Vox Populi
A Letter to the Editor

In Response to Richard E. Berg-Andersson's Commentary
Dealing with War Powers

Thursday, September 19, 2002

by Kenneth Stremsky

I liked your September 13, 2002 Commentary dealing with war powers; however, I wish you had mentioned that Article One, Section Eight says Congress and not the President of the United States of America has the power

"To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To Constite Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court."

The Constitution does not grant the President of the United States of America as much power as you think it does in wartime. Our modern War with Terrorism began when our Marines were murdered in Lebanon in the early 1980s; our first war with terrorism began shortly after our country was founded and we called those terrorists 'pirates'.

President George Washington's Farewell Address discusses the foreign policies the United States of America should have if it wants its citizens to be safer and wants to fight fewer wars in the future. He wrote:

In the execution of such a plan nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations and passionate attachments for others should be excluded, and that in place of them just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable when accidental or trifling occasions of disputes occur.

So, likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill will, and a disposition to retaliate in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld; and it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation) facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country without odium, sometimes even with popularity, gliding with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial, else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.

To repeat that which President Washington wrote:

Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur.

I think it is stupid for the United States of America to say that Iran is part of the axis of evil that includes Iraq and North Korea. Decades before the Iranian hostage crisis and support of terrorism against the the United States of America by Iran, President Eisenhower removed Mossadegh from power in the early 1950s and replaced him with the Shah of Iran who was an evil man. Our government supported the Shah of Iran for decades because our country cared more about cheap oil than human rights. Iran has slowly modified some of its politics towards most of the world in the last decade and President Bush did not help the forces in Iran that are trying to make Iran less hostile to the world when he said Iran is part of the axis of evil.

Saying Iran is part of the axis of evil is also stupid for military reasons because Iran borders Iraq. During World War II, the United States of America and the Soviet Union fought Germany. A war with Iraq might have fewer casualities and lead to a shorter presence of U.S. forces in Iraq if Iran and the United States of America forgive each other for the harm they have done each other, establish full diplomatic relations, and sign a trade treaty that boosts the economies of the United States of America and Iran.

Again to repeat that which President Washington wrote:

It also leads to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill will, and a disposition to retaliate in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld.

My mother has lived in Israel for many years and I believe that the policy that the United States of America has had with Israel for many years has harmed both Israel and the United States of America. I believe that the United States of America should have two standards dealing with foreign policy. Good relationships with countries that have fair elections and human rights. Mediocre or little relationships with countries that have fair elections and/or human rights missing. Saudi Arabia and Israel fall into the second category. Israel is treating Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza Strip the way that Jews were treated in ghettos in Poland.

The Art of War Sun Tzu translated by General Samuel B. Griffith says how conventional wars and unconventional wars should be fought: the following excerpt comes from pages 82, 83, and 84 of this work and I believe the advice will decrease the probability that our country will ever fight again the way that we did in Vietnam:

24. Now there are five circumstances in which victory may be predicted:

25. He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.

26. He who understands how to use large and small forces will be victorious.

Tu Yu: There are circumstances in war when many cannot attack few, and others when the weak can master the strong. One able to manipulate such circumstances will be victorious.

27. He whose ranks are united in purpose will be victorious.

Tu Yu: Therefore, Mencius said: 'The appropriate season is not as important as the advantages of the ground; these are not as important as harmonious human relations.'

28. He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.

Ch'en Hao: Create an invincible army and await the enemy's momeny of vulnerability.

Ho Yen-hsi:... A gentleman said: 'To rely on rustics and not prepare is the greatest of crimes; to be prepared before-hand for any contingency is the greatest of virtues.'

29. He whose generals are able and not interfered with by the sovereign will be victorious.

Tu Yu:... Therefore Master Wang said: 'To make appointments is the province of the sovereign; to decide on battle, that of the general.'

Wang Hsi:...A sovereign of high character and intelligence must be able to know the right man, should place the responsibility on him, and expect results.

Ho Yen-hsi:... Now in war there may be one hundred changes in each step. When one sees he can, he advances; when he sees that things are difficult, he retires. To say that a general must await commands of the sovereign in such circumstances is like informing a superior that you wish to put out a fire. Before the order to do so arrives the ashes are cold. And it is said one must consult the Army Supervisor in these matters! This is as if in building a house beside the road one took advice from those who pass by. Of course the work would never be completed!

To put a rein on an able general while at the same time asking him to suppress a cunning enemy is like tying up the Black Hound of Han and then ordering him to catch elusive hares? What is the difference?

