At least since the Dulles brothers in the 1950s, as Secretary of State and head of the CIA, we have entered into civil wars in Iran and other parts of the Muslim Middle East. We have reaped the whirlwind. Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan are with nuclear weapons, and now the damned fools want to enter the Syrian civil war. Are we not yet able to recall Vietnam? Is there no collective memory?
This old man remembers what happened when economic sanctions were placed upon Japan in the 1930s. When Japan could not get oil any other way, they launched their fleet and their planes for Pearl Harbor. We left them dismal choices. I was at the United Nations in Geneva when we did the same thing to Iraq in the first Gulf War. Economic sanctions always hurt the wrong people. I spoke out against this at the United Nations.
And this madness is a civil war within a civil war. Islam is in a hundreds-of-years' civil war, now. It will go on for hundreds of years yet. We in the West, led by four hundred years of venal popes and a failing feudalism, launched four hundred years of the Crusades. It was a savage war against Islam, killing thousands of Jews and fellow Christians, before slaughtering the Muslims throughout the Middle East, from the 10th through the 14th centuries. We in the West barely had time to go home, remount new horses, and again slaughter Muslim, Christian, and Jew.
We then went through this madness in the Wars of Religion in Europe, for 130 years, before the Treaties of Westphaiia and Utrecht, in the 17th and 18th centuries, ended this self-slaughter, for a while. After that, secular nation-states emerged, praise be to God. Only Turkey, in all these millions of people in the Middle East, has so opted. We are warring against tribes, people, not really nation-states. Most of the Middle East was simply drawn on a map by an Englishwoman following the insanity of the First World War, in 1918. These lines made no sense then and they make even less sense now.
We have thousands of times overkill with our own nuclear weapons. We are among the most warlike nations on the planet. We may teach democracy best by example. See today's headlines, any day, about how our democratic republic is spied upon by our own government. George Bush set this last wave of insanity in play. But presidents before him, and now Obama, continue the beat. We must live peacefully and democratically, not in a war state, a police state, or in a state of war against an idea (terrorism) instead of a particular state for a limited time, with Congress providing the metes and bounds for the president.
And Congress cannot constitutionally delegate a plenary right, which the war power certainly is, to the president, like craven cowards. Present legislation presently does exactly that: "There, Mr. President, you take the army and go make war on whomever you choose." Except for attack on the United States, Congress alone has the power to decide for war. A perpetual state of war is the way to sure destruction, with the only question being which year will see our obliteration, nuclear war would bring. The war powers of Congress. and the president don't authorize Armageddon,
As we move on in this direction, all the historians of earlier times tell us exactly what will happen: Like Rome, we now dominate the world. And like Rome, we are dangerously close to triggering our own destruction. The former Soviet Union also self-destructed, in Afghanistan, where the Brits and many others were all defeated. We will be too. Beginning next year, we will bring our troops back home. And within a very short while, Afghanistan will be just like it was before. This is so because Afghanistan is in Afghanistan. This geographic fact determines most things. When we leave, just like the Vietnamese, and the Iraqis, and the Pakistanis with nuclear weapons, where the CIA has been waging its dirty little war for two decades, tribal life, and wars, will continue, time out of mind.
Ed Firmage is the Samuel D. Thurman Professor of Law, emeritus and the author, with Francis Wormuth, of "To Chain the Dog of War: the War Power of Congress in History and Law," published by the University of Illinois Press, and many other books and articles on war and nuclear weaponry.