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Don’t Support the Troops: Bring Them Home


Let me be blunt: I don’t support the troops. I don’t support them so much that I think they should be brought home to safety at once.

I say this because everyone who vociferously supports the troops also wants to send them into war against Serbia, where a good number of them will be killed. So I guess if I don’t want to see them fight a war and get killed, it means I don’t support the them.

It is abundantly clear that we are destroying Serbia to save face for the bumbling Clinton administration and NATO, the formerly defensive alliance that outlived its original mission and so turned to offense. A war to save face is the worst kind of war.

The hypocrisy of our leaders’ public tears about the suffering Kosovar Albanians is appalling. They shed not a tear for the Kurds who are killed, tortured, and oppressed every day by a member of NATO-Turkey-not to mention the slaughters taking place in dozens of other places around the world. Outrage about “genocide” is, to say the least, selective.

The destruction in the Balkans is horrifying, but we should be as horrified by the bloodless destruction occurring at home. I refer to the destruction of the U.S. Constitution. One can read the Constitution from now to Kingdom Come and not find a clause authorizing the executive branch to send the armed forces into combat to punish a dictator or to save an oppressed group within another country, much less to save face. The Constitution set up a government whose purpose was limited to protecting the American people and their property within the territory of the United States. If it was necessary to fight a country threatening us, only the Congress could declare war.

The Framers of the Constitution diffused the war power because they knew first-hand what comes of vesting that power fully in the president: endless war and an even more powerful executive. As James Madison said, “War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement.” He also said that “of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few…. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

In other words, the Founding Fathers denied the president the power to initiate war because they were at pains to prevent tyranny in the new country founded in opposition to British tyranny.

Today the president of the United States is making war in Europe arm in arm with Great Britain and 17 other nations.

Defenders of the president’s policy will say that he has consulted with Congress from the beginning. Not good enough. The word “consultation” does not appear in the Constitution. Besides, President Clinton took the position that he has the power to go to war against Slobodan Milosevic whether Congress likes it or not. Any consultation was done for political, not constitutional, reasons.

This reminds me of the debate in Congress over the Persian Gulf War almost a decade ago. Most commentators praised Congress for putting aside petty matters and rising to the occasion to debate American involvement in the war to expel Iraq from Kuwait. In fact, that debate was neither grand or substantive. Since it occurred after President Bush had already sent the troops and issued an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein through the United Nations, the debate was moot. Worse, it was rigged. Congress would never have voted against an authorization to fight Iraq while the troops were already at the battlefield. To do so would have been interpreted as a failure to support the troops. Then, as now, supporting the troops meant risking their lives.

That’s why I refuse to support the troops and demand they be brought home immediately.

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    Sheldon Richman is former vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of FFF's monthly journal, Future of Freedom. For 15 years he was editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York. He is the author of FFF's award-winning book Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families; Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax; and Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State. Calling for the abolition, not the reform, of public schooling. Separating School & State has become a landmark book in both libertarian and educational circles. In his column in the Financial Times, Michael Prowse wrote: "I recommend a subversive tract, Separating School & State by Sheldon Richman of the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank... . I also think that Mr. Richman is right to fear that state education undermines personal responsibility..." Sheldon's articles on economic policy, education, civil liberties, American history, foreign policy, and the Middle East have appeared in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, American Scholar, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Washington Times, The American Conservative, Insight, Cato Policy Report, Journal of Economic Development, The Freeman, The World & I, Reason, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Middle East Policy, Liberty magazine, and other publications. He is a contributor to the The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. A former newspaper reporter and senior editor at the Cato Institute and the Institute for Humane Studies, Sheldon is a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia. He blogs at Free Association. Send him e-mail.