30. It is in these five matters that the way to victory is known.

31. Therefore I say: 'Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.

32. When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. 33. If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril.'

Li Ch'uan: Such people are called 'mad bandits'. What can they expect if not defeat?

My website is http://www.geocities.com/kstremskyforpresident


Ken Stremsky
Republican candidate for President of the United States of America in 2004

Mr. Berg-Andersson responds:

The main point of my Commentary of 13 September was that there is a "gray area" in between a sudden attack which the President appears to have the power to repel without necessarily or immediately consulting Congress (I would put the attacks of 11 September 2001 in this category) and that which requires a Declaration of War from Congress per Article I, section 8 of the US Constitution (I would put any military action re: the current threat level from the regime of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in this category). Assuming that a condition of Peace is "condition GREEN", the former condition (surprise attack on the United States) would be "condition RED" and the latter condition (dealing with an indirect, less than imminent, danger from abroad) would be "condition YELLOW"; liberally borrowing the color code of alert levels used by the U.S. Office of Homeland Security, I referred to the "gray area" (into which the Bush Administration- or so it appears- currently wishes a present Iraqi "threat" to be placed) as "condition ORANGE"-- in such a case, at bare minimum, a Congressional Resolution would be in order (and, so it appears as of this typing, it seems we are rather likely to get just that-- though only that!). To reiterate my own position: in the case of war with Iraq as contemplated at present, a Congressional Resolution is simply not good enough- since it is "YELLOW" and not "ORANGE" as I defined these in my Commentary; a Declaration of War would be much more advisable- as well as necessary under the terms of the Constitution of the United States itself.

I'm not sure exactly to what Mr. Stremsky is referring when he writes "The Constitution does not grant the President of the United States of America as much power as you think it does in wartime"; I assume that he refers to what I have said about the President's powers in what I called "condition ORANGE" (that "gray area" between "RED" and "YELLOW"), for- in my Commentary- I discussed how the Framers of the Constitution themselves- on the floor of the Constitutional Convention of 1787- allowed for the repulsion of sudden attack ("RED" in my terminology) by the Executive alone (hence their specifically placing the power to "declare"- but [note!] not "make"- war in Congress) and also appear to have assumed that any military actions in and of themselves would be carried out under orders by the President (so long as- absent response to sudden attack- they were authorized by Congress). The other powers of Congress Mr. Stremsky cites from Article I, section 8- "granting Letters of Marque and Reprisal", "defining... offenses" and "making rules...", etc. are, like a Declaration of War itself, specific documentary actions authorizing (that is, putting onto paper by majority vote of Congress a grant of authority to) the President to carry out his duties as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States in accordance with such statutes and regulations. However, the President does not- in his capacity as Commander in Chief- have to submit every little detail of the war plan to Congress before carrying it out and this seems to have been the attitude of the Framers themselves.

As for Iran having been labeled part of the so-called "axis of evil" along with Iraq and North Korea:

First of all, I can think of quite a few more countries that could be placed into an "axis of evil" (if, by "axis of evil", one means nation-states that each are what the "bell curve" of the world community generally thinks of when it hears the term "rogue state"). But, truth be told, I think the whole concept of an "axis of evil" is an altogether silly one: the infamous 'Axis' of World War II was a more or less actual alliance between Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and the Empire of Japan-- the very idea that Iraq, Iran and North Korea are at all acting in concert (especially Iraq and Iran!) as this "axis of evil" is rather preposterous!!

However- if I am allowed to play "devil's advocate", if only for a moment here- the inclusion of Iran as part of this alleged "axis of evil" (putting aside for the time being the reality that the concept of an "axis of evil" was simply a rather bumbling- if not downright inept- attempt by the current Bush Administration to symbolically link the ensuing War on International Terrorism [recall that when President George W. Bush used the phrase "axis of evil" a year ago almost to the day, the military action in Afghanistan had not yet begun!] with World War II ["Axis"? three countries??-- certainly no accident!!]) seems to refer to the Iranian government, not to the Iranian people. Yet Mr. Stremsky's point is well taken as to the moderation of the government of Iran relative to the world scene as compared to the heady months following the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in that country.

