Saturday, May 29th, 2010
As I read Federalist 23, I thought about attacks the United States has endured in the last century: especially the air attack on Pearl Harbor, and September 11, when hijacked commercial airliners were flown into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and United Airlines Flight 93 was crashed before it could reach its target. These types of attacks have been unimaginable to the people of the United States, even our leaders at the highest levels of government, until they occur. And the only certainty is that our country will eventually be attacked again, in a new creative way, that we once again cannot imagine.
Alexander Hamilton knew this. His words, “The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are infinite….” and, “it is impossible to foresee or define the extent and variety of national exigencies, or the correspondent extent and variety of the means which may be necessary to satisfy them,” ring true as we remember the wars our country has fought through the years since 1787, and the many times the President has had to send troops into hostile situations.
The founders wisely built checks and balances into our national defense. While the Congress is given the power in Article I, Section 8 to declare war and to raise and support troops, the President is designated as the Commander in Chief in Article II, Section II, a power used broadly by Presidents to send troops where the President has deemed necessary. The War Powers Act of 1973 attempted to clarify and formalize consultation with Congress by the President when sending troops into hostile situations, and put a time limit on troops sent by the President without Congressional approval. The Constitutionality of this law has been questioned, some have advocated for its repeal, and most recently in July, 2008 a bi-partisan Commission led by former Secretaries of State James Baker and Warren Christopher, recommended improvements.
While there is tension between the executive and congressional branches over the parameters of their war powers, it is imperative that our government provide for our defense, and be given the power to do so. Whether it be stopping Hitler and Japan in World War II, halting the spread of communism, as was attempted in Vietnam, or fighting terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq, our American Troops, directed by our Commander in Chief, have bravely kept our country safe and preserved our liberty.
It is fitting we read Federalist No. 23 on this Memorial Day Weekend. Let us honor those men and women who have sacrificed their lives so that our freedom lives on, and let us be thankful for the wisdom of our founders who knew that providing for the common defense was best left in the hands of our federal government.