The Constitution says that the president “shall be Commander in Chief of the Army . . . of the United States.”
Does that give him authority to utilize our armed forces for a purely non-military purpose like addressing the Ebola outbreak in Africa?
The Denver Post thinks so, editorializing that Obama’s decision is “fully justified.” But the Post doesn’t tackle the constitutional issues.
The Ebola mission, according to the Associated Press, is “to supply medical and logistical support to overwhelmed local health care systems and to boost the number of beds needed to isolate and treat victims of the epidemic.” Our troops will be doing things like handing out home health kits to Africans and building health clinics.
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Note that this is different from the armed forces carrying on humanitarian actions as an incident to military operations. When you are fighting an enemy abroad, it makes sense to build hospitals to retain local good will or to care for those injured as a result of war.
But we are not engaged in military operations in Africa.
So what does the Constitution have to say?
The Constitution contains no clause specifically prohibiting the president from using the armed forces this way. You might think that such a limit would be inherent in the Constitution’s use of the word “Army.” That is, you might think the word “Army” would be limited to an exclusively military organization. But founding-era dictionaries do not impose that restriction on the term “Army.”
As those dictionaries define the word, an “Army” is merely a large number of armed men subject to central leadership. (This, by the way, is one reason the U.S. Air Force is constitutional, even though the Constitution doesn’t refer to it. The Air Force fits within the constitutional meaning of “Army.” Indeed, it was originally the Army Air Service and later the Army Air Corps.)
The operations in Africa sounds noble. But the old legal saying is: Hard cases make bad law. In other words, yielding to an innocent-sounding usurpation may create a dangerous precedent. So ask yourself: Does the Constitution allow the president to use the “Army” for any non-military purpose he pleases?
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Or maybe you prefer to focus on some narrower examples:
- * If the president decides that Argentina does not have sufficient health facilities, may he constitutionally send in the army to open and staff clinics there? (He could take the needed funds from Department of Defense appropriations.)
- * Could he make the same decision for Pennsylvania?
- * Could he send the army to register voters when there is no accompanying military threat?
- * If your answer to the last question is “yes,” then could he focus the army’s registration campaign in states that lean toward his own party? If not, how does this differ constitutionally from the previous example?
- * Could he send the military to build a highway in Ohio, if he concluded the highway was necessary for the economy there? Suppose his decision was related to Ohio’s vote in the next election?*
If those examples make you nervous, then your gut is telling you something. The army is not the president’s personal plaything. It is not a generalized work crew the president can order to do whatever he wants done. It is a military instrument, and it is dangerous to allow the president to use it for other purposes.
My guess is that the Constitution does not contain a clause banning the president from using the army for non-military ends only because the framers never imagined that any American president would do so.
Yet it has happened, and it demonstrates a flaw in our political system. For all its strengths, our Constitution contains inadequate protection against a president determined to ignore conventional limits. We have seen this before.
For example, it occurred in World War II, when the president shot at least one American citizen within the continental U.S. without a civilian trial and without habeas corpus, and when he imprisoned tens of thousands of others. (The U.S. Supreme Court failed to stop either action.) We now recognize that these were impermissible constitutional violations, but our repentance didn’t come in time to save the victims.
Once again we are witnessing the exercise of arbitrary executive power—and this time, the president does not even have the excuse of a war. But without a constitutional amendment, we are probably powerless to stop it.
Usurped Powers By Repetition
Unconstitutional usurpations by one branch of government of powers entrusted to a coequal branch are not rendered constitutional by repetition.
The United States Supreme Court held unconstitutional hundreds of laws enacted by Congress over the course of five decades that included a legislative veto of executive actions in INS v. Chada, 462 U.S. 919 (1982).
CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS
There is a reason why the question below, from a Hong Kong elementary school test, is making the rounds on the internet. Most adults can’t solve it – not for want of math skills, but because most of them have lost the child’s ability of unconventional thinking. Instead, they have acquired the debilitating unwillingness to try a different perspective.
This problem is not mathematical, but rather philosophical. It proves that, in spite of what the modern “progressive” philosophers tell us, not all viewpoints are equally valid; in most cases, there is only one point of view that leads to the right answer.
This may cause objections from proponents of moral relativity, who believe that everyone’s viewpoint is correct in its own way. Moral relativity is merely a nice-sounding cover for intellectual laziness; it relieves one of guilt for not trying to find the right solution.
It’s a lot easier to presume that one’s viewpoint is always correct: wherever one happens to be at any given moment, that must be the correct position.
By this logic, any position one had yesterday or will have tomorrow must also be correct.
Therefore, all such positions must be equally valid, and anyone else’s conflicting positions at different points of time must be equally valid, too.
This is a way to madness.
Anyone can misjudge the facts due to the wrong vantage point. But while some will admit their mistake and will try to look at things differently, a moral relativist will insist that his perspective doesn’t need changing and will blame the lack of solutions on the unknowable nature of the universe. He will then devise far-fetched schemes and erroneous complex formulas explaining why things are the way they are. It may be entertaining, but it will not lead to the right answer.
This test problem is, in fact, an optical illusion; it misleads us into judging the reality from the wrong perspective. In this sense, it is akin to agenda-driven movies, political speeches, media editorials, college courses, and writings by “progressive” economists, who, knowingly or not, blind us to simple facts, causing us to make wrong choices that benefit their cause to our detriment.
Oftentimes deceit can be accomplished not by hiding facts, but by replacing the coordinates and switching the entire frame of reference, which leads us to misjudge the same facts because we look at them from the wrong angle.
This particular children’s problem is a good reminder that out of many ways to look at facts, only one is correct, and all others will only take us on a maddening and fruitless quest for nonexistent solutions.
It also calls to mind the ongoing political and cultural disputes between “liberals” and “conservatives.” Even though the “liberals” have never offered a workable answer, they rest assured in the superiority of their complex and morally relative approach to facts, despising “conservatives” for their simple belief in absolute truths that work.
Unwilling to look at things from their opponents’ “simple” perspective, they like to end their discussions with “let’s agree to disagree.”
Likewise, quite a few foreigners look at America from across the border or across the ocean and misjudge this country’s realities simply because of the wrong perspective. Convinced of the superiority of their vantage point, they predictably arrive at bizarre and far-fetched conclusions, each one stranger than the last.
The simple truth of this test problem is that the numbers on the parking lot were placed there for the drivers; therefore, the only correct way to look at them is from inside the parking lot.
That is the only correct system of coordinates; any other system or point of view leads to errors.
In summary, when faced with a seemingly unsolvable problem, check your absolutes; you may well be on the wrong side. Verify your system of coordinates, and make sure you are looking at the facts from the right perspective.
Wouldn’t we all be better off if our political candidates were tested with this question before running for office – starting with our president? As it happens, the current president’s far-reaching and flexible approaches to the country’s problems seem to include every possible angle except that of the people in the parking lot.
If you’re still unsure about the answer, see below.
- How Islam Built The Very Fabric of America
- The Illustrated Protocols Of Rothschild’s Zionism
- The Crash Heard Round the World: Saudi Arabia Ends Kissinger USD ‘Petro-Dollar’ For Oil Payments.
- Putin’s Purge Of The Rothschild Money Changers From Russia: Another Rothschild Goon Found Dead & Another Flees To U.K.