I will here make one slight correction to Mr. Stremsky's brief reference to the Mossadegh era in Iran: the Shah of Iran- Mohammed Reza Pahlavi- was Chief of State of that country well prior to Mossadegh becoming prime minister under the Iranian Constitution of 1906 then in effect; Article 48 of that document was amended in 1949 (largely because of the rise of Mossadegh) to give the Shah the power to dissolve the Majlis (National Consultative Assembly, the lower house of the then-bicameral Parliament) whenever it was deemed necessary. While it is true that foreign intrigue and associated political chicanery was involved in the downfall of Mossadegh, the fact is that it is not entirely accurate to say that a U.S. President "replaced" him with the Shah: American backing of the Shah again Mossadegh was, of course, a factor in the Shah then becoming the power he would be in his country for the next quarter century post-Mossadegh; nevertheless, the constitutional provisions which were used to legitimize the Shah becoming de facto Head of Government in addition to de jure Chief of State after the fall of Mossadegh were already well in place: in Iran, that country's Constitution was not so much suspended as it was used as something of an excuse!

A few brief words about Washington's words on relations with foreign nations and its relevance to today: there is something to be said here about context. Washington wrote his Farewell Address in 1796, when the United States of America was still vulnerable to potential foreign intrigue of the type Mr. Stremsky himself decries in his comments re: both Mossadegh era Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Despite the obvious protection of the Atlantic Ocean in an age well before the Transatlantic Cable, radio, the airplane and the orbiting satellite, it still well behooved a late 18th Century America with a large British presence to its north to so declare itself a neutral friend to all nations; Washington's comments about neither favoring nor showing antipathy toward other nations, therefore, have to be read in their historical context.

Fast forward to 1919, when- clearly- the United States of America had become one of what would then have been called "the Great Powers": instead of embracing the League of Nations, the USofA quickly went "back to normalcy" and attempted to once more follow Washington's admonitions (the Farewell Address was even cited by those who opposed the membership of the U.S. in the League and Senate ratification of the Treaty of Versailles which included the League Covenant) with disastrous results that would culminate in World War II. We will never really know just how much more effective the League of Nations would have been with American participation: perhaps it might very well have remained as inept and ineffective as it, indeed, eventually turned out to be-- but the fact remains that the League, in retrospect, "died a-bornin' " once the country whose President- Woodrow Wilson- had been its major architect so summarily rejected it.

Contrast this to 1945, by which time the U.S. was no longer merely a so-called "Great Power" but a true "Superpower"; today we remain THE Superpower (a fact that made us such a target for the malcontents who carried out the September 11th attacks). In 1945, we helped create- and then nurture- the United Nations we are now seeking as a partner in dealing with at least some of the excesses of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. It would be impossible for the United States to have any influence on the world at large were this country to now suddenly adopt Washington's prescription for conducting Our Nation's foreign affairs!

I do agree with Mr. Stremsky in his comments regarding Our Nation's tendency to so often back undemocratic, where not outright oppressive, regimes around the world simply to preserve our country's own ofttimes rather narrow interests: I myself, on this very website, have decried- and will continue to decry- this tendency born largely of complacency where not also of certain evils. If America has a mission, it should be that of promoting Liberty around the world: The Green Papers itself strives to- through its freely providing information and data on Politics and Elections (Republican Democracy in action) on the Internet- do its however small part in participating in this very mission.

Liberty is at the heart of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's famous 'Four Freedoms': freedom of speech and expression, freedom to worship as one chooses, freedom from want and- above all- freedom from fear.

This last freedom is, in my opinion, the veritable underpinning of the other three: FDR himself said- in his First Inaugural Address- that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" and then went on to define such fear as "nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance"; the "terror" at the time FDR uttered these words may well have been primarily economic in its origins but September 11th 2001 clearly brought home to America the essence of a much more sinister form of "terror" become "fear".

The most effective weapon of mass destruction in the arsenal of the terrorist (whether the "terrorist" is part of a group using violence as a form of [however misguided] political action or, instead, the brutal dictator of a nation-state) is not a jet airliner fully fueled for transcontinental flight and then purposely flown into our tallest skyscrapers; it is not a 'Scud' missile with a warhead filled with biological and/or chemical agents fired into a residential neighborhood; it is not the so-called "dirty bomb" carried into the middle of a major urban intersection; it is not the teenaged fanatic, his/her head filled with abstract theology mangled with more than a mere tincture of abject hatred, carrying a backpack filled with explosives into a crowded marketplace before detonating it as well as himself/herself... no, the most effective weapon of mass destruction in the terrorist's arsenal is this very "fear itself"!

Fear is the antithesis of Liberty-- for, if you fear, you cannot then be free. The essence of Liberty is the difficulty engendered by the need for self-control; the essence of Fear, meanwhile, is the too easy giving into control by others. I'm afraid that, in a world containing both intercontinental missiles able to deliver nuclear weapons and cells of terrorists able to hijack airliners and turn them into weapons of mass destruction, the foreign policy of George Washington's world and time no longer makes much sense!


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