Thursday, 26 September 2002

The Most Dangerous Person On Earth

by Jack M. Balkin

Be Afraid... When George W. Bush was governor of Texas, his basic strategy was to stake out a position and refuse to budge, hoping to bully others into acquiescing. Only when met with strong opposition did he back down and compromise. We are seeing the same strategy in his policy over Iraq. In the past weeks, the president has attempted to bully the United Nations and now Congress into allowing him to attack Iraq and depose its leader. He is likely to get his wish. But the larger problem is not what will happen if no one stands up to Saddam Hussein. It is what will happen if no one stands up to the president and his vision of moral clarity.

Our Constitution left the power to declare war to Congress because of the fear that if the president could act unilaterally, he might seek to aggrandize himself by taking the country into one war after another. Although the president could always defend the nation if attacked, he could not initiate hostilities without Congress' approval. In the 20th century, Congress' role has receded of necessity, so the president's power to make war has been hemmed in largely by domestic politics, the threat of nuclear reprisal and international law.

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