Should we change the Constitution?
The recent days have brought us a plan by President George W. Bush for an increase in mobilizing more military in Iraq in order to get control of the grim situation on the ground there, especially in Baghdad. The President had not even given the speech when the political opposition already criticized his plan. Since his speech on January 10, everybody has now come out and has given us his or her personal opinions and the American people have been polled and they are by a margin of more than two to one against the deployment of additional troops to Iraq. And of course, the media and most politicians in Washington are equally opposed to the President’s plan. Their criticism ranges from “It cannot work” and “It will never work” to Bush does not listen to them or take their advise, is stubborn and incompetent. But then, as one sarcastic man once said: “Opinions are like belly buttons, everybody has one!”
Who is in Charge?
This article will not address nor analyze the Pro’s and Con’s of the new Bush plan and the deployment of additional troops. Instead, we would like to remind everybody that in situations like the current one, there is still a Constitution in this country. This constitution is the foundation of our country as its spells out how we are to govern ourselves. According to this document and its many amendments, every four years, the voters of America elect a President to a four-year term by a specifically designed method, i.e., the Electoral College voting system. This has worked for well over two hundred years and we should not try to change it now. The President is also the Commander-In-Chief and that means, he is in charge of the military forces in this country. The constitution also states that only Congress can declare war on another country and that it is up to the Commander in Chief to conduct the war as he sees fit.
Now then, let’s review what has happened in recent years. On October 2, 2002, the members of Congress voted to authorize the President to go to war, i.e. use military force if the President thought it was necessary. The President then pursued through the United Nations Security Council by means of another resolution to compel Saddam Hussein to comply with previous U.N. resolutions. Failure to do so could result in drastic measures including the use of military force. This then resulted in the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the overthrow of the Hussein regime.
From the beginning of that war, the critics warned that the President had not sent enough troops to Iraq and that he had turned a deaf ear to those Generals who advocated this. This criticism has been consistent throughout the past years. The sectarian strife in Iraq has had a devastating effect on the situation there and the relatively young government, elected in a free election by the people of Iraq, is having severe difficulties to get a hold of and uniting the country and its religious divided populace. The Iraqi military and police forces are not strong enough to do the job by themselves and U.S. forces find themselves in the middle of what seems to be a near civil war, it is a truly bad situation.
What is President Bush Doing?
The President has now decided that the previous strategies have not worked out and he has decided, after lengthy discussions with his advisors in the military and his Administration to deploy another 20,000+ troops to Iraq. This is in his judgment a new attempt to counter the continuing insurgency and the sectarian violence by using different rules of engagement in a new strategy requiring more troops. The next several months will tell if his new plan will work since it also relies heavily on stronger participation by Iraqi forces and cooperation by the Iraqi government.
In summary, President Bush is not yet ready to accept defeat but thinks instead there is still a good change of winning this war. As President he also represents this country and has contact with foreign leaders and hears their opinions and we are not privy to that until some time in the future. As Commander in Chief, he had to console many families of falling soldiers and he told everyone he met on such somber occasions that “their son or daughter, brother or sister or father had not died in vain but for a good cause while defending the freedom of America.” Can we really fault him for thinking this? Would not every President console the loved ones of falling soldiers this way? Would not every President try every possible way to win this war instead of just accepting defeat as inevitable? What if President Frank D. Roosevelt in June 1944 upon hearing of the thousands of casualties the American forces had suffered on D-Day in France had decided that they could not win that war and just pull out?
Regardless of which side any individual stands on the war in Iraq, there are three choices for everybody: One can agree, one can disagree or one can openly critique and oppose the President. Those are our constitutional rights. But we should also remind ourselves that we only have one President at a time and cannot change that unless we revise the constitution. We cannot remember a time in American history when a President had to ask Congress for approval and support for an increase in American troop deployment. This has never happened. Congress has the power to stop funding a war but a President does not have to ask for approval of military application.
It is ironic in all this that all those earlier Iraq war critics proposed a larger deployment of troops to Iraq and constantly criticized the President for ‘under deployment.’ Now these same folks and self-anointed experts cry wolf that the President does exactly that. This smacks of raw political action by the President’s opponents for whom he could never do anything right. We have to also recognize that the additional troops will not exceed the maximum troop levels in previous years in Iraq when up to 160,000 troops where there to fight this war. The current deployment increase would not exceed this number.
Should we replace our President with a Prime Minister?
If this is to be the norm from now on in that politics and polling by the American people will determine the course of actions any President can take, then we should seriously consider changing the Constitution. Maybe instead of electing a President, we should just leave it up to Congress to appoint a Prime Minister as they see appropriate. This could happen at any time by giving the appointed person either a vote of confidence or kick him/her out of office by giving him/her a vote of ‘No confidence’. Italy, for instance, has done this since World War II and they have had about fifty Prime Ministers since then. If we were to follow suit in our country, we could change Prime Ministers every couple of weeks, months or years depending on how Congress evaluates his/her performance in office.
We here at Back to Common Sense do not believe this will ever happen in America. Our constitutional system has worked well for us and it is not broken, therefore there is nothing to fix. The more than a dozen or so members of Congress who are declared or yet undeclared candidates for the Presidency in 2008 should just state their positions but refrain from this constant drumbeat of severe criticism of the President. Besides, do they not realize that this is certainly undermining the morale of our fighting men and women in uniform?
Unless something unforeseen happens to him, George W. Bush will be the only President this country will have between now and January 2009. There cannot be a Presidency by consensus or committee unless we ignore (and therefore violate) or change our Constitution. Is anybody ready and compelled enough to take on this task? We do not see anybody in the current crop of politicians who is willing to go there. Therefore, we think that the presidential hopefuls and wannabees should concentrate on presenting themselves to the American electorate in a positive way with ideas of what they would do if elected President. All other Bush critics should just bide their time, hold their fire, keep their powder dry as the saying goes and see what happens with this new plan for Iraq. If it fails, you will have even more to criticize by stressing that you had it right all along. If it works, you will have something to apologize for. Only time will tell.
This article and others on Back to Common Sense are designed to provoke further thought and investigation. It is not the intent for the articles to be politically biased. Sources are referenced in each article to encourage readers to delve into the supporting material. We welcome all readers to participate with their point of view either in support or contrary with additional information sources.