Concerning Declarations Of War And Tech Ninjas

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

For more than a decade now we have been engaged in what we have called a global war on terror, which is an awful name for it since we cannot war against a tactic.  We have actually been engaged in a war with militant Islam, but since we don’t want to speak truth, we make up slogans that hide the truth.

Congress voted in both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom to give the President the authority to use force to effect our desired ends in those campaigns.  Call it what you will, these were declarations of war, albeit against a country in one case, and against a transnational religious insurgency in another case.  Actually, since Salafists of various stripes and other Islamic religious fanatics crossed the Jordanian and Syrian border to fight the U.S. in Iraq, at some 80 – 100 per month at the height of it, we have fought a transnational religious insurgency in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  In both cases the use of force was authorized by Congress.

But in any case, I have repeatedly called on the reader to study the first chapter of Robert Kaplan’s book Imperial Grunts, the chapter being entitled “Injun Country.”  It might disavow the reader of the notion that America was conceived or raised in military isolationism.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I have also pointed out that from the very inception of the U.S. Marine Corps, before the effective date of the declaration of independence, the continental congress knew exactly what they were doing.  The model they followed was the British Marines, and the British Marines functioned as an imperial force.  This design was intentional from the beginning, whether the colonists (or readers today) knew it or not.

Daniel Trombly writing at Slouching Towards Columbia, does an outstanding job of filling in the details for us.  His post will be repeated at length.

The Constitution is not explicit that any kind of warfare must be validated by a Congressional declaration of war. Madison was quite clear that in a case where the United States was defending itself from attack, no declaration of war was necessary. This has been a decision constantly reaffirmed throughout American history, and the debates surrounding the drafting of that portion of the Constitution clearly reveal that the founders saw a distinction between declaring and making war, and explicitly did not require a Congressional declaration for America to make war, only to begin one where no hostile act had initiated it. In other words, beyond continued Congressional approval for whatever financing of the war effort is necessary, there is no requirement for a formal declaration of war for the United States to prosecute one should the war occur in reaction to the commencement of war by a hostile force.

The notion that drones are responsible for the “short-circuiting” of America’s process for going to war is illusory – particularly when the idealized version of warfare Singer describes was never the historical norm for the United States. Very few American wars have been fought with a formal declaration of war, including two of America’s earliest overseas conflicts.

Indeed, America’s flirtation with undeclared wars with broad Congressional mandates is obvious from the very historical existence of the phrase “Quasi-War,” describing US hostilities with France under the Adams administration. There, the US found it sufficient to pass a Congressional measure authorizing naval action against French ships. Lest anyone chalk this up to a mere outlying tendency in US politics, Adams’s political foe, Jefferson, continued and indeed expanded the trend significantly under his own administration.

Thomas Jefferson was eager to prosecute a war against the Barbary pirates, which had amorphous links to recognized political authorities. Yet Jefferson did not seek and Congress did not require a formal declaration of war against an enemy considered to be both hostis humani generis (hostile to all mankind, as most seafaring nations considered pirates) and engaged already in persistent hostilities against American civilian vessels. Congress passed a relatively broad mandate for military force, and Thomas Jefferson’s military proceeded to wage an undeclared war with amorphous boundaries against Islamic unconventional actors, along with the help of private mercenary armies. One can make arguments about why America should not prosecute undeclared wars, fight non-state actors alone, or use privately contracted military forces, but any appeal to the founding fathers is unconvincing at best and a cynical ploy at worst.

To blame drones for the trend of undeclared wars that has existed since America’s earliest years is grossly historically inaccurate. Not only does it completely fail to explain America’s participation in the Quasi-War, Barbary Wars, Indian Wars, and the several formally undeclared wars of the 20th century after World War II, it also fails to explain the conflicts which the United States has begun since drones existed. It is quite difficult to say there are any ongoing military campaigns which began or persist solely because of “risk free” drones. The broad authorization for use of military force which began the War on Terror and its “undeclared” nature has very little to do with drone technology, and more to do with the fact that the United States has never formally declared war on a non-state actor in its history. Even in areas frequently identified with drone warfare, such as the Horn of Africa, Yemen, and Pakistan, non-drone US interference has occurred at varying levels of frequency during the War on Terror.

