Thursday, June 02, 2005

What is War?

Here's a question I've always had that maybe some of my fancypants lawyer friends could answer for me. Does a Congressional Declaration of War mean anything at all? Has it ever? And in the wake of the War Powers Act (my knowledge of this is limited, but I know the basics) does it mean even less?

Basically, I've always wondered that since the President has the power to order the military to do basically what he wants it to do, what sort of extra shit do you get when Congress declares war? Are there any safety locks that come off the really big guns? Or has it always been a rehtorical device/sham that wasn't really acknowledged until Congress passed the War Powers Act in 1973.

Here's an example. Back in 1941 Japan bombs Pearl Harbor. We declare war on Japan. Japan, Germany and Italy declare war on us. And somewhere in there we declared war on Germany. That's a lot of declarations going around. And that's all fine and good, but do you really need to declare war when you're already bombing the shit out of each other?


Blogger Noisette said...

You don't get any extra shit. Congress hasn't declared war since WWII. The War Powers Act was passed to remedy this, but was actually a non-starter- no one paid any attention to it. You're exactly right- the president can order the military to do whatever he wants it to. Congress' declaration of war is one of those constitutional inclusions that was meant to signify a great deal but has ended up meaning nothing, because of the reach of the president's power vis-a-vis the military.

12:38 PM  

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