Unholy Alliance

Neocons and "progressives" -- united at last over Libya, war powers, and the Constitution 

by , April 08, 2011

Justin Raimondo’s column will return Wednesday.

Senators Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) have done what no Republican has done since the day Harry Truman sent US troops to Korea without congressional authorization: challenged the authority of the President to unilaterally commit the nation to war. Their resolution read as follows

"The President does not have the power to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve an actual or imminent threat to the nation." 

This “sense of the Senate” resolution was voted down, 90-10, by the Democratic-controlled body, with not one Democrat voting for it. Which seems distinctly odd, because when President Barack Hussein Obama – a candidate for the White House at the time – uttered those very same words, his ostensibly “antiwar” fans cheered uproariously. Today, there are no cheers – just jeers from the Democrats, and, of course, from the neocons. Here‘s Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post‘s newest neocon columnist, on Rand’s heresy: 

“The motion was a petulant one…. First of all, that’s not in the Constitution and is not a viable interpretation of the president’s powers. Second, Congress doesn’t get to circumscribe the powers of the president. And third, we’re in a war (several, actually), and now is not the time to undercut an already less-than-ideal commander in chief.” 

Blinded by blood-lust and power worship, neocons like Ms. Rubin can’t even see straight: They read Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution, and, instead, see Louis XIV’s declaration of monarchic supremacy: “L’etat, c’est moi!” Do these people even know what country they’re living in?  

Perhaps Rubin would  prefer to live in a country that has no Constitution – like Israel, for example. Now there‘s a country with absolutely no reins on its leaders’ war-making powers – having been in a state of perpetual conflict with the indigenous inhabitants since the founding, in 1948, the Israelis could hardly afford such a luxury. 

Since neocons are always holding up Israel as a model, why not follow the Israeli example in this matter and dispense with the idea of a written Constitution entirely? Given the future of perpetual warfare the neocons envision for us, this would seem the only practical course. In that event, Rubin would be spared the embarrassment of denying what the Constitution plainly says about who has the power to make war, and, besides, the whole operation would be so much cleaner and streamlined.  

Washington is, indeed, another country – almost a parallel universe – where it is considered “dogmatic” – Rubin’s description of Sen. Lee –  to even bring up constitutional issues. “It’s a mystery why those eight Republicans would vote to continue discussion over this,” she fumes, while conceding “Some of the no votes may have simply wanted to have a debate.”  

Yet there was no debate: the resolution was tabled, and so was the prospect of having a public airing of the pros and cons of intervening in Libya. This is how the neocons like it: they believe the masses are unqualified to even discuss such weighty matters as the question of war and peace, and that only elites – themselves – can be so entrusted. Yes, but aren’t Senators, almost by definition, part of the elite? Well, it’s true, and that explains Rubin’s furious tone: Senators Paul and Lee are supposed to be members of the Club, but the Club has Rules and these two have broken Rule Number 1, which is never hold up the hypocrisy and lawlessness of official Washington to ridicule. For that they must be cast into the Outer Darkness: 

“But the co-sponsors are a different matter. What is their excuse? If Lee, for example, wants to be an effective conservative and not regarded as a crackpot, why is he casting such a vote? (I think my initial assessment, unfortunately, has proved dead on.) Moreover, it does cast doubt on the moniker ‘Constitutional conservative’ when those sporting the label don’t understand what the Constitution means.” 

Regarded as a crackpot by whom? By Rubin? By the neocon cocktail party circuit? By the editors of the Washington Post? Or by the majority of Americans who don’t want to see us bogged down in yet another Middle Eastern rat hole?  

These latter don’t matter to our Washington overlords, but if this kind of nonsense goes on much longer I expect the silently disgusted majority will begin to make itself heard. At a time when the country is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, and the whole nation seems to be going into foreclosure – except in the immediate vicinity of Washington, D.C. – Senators Paul and Lee have ordinary Americans on their side.  

Yet ordinary Americans aren’t within Rubin’s purview. She sees them not at all. She sees only the prejudices of her class, the new American aristocracy –  the movers and shakers of the Imperial metropolis: 

“But let’s also step back for a moment. It is a very good thing when 90 members of the Senate behave like grownups on matters of war and peace. Whatever one’s criticisms of the president’s conduct of the Libya war (and I haven’t been shy about airing mine), now is not the time for gamesmanship. It certainly isn’t the time to try, by pulling out an old quote, to make the president look foolish. In fact, all the resolution did was make the its sponsors look silly and confirm, thank goodness, that there is no significant isolationist tendency in the Senate.” 

Only a child would throw the President’s own words back at him – as if words out of a politician’s mouth had any real meaning. Please do be “grownup” about this! Don’t you know there’s a war on? 

Note Rubin’s complete inability – nay, unwillingness – to make any real argument. She says the Constitution doesn’t say what Rand Paul and Mike Lee (and candidate Obama) think it says, but nowhere does she cite a single passage from that document to give weight to her stance. Or would that be too “dogmatic”? And, come to think of it, why isn’t this the time to make the President look foolish? After all, he’s just officially announced his reelection bid: surely now is the time for a conservative (which Rubin claims to be) to let loose with both barrels blazing.  

Rubin, who is no conservative, would have the President’s critics hold their fire because wartime, for a neocon, is the equivalent of a church service. You don’t make a ruckus in church, especially at the very moment when the sacrament is being offered up by the high priests of the war god. A holy silence must be maintained until the ritual is completed: and even then, you risk being labeled a heretic, or even a “crackpot.”  

Rubin gloats that there is “no significant isolationist tendency in the Senate,” but even if every single Senator had voted in favor of the Paul-Lee resolution it wouldn’t have made on whit of difference either to Rubin or to the White House – because, after all, only “dogmatists” and “crackpots” believe the President is not a King. Congress is to be “briefed,” as a pure courtesy, not consulted as a matter of legality.  

According to historian Thomas E. Woods, during the debate at the Constitutional Convention over the War Powers clause, only a single delegate – Pierce Butler, of South Carolina — rose to argue in favor of giving the President the power to make war without congressional consent. He was answered by Elbridge Gerry, of Massachusetts, who declared he “never expected to hear in a republic a motion to empower the Executive alone to declare war.” The rest of the Founders, to a man, concurred. That this is now reversed, and Gerry’s views are considered “crackpot” in official Washington, is yet more evidence that we are no longer a republic, alas, but a monstrously bloated empire headed for a fall.  

Rubin’s smug dismissal of Republican “isolationists” is another case of wilful blindness: if the neocons have a major weakness, it’s a penchant for believing their own propaganda, a tendency that results in a debilitating tunnel vision. In the last Congress, there was no reliably “isolationist” group of Senators: this time around, there are as many as ten. At this rate, we’ll be a majority in no time. 

Whatever their differences on domestic and other matters, the neocons and the Obama cult agree on one thing: their mutual disdain for the Constitution. The “progressives” sniff at “constitutional fundamentalism,” and the neocons regard Constitution-citing conservatives such as Paul and Lee as “dogmatists.” They hate the Constitution because it restrains their overweening (if often competing) ambitions, and holds them accountable – not merely every few years, at election time, but all the time. In a constitutional republic, such as we once had, there’s always someone looking over the governing elite’s shoulder – and would love nothing better than to dispense with this archaic custom.  

Read more by Justin Raimondo