Posted by on May 12, 2011 in Blog

Last night, the House Armed Service Committee finished marking up the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Buried deep within the Act is a provision, added by committee chairman Rep. Buch McKeon (R-CA), which seemingly offers a blank check for the executive branch to wage war without geographic, time, or justificatory constraints. According to a press release by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU),

“[the provision] has no expiration date and would allow a president to use military force in any country around the world where there are terrorism suspects, even when there are no connections to the 9/11 attacks or other specific harms or threats to the United States.”

Laura Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative office said such a “blank check… authorization of worldwide war” would mean “increased violence and will make America less safe.” She also urged the House to strip the Act of this “dangerous” provision during the floor debate.

Looking at our policy blunders over the past several years, virtually none were the result of too many constraints on executive power. Indeed, the biggest blunders (the Iraq war, violations of civil liberties, and torture) were all the result of unrestrained executive power (in the case of the Iraq war, voluntarily but prematurely granted by Congress). Checks and balances ought to be strengthened, as they are the safety valve in our system, inherently placed in our system to prevent the possibility of any branch having a blank check on any policy. And frankly, given the cast of characters who are potential candidates for President (Palin, Gingrich, Huckabee…etc.), the prospect of an even less constrained executive branch having free discretion to initiate armed conflict at will should raise deep concerns among all of us. The ACLU’s urging of dropping this dangerous provision is certainly the right call.


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