Separation of Powers Doctrine & Aggravated Civil-Military Relations

Nixon was screwed.  The leaks represented unwarranted usurpation of the Presidents war powers numerated in both the Constitution & Federalist Papers.  Yes Congress carries the purse but the President can wage, make war (those words aren’t mine, they’re Madison’s.)

The 1970’s saw the greatest positivist challenge to a unitary Presidency in the Boland, Church amendments that openly sought the elimination of the separation of powers doctrine, the very source architecture of our Constitutional Republic.

Why was this done?  Vietnam was unpopular and the Democratic Party wanted to bludgeon the President.

Why is this important today?  Given how the progressive wing was totally thwarted, rejected in November, the Democratic Party seeks revenge in filibusters, nuclear options, sit-in’s, and quorums.  They lost.  Weren’t we told elections have consequences?  Better still, the Founders vision of a Republic meant that the mandate of an election ideologically shapes the structure of government.  Today this is denied.

Washington’s farewell address was denied.  When Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush & Clinton became President they inherited a formidable policy architecture to confront the Cold War.  A twilight conflict the Founders never wrote for, yet anticipated.  With an unpopular war called Vietnam, the House sought political cover to protect their influence.  If it meant near permanent damage to the structure of our Constitutional government, so be it.

Because the origins of Vietnam lay in Washington’s need to secure French support for NATO, Truman sought overt political accommodation of French tacit support for its imperial writ in Indo-China.  For Vietnam, there never was a declaration of war, that’s why the Gulf of Tonkin resolution remains significant.  An executive is subject to political pressure, the publics desire expressed through the dominant media of that time limited the unitary authority of the President.  TV hampered the separation of powers.

We met the challenge thrown down by Lenin and the sons of perdition, but the cost was very high.  That included Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, El Salvador and hosts of other periphery nations that beckoned military support.  Our Presidents took their oath seriously, but the story of the separation of powers, a unitary executive and war powers is hardly told.

The entire drama plays out in civil-military relations, a hide bound discipline that destroys careers, lives, even families and nations.  Here’s the truth:  the Constitution enumerates war powers to the President, this means he/she can wage unlimited, even nuclear tactical war globally.  Subjected only to political restraint by the public. The Presidents job is to preserve the Union.

Indochina of the 1970’s is a great place to start reviewing unprecedented paramilitary escalation, under the reform of the entire defense department, a flatter structure for ‘the long war’ in Yemen, Somalia may resemble Indochina.

In 1961, Laos was the focal point for our containment strategy, these and other CIA ventures into paramilitary operations remain heavy capital investments that were only understood by those who formally studied counterinsurgency doctrine.  The rest of our establishment was caught up in Westmoreland’s myopic, wrong-headed scheme of superior firepower through linear engagement.  By contrast, the Marine corps admonition that U.S. formal policy in Vietnam identify each, every communist political officer in every single hamlet throughout Vietnam for assassination under the CIA’s Phoenix Program openly frightened the North, evidenced in recent declassified state archives.

The reform of the Pentagon, its acquisition systems along with personnel throughout the department of defense should anticipate what a flatter, more nimble defense structure will resemble.  If Trump’s revamping of his National Security Council excludes previous commanders while admitting policy officers, we need to prepare the public for why this occurs.  Fiefdoms are monolithic, and can possess interests contrary to our Republic and the Presidents oath.  Reforming our governing institutions so they resemble a Republic and not a Parliament is a most difficult feature of any reform.  But IT must be done.

Get ready for the loyal opposition to take the field positioning themselves in parliamentary manner.  They’ve lost, and we’re stuck with juvenile sit-ins, minimum quorums, filibusters and other archaic nomenclature of a dominant militant ruling class unfit to serve.



About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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