freedom. He is a personal hero of mine.

  • ||

    Yeah. The guy I knew mentioned having spoken to, not the president himself perhaps (I think), but the vice-president maybe? Someone pretty far up the chain, at any rate. It was pretty cool coming from a guy whose country used to be part of the Soviet bloc.

  • ||

    I meant he spoke to the politician about more free-market support in Georgia. Not just talked about the weather or something.

  • Killazontherun||

    When tracking those comments I came across this:

    Typical perverted, Jewish American crap from California.

    Patrick Downey 25 seconds ago

    Name caught my eye so I looked up his bio:

    I am a persecuted white, Christian, Irish-American seeking political asylum in Russia.

    I was deported and banned from Ireland on St. Patrick's Day, 2011 by Ireland's first ever Jewish Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter.
    by Patrick Downey
    Latest Activity
    Sep 8, 2012
    Date Joined
    Aug 4, 2012
    Location
    Moscow
    Country
    Russia

    Then, I found this Youtube video of the 'political exile', http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZhCAluNgE4

    It's a howler. The ratio of taking ones self way too seriously, to the degree you have something to actually say, much less get 'exiled' over, is laughably inverse.

    I dropped him an e-mail. Told him he's short. Haven't heard back from him as of yet.

  • ||

    What a cunt. He's not even worth a joke.

  • sloopyinca||

    Somebody explain to me why we are against involuntary commitment again...

  • ||

    Because if we were to involuntarily commit this guy, we'd be paying for it. And then, we wouldn't have the joy of seeing this guy voluntarily leave the country, and seek asylum in Russia, of all places. This is hilarious.

  • General Butt Naked||

    Plus, it would most definitely feed into his persecution complex.

  • Ted S.||

    There's a reason why, if there's one group I'm bigoted against, it's the Southern-Irish Americans.

  • Xenocles||

    Holy fuck. I can't believe the PSU players just dumped Gatorade on their coach for beating Navy. Congratulations on winning your first game of the season (out of three) against a team that literally expels students who get as big as your players.

  • Jerry on the road||

    OT: FBI arrest teen trying to blow up Chicago bar

    Undercover FBI agents arrested an 18-year-old American man who tried to detonate what he believed was a car bomb outside a downtown Chicago bar, federal prosecutors said Saturday.

    Adel Daoud, a U.S. citizen from the Chicago suburb of Hillside, was arrested Friday night in an undercover operation in which agents pretending to be terrorists provided him with a phony car bomb.
  • Voros McCracken||

    So more accurately:

    "FBI arrest teen who tried to help the FBI blow up a Chicago bar."

  • ||

    good. hey, maybe he can get a steve earle song written about him!

  • sloopyinca||

    Why am I not surprised you fully support entrapment?

  • Brett L||

    Sigh. Rule #1. Anyone who offers to sell you a bomb is a Fed.

  • sloopyinca||

    Man gets caught stealing $714 from woman fleeing hurricane. Sentenced to 5 years with 4-1/2 years suspended. The judge stays the sentence so he can go through the appeals process, and the man has not yet been fired from his job.

    Guess what the convict does for a living?

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    Without peeking, I guess COP.

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    Fuck, not just a cop but the Chief!!!

  • General Butt Naked||

    Umm, professional Reason commenter?

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    Does anybody get paid for this?

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    Yes

  • General Butt Naked||

    Got my check this morning.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    The best thing about being a paid reason commenter is that I get paid in Kochs. I fucking love getting Kochs. Kochs are in both large and small denominations, but nothing feels good like getting a huge payment of Kochs. They really fill up my bank account, and seeing all those Kochs in my hand just feels good.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    crap. I get paid in East German Marks.

  • juris imprudent||

    Check? pfshaw - Kruggerrands bitches.

  • Brett L||

    Was just telling stories with my roommate who worked the Katrina recovery in New Orleans. He said, "I wasn't scared of the Bloods or the Crips or the looters or anyone, unless they were wearing the colors of NOPD."

  • sloopyinca||

    Wow. USC is about to lose to Stanford.

    Lane Kiffin is such a fucking scumbag. This will make me very happy.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    that might cut into the player bonuses

  • sloopyinca||

    That throws a monkey-wrench into a lot of peoples' expectations for the NCG this year. So did the VA Tech CHokies game today.

  • Calidissident||

    As a USC student, I can't believe that fucking happened. And I don't know what Kiffin was thinking with his play calls on that last drive

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