Tabin, that said, the problem is the disjunct between passing an act of Congress in order to actually implement the thing and passing an act of Congress in order to -- blecch -- "send a message." The purpose of authorizing the executive to use military force ought to be used for its use, not as a diplomatic bargaining chip that may or may not mean whatever seems expedient. Present acts are not to be passed legislatively with a minimum of content designed for future convenience. Bad wording and deliberate vagueness are the bane of intelligent and coherent law; they undermine the purpose of law itself, which is accountable predictability, substituting for it whim enablement, within which we have no choice but to put a general and blanket trust in the future decisions of those in power to whom account can no longer be brought. There is nothing wrong with consenting to the open-ended use of force under present circumstances that merit it; there is plenty wrong with doing so on the pretense of future conditions.
That said, in turn, the President certainly has the ability to order limited uses of military force without prior Congressional authorization. If Clinton did it so can Bush, and the question of whether or not it would be wise to do so at a certain point in time with regard to Iran is a practical policy question, not one of the basic integrity of the rule of law. But until that becomes the question Republicans must not continue to fall into the woeful postmodern trap so belabored by this Administration of doing things not in order to have done them but in order to have "sent a strong signal," "delivered a clear message," etc., etc. To be taken seriously -- much less felt strongly -- the words by which diplomacy is conducted must be taken seriously by themselves, as a result of prior, not future, conduct. This is the difference between intimidating an opponent and threatening them.
To the extent that our acts are perceived not as real acts but only "messages" about acts that might or might not ever exist, we are fatally diluting the power and credibility of American action abroad, and dessicating besides the legitimacy of our own rule of law at home.
Share this Article
Like this Article
Print this ArticlePrint Article