Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lesson number one on how to operate in the executive branch of a constitutional republic

If you're the Defense Department, don't tell your congressional paymasters that certain funding levels would be "completely unacceptable." (Or "clearly unacceptable," for that matter.)

We're all familiar with the Constitution, right? Article I, Section 8, in particular?

There's actually a Constitutionally-provided means for the executive branch to register its opinion that certain legislative initiatives are "completely unacceptable": it's called the presidential veto. Here's a not-exhaustive list of people who are not statutorily guaranteed veto power: the Secretary of Defense; "senior defense officials"; you (except you, Mr. President).

Is it any wonder that a world such as this, where appointed officials of the executive branch dictate to the elected representatives of the people what is and is not "acceptable," produces generals who believe Congress requires re-education in the national interest?

Is it any wonder that appropriate civil-military relations in this country, not to mention the clear distinction between the legitimate roles and missions of the various departments and agencies of the government, are so constantly and consistently eroded as to scarcely merit comment in some circles?

Is it any wonder that the unitary executive sees fit to wage war (under the guise of "kinetic military action") in Libya without legislative sanction, and in the face of popular opposition?

Is it any wonder that we're increasingly comfortable with the Jominian subversion of our domestic politics to the imperatives of forever war?

No, I think what's unacceptable is the Defense Department telling the Congress that there's a certain funding level at which it refuses to prioritize and make choices... that is, it refuses to do its job.

"The Pentagon cannot presume to exempt itself from the scrutiny and pressure faced by the rest of our government" on the matter of budgets. That's your predecessor talking, Mr. Panetta. That's a man who knew a little bit about what was and wasn't acceptable.

1 comment:

  1. Sure are placing a lot of the blame on the Pentagon. Surely somewhere in their decades of slowly handing over power to the executive branch the legislators became responsible for the situation.

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