Most conservatives subscribe to a few basic principles. These are: First, the need for fiscal restraint. Second, strict adherence to the U.S. Constitution. And third, limited government. These three principles, not necessarily in that order, define the conservative movement.
There’s one issue that cuts directly against each of these three principles. It is something many self-described conservatives feel obligated to defend. It is America’s penchant for foreign involvement. Nothing about it reasonably describes a conservative.
It’s time for conservatives to start vocally condemning abuses of foreign policy. The cost of foreign wars is huge. A Brown University study defines the cost to the U.S.. America has spent $6.4 trillion on its wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan.
That is about a quarter of the national debt. Conservatives and libertarians rightly bemoan our foreign involvement. It is a threat to our nation’s economic well being. This is an area which should be under the microscope for spending cuts.
Another Brown study estimates the human cost of our foreign involvements. As a direct result of the fighting in these countries more than 801,000 deaths have come about. Many more people have lost their lives as an indirect result. This is a sobering reality. Shouldn’t this make everyone consider the magnitude of loss on the battlefield?
There is the immense fiscal and human cost of sustaining these endeavors. Shouldn’t our elected leaders debate the issue of war and peace before we commit? This is what the framers of the Constitution intended when they wrote Article I. It is time we tell congress; do the job or step aside. Our incumbents need to go.
In a message to Congress concerning war powers of the executive Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Congress alone is constitutionally invested with the power of changing our condition from peace to war.”
Jefferson was not alone. James Madison, the father of our Constitution, said in a letter to Jefferson in 1798, “The power to declare war, including the power of judging the causes of war, is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature.”
Alexander Hamilton, one of the biggest proponents of executive power also understood as much. He said in 1801, “It is the peculiar and exclusive duty of Congress, when the nation is at peace, to change that state into a state of war.”
Dodging responsibility to increase electability
Yet, members of Congress delegate their responsibility. This is most offensive among those calling themselves conservative. Congress is outsourcing the question of war and peace. It has delegated the responsibility to the executive branch.
Avoiding having to make admittedly difficult decisions minimizes political risk to their reelection. Congress has not issued a formal declaration of war since World War II. Let that sink in. They have not done their job since before WWII. Not Korea, not Vietnam, not Granada, not Nicaragua, Not Iraq, Not Afghanistan.
Congress defers to the executive branch’s adventurism. POTUS is taking huge discretionary action under broad resolutions. When Congress does get involved it is done with an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF). This becomes a carte blanche.
Both Executive and Legislative branches are good with its use for multiple years and for multiple unrelated conflicts. Congress needs to let all existing AUMFs expire. Isn’t it time to have a frequent public debate on our activities abroad? Perhaps more importantly when are we, the voters, going to hold Congress accountable for not having done its job?
Congress refuses to do a budget. You cannot balance what you do not make. The incumbents need to answer for what they refuse to do. Let’s not allow them to continue to refuse to do the job we sent them to the District of Columbia to do. Let’s vote the incumbents out of office. They have not done their job. Do the job or step aside; that’s what we as conservatives need to tell our members of Congress.