In the January 11th edition of The New York Times, published the morning after President Bush announced his new “surge” strategy for Iraq, Sheryl Gay Stolberg wrote the following passage: “By stepping up the American military presence in Iraq, President Bush is not only inviting an epic clash with the Democrats who run Capitol Hill. He is ignoring the results of the November elections, rejecting the central thrust of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group and flouting the advice of some of his own generals, as well as Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq.”
I put this passage at the beginning of this article because it forces me to ask a simple question, a question that should have a simple answer: Who is the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. armed forces? The obvious answer is, of course, the President of the United States.
But given the number of vocal critics of the President’s new strategy, the speculation about how to stop it from being implemented and the calls for adoption of strategies recommended by other individuals or groups, I can’t help but wonder if I somehow missed something in all those American government classes I took during my school years.
In her article, Ms. Stolberg writes that Democrats complained the President’s consultation with Congress was perfunctory. What they fail to understand here is that there is no advice and consent role when it comes to the President’s duties as Commander-in-Chief. Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution says “The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.”
The advice and consent clause, written into the same article and section of the Constitution, covers treaties and the nominations of “…ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States….” At no time does it mention the role of the legislative branch with regard to the leadership of our armed forces.
Yet, despite the clear responsibilities of the President as Commander-in-Chief spelled out by this nation’s Founding Fathers, the Democrats on Capitol Hill want to usurp Mr. Bush’s authority as provided for by the Constitution. Of course, any Commander-in-Chief would be wise to listen to as many opinions as possible when the decision to be made involves the lives of our nation’s most precious resource, our youth. But ultimately the decision belongs to the President alone.
To write a passage such as the one put forth by Ms. Stolberg is to present opinion as fact. The war on Iraq was not on the ballot last November, although it is correct to say that many voters are unhappy with the progress we are making on that front. The election was more an expression of discontent with a number of factors, of which the war was but one, than it was a referendum solely on the war itself. The Iraq Study Group’s recommendations were discounted by virtually everyone with an understanding of what is happening in Iraq, including many Democrats. And Prime Minister al-Maliki is an ineffective leader who lacks the support not only of Americans, but of Iraqis as well.
President Bush is the Commander-in-Chief of a military at war. He is not looking for a graceful exit from a bad situation. He is looking for victory. Whether his strategy will work or not remains to be seen. But ultimately, whether we succeed or fail, the decision about how to proceed is his. If the strategy proves him correct, and we end up with a stable, democratically elected government in the Middle East, history will vindicate him. If the strategy proves to be wrong, there will be no else to blame.