[ ... ]

As uncomfortable as it might make foreign policy commentators (sometimes myself included), the founders always recognized a difference between military operations involving sustained use of land forces and those involving a primarily maritime or over-the-horizon force. This distinction is quite evident in the American Constitution, which as any sea power booster will tell you, stipulates that while an army should only be raised temporarily, Congress must provide and maintain a navy. This distinction has carried throughout American history (Even in the case of the Posse Comitatus Act, only the US Army and Air Force are specifically excluded from intervening in domestic affairs. The United States Navy and Marine Corps are actually only excluded under an internal Department of Defense directive). The American imperative to keep sea lanes flowing freely and protect the sovereign rights of American vessels and citizens overseas has been a much stronger push for American military involvement than drones have been or ever will be.

Daniel focuses on the use of UAVs in his article, and I am completely uninterested in UAVs.  But his prose is on point concerning the use of military power throughout the nation’s history.  More specifically concerning drones, the policy makers and strategists seem to be under the magical spell of the tech ninja warriors who believe that we can engage in push-button war and win.

Drones were useful when engaging non-state actors who had little financing or technology.  As we have seen recently with Iran, nominal technology can shoot drones out of the air.  Pilots will always be needed to fly fighters, warriors will always need to put boots on the ground, and ships will always need to support troops closer than the 20 mile “beyond the horizon” that they want to avoid.  There is no answer to the costliness of war, and gutting defense spending to pay for entitlements won’t supply either with enough funding.  The cost for war-making won’t go away, and the appetite for entitlements only grows with more spending like an obscene addiction.

I have pointed out before that progressives have always wanted to make war differently, that they claim to support equality of the genders (in the face of biological evidence to the contrary), and that they claim to be neo-isolationist concerning the use of American military power.  But progressives don’t tell you everything.  They’re lying in most, if not all cases.

They also want to increase the size of special operations, and it is well known that the SEALs, Rangers, Delta and Force Recon don’t accept females – and for good reason.  But that doesn’t stop the progressives.  They want more of the same, they just want war to be clinical, rapid and clean.  It’s good enough to ensure that females are in the general purpose forces so that they progressives can claim to be morally superior.  The reality of females carrying a 120 pound kit like Marine infantry or Rangers isn’t discussed.  Since special operations is always under a cloak of secrecy, word of their work doesn’t usually get out.  The progressives like it that way.  They want to engage in war, they just don’t want the public to know about it, or Congress to get involved other than funding the war-making.  OPSEC and all of that, you know.  Shhhh …

This has always been true.  It is true now, and we see that the size of special operations is going to increase while the size of the so-called general purpose forces will decrease by some 15%.  In fact, they want virtual permanent deployment for some special operations.

The Pentagon is rushing to send a large floating base for commando teams to the Middle East as tensions rise with Iran, al-Qaeda in Yemen and Somali pirates, among other threats.

In response to requests from U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, the Navy is converting an aging warship it had planned to decommission into a makeshift staging base for the commandos. Unofficially dubbed a “mothership,” the floating base could accommodate smaller high-speed boats and helicopters commonly used by Navy SEALs, procurement documents show.

Special Operations forces are a key part of the Obama administration’s strategy to make the military leaner and more agile as the Pentagon confronts at least $487 billion in spending cuts over the next decade.

Lt. Cmdr. Mike Kafka, a spokesman for the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command, declined to elaborate on the floating base’s purpose or to say where, exactly, it will be deployed in the Middle East. Other Navy officials acknowledged that they were moving with unusual haste to complete the conversion and send the mothership to the region by early summer.

They have even taken one of the assets of the U.S. Marine Corps, an amphibious assault dock.  All the while, as the Marines continue to imagine that they will ever do a large scale, sea-based forcible entry again, they sink deeper into complete irrelevance in the twenty first century.  Visions of Iwo Jima dance in the heads of Marine Corps planners, while the real fight – the one the Marines should be leading – goes to what has effectively become another (secretive) branch of the service, SOCOM.

American history is replete with examples of warfighting without a formal declaration of war.  But the main focus has usually been the U.S. Marine Corps.  The strategic planners of the Marine Corps have lost their way, and continue to send Force Recon Marines into SOCOM rather than develop and enhance their own capabilities to conduct such operations.  They have even retired the only remaining asset in their air fleet that is capable of inserting Marines by fast-roping.  The V-22 cannot do that.  But when the final story is told, we will not be safer for creating another branch of the service, or for gutting military spending in favor of the tech ninja paradigm.  We will regret it.

Prior:

Expeditionary Warfare Category

Abolish SOCOM



  • http://www.firstcontactproject.org Rich Buckley

    The reason a simple Declaration of War is needed is to sever not the interest of any Administration but instead to serve the interests of the state where the state is conceived by the collective democratic will of the free people to serve the higher good, and thus its preservation insures the inherent liberties and common wealth of the free people.

