The Past Is Another Planet


Glenn Reynolds, writing in Reason in 1999:

[O]ur current situation–with so many foreign troop deployments that even military buffs can't keep track of them all and with wars initiated essentially on presidential whim–would have horrified the Framers.

Update: Glenn projects all kinds of meaning onto this post, denies (not very convincingly) that his views have changed, and claims, bizarrely, that the Afghan and Iraqi campaigns were preceded by congressional declarations of war. He headlines the post "When Mindless Snark Substitutes for Thought," to which I can only reply: "Indeed."

Update #2: Glenn has added another response to his post, the most salient line of which is "I'm not really sure what point Walker was trying to make in his post anyway." You can say that again. His earlier comments said I took a "cheap shot" at him, even though my post contained no shots at all; that it was "mindless snark," even though it included no snarky commentary; and that it is "typical of what passes for antiwar analysis," even though it said nothing about the war. Yes, I'm against the Iraq war, but so what? The most die-hard hawk could find it funny that Glenn used to use that sort of rhetoric.

My sole observation in the original post was the title: "The Past Is Another Planet." Glenn could have responded, "Ho ho, yes, September 11 did change a few things." He could have responded, "I know that doesn't sound like me, but it's actually pretty consistent with my current views." Instead he took it as a personal attack.

He also says this:

Walker responds that I have so changed my views. Er, no. He also says that the Congressional declarations were not declarations of war. Actually, they were. But even if one were to accept what I think is his argument—that they were authorizations to use military force against a named enemy, but not technically declarations of war—they surely undercut any claim that we went to war on President Bush's "whim."

Glenn is correct that I believe a declaration of war and a military engagement authorized by Congress are different animals. I'm not the only one who draws this distinction. As any competent historian will tell you, the U.S. has not formally declared war since 1941. We've been at war since then, but that's not the same thing. (In a weird touch, Glenn states that Eugene Volokh agrees with him that the congressional authorizations of force are declarations of war. To demonstrate this, he links to a Volokh post headlined "More on Why War Doesn't Require a Declaration of War." It concludes with a comment that whether "the Congressional authorization of the use of force is legally tantamount to a declaration of war" is "a separate issue.")

Has Glenn changed? Reread the original quote, which not only mentions wartime whims but complains that there are "so many foreign troop deployments that even military buffs can't keep track of them all." Read the original context—an exchange in our letters section—and chew over this part:

When it comes to projecting power abroad, militias aren't as good….To the Framers, who feared not only standing armies but also the imperial ambitions they would bring, this unsuitability for foreign missions was not a flaw but a feature: A militia-based defense strategy was far less likely to produce foreign entanglements and wars.

Read the original article that inspired the exchange, too. Then ask yourself, "Can I imagine Glenn Reynolds writing that today?"