Earlier this year, Senator Rand Paul caused a stir when he stood up against the Republican establishment on the question of using military force abroad. He joined Utah Senator Mike Lee in breaking from the ranks of the GOP by criticizing the airstrike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.
Paul put particular focus on his Republican colleagues who questioned the patriotism of people who were skeptical of the attack.
For all intents and purposes, Soleimani was probably a vile man. However, such a brash operation could have turned out badly had the U.S. escalated to a bolder course of action like using direct military strikes on Iran. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and President Donald Trump has not escalated military action in the region. However, neoconservative cheerleaders in the party were jumping for joy and were preparing to take even harsher action against the country. This has been their M.O. for decades. For them, the entire world is a laboratory that must be subject to constant experimentation through regime change and nation-building projects.
Neoconservatism centers on democratic global crusades and some lip service to free markets. On the latter point, neocons will occasionally be solid on issues like tax cuts. But on the economic issues that have massive macroeconomic implications or deal with federal overreach, such as central banking and the regulatory state, neocons have been complicit with the rest of D.C. in perpetuating government.
Many neocons will rail against big government on the campaign trail but vote to preserve it once in office. They also fail to see the connection between global democratic crusading abroad and social engineering at home. Similarly, the neocon fetish for never-ending wars betrays all their talk about fiscal conservatism. Certain reports show that the U.S. spent nearly $6.4 trillion on the War on Terror.
In addition to the obvious costs that foreign policy misadventures in the Middle East incur, the manner in which these conflicts are conducted is clear affronts to the U.S. constitution. Paul noted that Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution stipulates that the president is the commander in chief of the armed forces. However, the U.S. is a government characterized by separation of powers. Article 1, Section 8, of the U.S. Constitution, authorizes Congress to declare war.
A declaration of war is no casual matter, given how it affects all Americans. At the very least, getting congressional input before launching a misguided military venture should be the standard operating procedure for D.C. This is not a foreign concept in our history.
For more than a century, America used to conduct foreign policy in such a manner. However, America has largely deviated from such constitutional prudence since World War II. Military actions from the Korean War all the way to President Barack Obama’s actions in Libya and Syria all involved the disuse of formal declarations of war.
It would probably behoove our elected officials to go back to constitutionalism in foreign policy matters. By refusing to defend their constitutional authority to declare war, Congress is only ceding more power to the executive branch and allowing special interest groups to run free in D.C., dictating sensitive policy matters with impunity.
America’s foreign policy quagmires must end, and a reinvigorated Congress is the only entity that can stop this madness.