    We have drifted today instead into the maintenance of the triad of power which is disconnected from the people in ways so very clear to the citizens themselves.

    Today sadly, we have evolved into a specie with a nervous system isolated from the consciousness of the souls it serves.

    Behold today this monster: the unparalleled triad of power manifesting itself as (a) controlled mainstream media which (b) is owned, staffed, and directed by (c) a slim few plutocratic mega-corporations with unlimited financial resources that are secretly channeled by their few majority ownership interests through little known entities (504 corporations) to insure election results that usurp the promises these elected candidates make to the electorate which place them into office. The result is a belligerent plutocracy not Jeffersonian or Madison democracy, where the candidates all end up serving the same corporate masters. This reality is denied by the controlled voices of the status quo on every level.

    The monster fears the rise of ordinary voices from among its own people who might ask that we stop feeding the monster. The monster belittles them, debunks and denies all their observations, covers all truth under a self-serving classification of national security, and strips its people of their rights and their liberties, and forever seeks to increase it’s own power at the people’s expense to insure to continuance of the new status quo.

    Presidents are elected unable to preside; Congress is empaneled neutered in power to untie this Gordian Knot. Nationalism is invoked upon all who may peek under its skirt, to flush in even a little light of a humanistic truth “the government seems out of control of  the people on a biblical level.”  

    That is why simple words that speak truth to power is needed now as never before: ” I call upon the Congress of this great nation to render a Declaration of War upon the ……”

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    I don’t know what else to say, Rich, except go back and read the article again. Sometimes you disconnect your comments from the article. I understand that this is the way you FEEL, but you’re making this out to be some sort of evolution in the way things have been done. It isn’t, and that is to misrepresent the history of the U.S.

  • http://www.firstcontactproject.org/ Warbucks

    But it’s not the “history of the U.S.”, it’s the “now” that has changed.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    Listen to the preacher, Rich. “There is nothing new under the sun.”

  • scott s.

    I agree that that the Marines have become allergic to seawater. The Fleet Marine Forces should be disestablished. The USMC should be reconstituted as a corps within the Dept of the Army. Ground regiments can be placed like Army cavalry regiments. The Marines could transition to an Army MTOE reducing logistics problems. That way the FSSCs can be disestablished and support migrated to Army TSBs. Marines should divest all fixed wing assets for lack of mission. A mission study should be done for Marine rotary wing, and if a requirement exists squadrons could be incorporated into Army Combat Aviation Brigades, like Air Cav (or maybe in place of). Marine Division HQs should be disestablished.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    Oh, but Scott, you have it all wrong. I am not suggesting at all that we end the USMC. In fact, if you read my Expeditionary Warfare category, you’ll see that I recommend a mission that would revitalize the Corps, including sea-based entry capabilities via air assault and fast roping, more airborne qualifications, more water-borne training, more rapid assault, clearing and counter-terror missions, distributed and small unit operations, etc., etc.

    SOCOM has taken over at least some of USMC missions. And if we tried to combine the USMC with the Army is would be an unmitigated disaster. The culture are too different.

    Besides, the Marines aren’t allergic to seawater. They have gone back to sea operations. Even now, I know of one Marine infantry battalion that is training with amphibious assault docks. But here is the kicker. You know what they are also training with?

    LCACs. That’s right. LCACs. As if we are ever, ever, ever in a million years going to conduct that kind of assault on a beach again.

    The Marines are doing this to themselves due to their lack of vision. They can’t seem to get into the twenty first century. The strategic planners are living in a world of sixty five years ago.

    So if they cannot break out of their comma, then what you suggest may in fact happen due to the complete irrelevance of the Corps to today’s world.

    What a shame. What a tragic shame.

  • http://www.firstcontactproject.org Rich Buckley

    The element that is perhaps significantly different today is that access to information through alternative media and a general realization that mainstream media is becoming irrelevant, and it’s level of corruption too evident.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    But how would a declaration of war change anything? The Congress already voted in both campaigns. I recall the vote. It was covered around the clock when it happened. Live cameras in the halls of Congress.

    The American public understood exactly what that meant. The American public hasn’t been properly educated, I’ll give you that. But in terms of formal actions, nothing more needs to be done.

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You are currently reading "Concerning Declarations Of War And Tech Ninjas", entry #8185 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Department of Defense,Expeditionary Warfare,Special Forces and was published January 31st, 2012 by Herschel Smith.

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