Jim Webb vs. the Decider

Article excerpt

A year ago, pressed as to why he retained Rumsfeld when the war was going badly and most had lost confidence in him, President Bush famously retorted, "I'm the decider, and I decide what is best."

For six years, Bush has been "the decider." And though the intelligence was flawed about Saddam's ties to 9/11 and al-Qaeda and about whether he was running a clandestine nuclear-weapons program, Bush decided for war. And a Democratic Senate, with Sens. Clinton, Kerry, Edwards, Daschle, Reed, Dodd, and Biden all assenting, signed Bush's blank check for war.

But there is a new senator in town who believes that, on matters of war and peace, President Bush is not "the decider." Congress is, as the Constitution commands.

President Bush may have issued an ultimatum to Tehran in his "axis-of-evil" address. He may have deployed carriers around the Gulf and sent fighter-bombers to Incirlik. He may have declared that we will not permit Iran to acquire even the knowledge to build nuclear weapons. But he does not have the authority, in and of himself, to carry out that threat. He is a president, not an emperor.

Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia has declared his intent to write legislation to deny funding for President Bush to launch a war on Iran without first getting the approval of Congress. Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he will look favorably on such legislation.

Webb's proposal is based on HJR 14, sponsored by Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina, who has lined up two dozen members behind his resolution. It declares that in the absence of an Iranian attack on the United States or U.S. forces, or an imminent threat of such an attack, President Bush has no authority to go to war against Iran.

Both Jones's resolution and Webb's legislation would require the president to follow the Constitution and come to the Congress for authority to go to war, if Bush has decided that national security hangs upon our destroying the facilities associated with Iran's nuclear program. For any constitutionalist or conservative, there should be no question as to where to come down - on the side of Webb and Jones.

Of the major wars in American history, before the modern era, all but two were declared by Congress. The Revolutionary War began at Lexington and Concord at a time America did not exist as a united nation. Lincoln's blockade of the South came after the Confederate firing on Fort Sumter. …