Friday, March 02, 2007

Congress had another choice

This oped piece by former Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee is a welcome reminder that back in October 2002, when the Senate was considering the resolution authorizing something like war, there were more than two choices available, beyond giving the president what amounted to a blank check or refusing to do so.

Sen. Carl Levin offered a substitute resolution, one that called for United Nations approval before force could be authorized. As Sen. Chafee writes, the resolution was "nimble: it affirmed that Congress would stand at the ready to reconsider the use of force if, in the judgment of the president, a United Nations resolution was not 'promptly adopted' or enforced. Ceding no rights or sovereignty to an international body, the amendment explicitly avowed America's right to defend itself if threatened." It was defeated by about the same margin by which the ultimate resolution was passed, with almost all those voting against Levin's resolution voting for the president's.

I still find the passing of resolutions of whatever character troubling. The Constitution give Congress, and only Congress, the power to declare war. It's not as if this were an emergency situation in which there was an attack that had to be responded to immediately. There was time for a decision on whether vto declare war. Congress -- as it has since World War II -- abdicated this responsibility. Unless it regains a sense of its constitutional responsibility we are in fairly constant danger of being plunged into unwise wars.

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