In the 21st century, it seems like there is nothing more presidential than engaging in unchecked military intervention.
During my lifetime, America has been engaged in numerous international conflicts, which stand contrary to the interests of the American people.
The United States armed forces have been involved in at least five international conflicts since 1997, according to the World Heritage Encyclopedia. This number does not include the countless special operations that are happening around the world. Most of these conflicts have failed to be formally resolved, resulting in the creation of everlasting instability.
These engagements have a long track record of prompting further instability and widen the void for abuse of powers from the executive branch.
Within the past two decades, executive war powers have been expanded to unreasonable extents.
During the tenure of the Bush administration, America witnessed the dilution of procedural standards when entering into acts of war aggression.
Administrative attorneys devised loopholes to justify the use of undeclared military intervention, draconian torture practices and the deterioration of civil liberties in the name of national security.
The 2002 Justice Department torture memorandums point towards the administrative evasion of the rule of law in pursuit of enhanced interrogation techniques. In their quest for reactionary intervention, they threw basic civil liberties and international law to the wayside.
President Bush disregarded the constitutional principles designed to keep the executive branch in check.
He clearly violated Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution, which delegates the facilitation of war authorization to Congress.
Presidents have attempted to circumvent this process with the passage of the War Powers Resolution or merely consulting congressional committees before commencing action. These weakened standards of war powers contradict major constitutional principles on war powers.
Advocates for unchecked military intervention often cite the War Powers Resolution for justification of executive overreach. While this resolution did extend the President’s statutory right to intervene, Chapter 33, Section 1541, Subsection C of the resolution clearly limits the President to take action without congressional approval in the limited cases of statutory authorization, a formal declaration of war, or when the country is in a state of national emergency from a direct attack by adversaries. Trump’s acts of aggression clearly fail the litmus test of the War Powers Resolution.
In a letter James Madison wrote to Thomas Jefferson in 1798, justifying Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution, he stated “that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it.”
Our founders supported this provision to the Constitution unanimously, citing the dangers of unconstrained executive war powers.
The general acceptance of these abusive executive actions delegitimize the rule of law and runs contrary to the fundamental principles of our democracy.
The rule of law should extend to the President, his administration and the defense contractors who stand to gain from further conflict, just as it applies to you and me.
President Trump’s actions on April 13 in Syria are an extension of this senseless tradition. With his recent appointment of bomb-loving John Bolton as National Security Adviser, it is evident that President Trump is not interested in changing the status quo of United States military policy.
His recent judgment points towards a continuation of the United States being in a state of perpetual war.
If Trump’s administration continues down this warpath with Syria and potentially other adversaries, the United States will face more crippling costs of a bloated defense budget and the unfortunate deaths of thousands of lives.
Who stands to benefit from these military strikes? It is blatantly clear that America is not directly threatened by the Assad regime.
The chemical attacks that took place in Syria are worthy of international condemnation, but how do we expect to combat the injustices of chemical attacks on innocent civilians through the fury of bombs?
If the Trump Administration wishes to combat the reported chemical attacks, they should do so with a proper congressional authorization of force, diplomacy and international cooperation.
Judging from the failures of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, it would be wise to include a timetable of withdrawal in any authorization plan for military engagement.
We should strive for peace at home and abroad. Our responsibility as engaged citizens is to serve as watchdogs to the powerful in defense of the powerless.
It is our responsibility to ensure those of both public and private power adhere to the ruleNi of law. Failing to act on this responsibility will result in the dire fate of oppression and endless war.
It is time to reassess our priorities as a country.
Are we willing to spend more money on unjust conflict or are we committed to asserting our international leadership by improving the well-being and opportunities of every American?
Nicholas Williams is a senior economics major from Albertson, North Carolina. You can follow him on Twitter at @nickvwilliamsnc