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US Foreign Policy Reform: Respect the Constitutional Separation of Powers

by Thomas G. Brown, published

I have been reading Pat Buchanan's book Where The Right Went Wrong this weekend and it got me thinking about the change in American foreign policy over the past 50 plus years. We went from a country that fought only to protect ourselves from active aggression to one where Washington polices the world. In many ways our government now uses its military hegemony to bully other nations into accepting Washington's broader geopolitical agenda-- how did we get here and how can we reform US foreign policy?

America used to be a shining example in the world of how to treat other nations. We treated other nations how we wanted to be treated ourselves, yet today many citizens consider this idea weak or anti-American. There is no better example of this shift in attitudes than what took place at a South Carolina Republican Presidential Debate where presidential candidate Ron Paul said, "If another country does to us what we do others, we're not going to like it very much. So I would say that maybe we ought to consider a Golden Rule in -- in foreign policy. Don't do to other nations… what we don't want to have them do to us." Interestingly, South Carolina's conservative Christian audience actually booed and jeered at the idea of applying the "Golden Rule" to foreign policy.

America started down this path when Washington started to go to war for the purpose of preventing the spread of Communism.  We first did this in Korea and then in Vietnam which cost the country thousands of lives and billions of dollars.   These were wars over ideas, and changing the hearts and minds of a people at the barrel of a gun is inherently an uphill battle.  What this does is it acts as a recruiting tool for the opposition who rally around nationalism against intervention by a foreign power.

Following the September 11th attacks, Washington took America to war in Afghanistan, which was harboring mastermind Osama bin Laden and his terrorist operations. We went in to dismantle his terrorist network known as Al Qaeda. This mission has been accomplished. As far back as 2009, there were at most, 100 members of this group left in Afghanistan. Yet, President Obama has continued this war which to this point has cost the lives of 1968 men and women and $528 billion dollars in borrowed money that our government doesn't have to spend. So Washington went to war with a purpose, but has remained at war despite accomplishing it.

The current war in Iraq is a prime example of going to war without a clear threat to the security of the United States. Washington has and continues to occupy Iraq since invading that country in 2003. The Bush Administration's original justification for this was that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and had direct ties to terrorist attacks, but this all proved to be hype and fearmongering to justify the goal of the Bush Administration since day one to depose Saddam Hussein and build a permanent U.S. client state in the Middle East. The Bush and now Obama administrations continue to occupy Iraq under the new banner of "building a democratic state in the Middle East as an example to the rest of that region."

In addition to wars in these countries the current administration has carried out other military operations since then which have nothing to do with national defense from an imminent threat, but have everything to do with its foreign policy strategy of nation building. An example is NATO's intervention in Libya. On March 2, 2011 President Obama decided to involve the United States in the civil war brewing in that country. Mr. Obama did this without Congressional approval despite asserting on the campaign trail in 2007 that a president is constitutionally-required to have Congressional approval for military operations like the one in Libya:

"The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action."

But President Obama's administration brushed off candidate Obama's constitutional arguments by asserting that the action in Libya does not rise to the level of military hostilities because "exposure of our armed forces is limited, there have been no U.S. casualties, no threat of U.S. casualties," and "no exchange of fire with hostile forces." The next day, Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) took to his official Facebook page to argue that the Obama Administration's definition of "hostilities" was specious and unserious, noting in a status update that, "Under the President's astonishing and indefensible definition, the United States dropping a nuclear bomb on Libya would not constitute 'hostilities.' Think about that."

Sadly with Libya, as in the case of all the aforementioned interventions, the US Congress did little to assert its constitutional authority and allowed the president to carry on military operations as an unrestrained, unaccountable executive. Of course, this problem of ignoring the Constitution when it comes to war is not just confined to our current president. The previous administration along with Congress, a complicit media, and American voters all share the blame equally. Congress neglected its duty to hold the president accountable by withholding funds to support these unconstitutional actions. American voters did little to voice their outrage against Congress or the president in these violations of the law.

If independent voters want to get this country back under a constitutional government with a foreign policy that is accountable to and designed for the best interests of the American people, they should make it a priority to read and understand the Constitution itself and then hold our elected officials accountable for enforcing it.

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