More on the Troops

Under the present arrangement, the Executive has too much leeway in commiting the armed forces into battle. The War Powers Act, still disputed, was an attempt to rectify that imbalance. The Bush-Cheney Administration has actually tried to increase the power of the Executive.

But the power of the President to intervene around the world with the US military has rested in part on the political immaturity of the public. No one disputes the power of the President to respond to emergency situations without seeking prior approval. But Presidents have also known that once the troops are committed, the opposition can be cowed into silence with the demand to "support the troops." In practical terms, the freedom of action of the President to use the world's strongest military for an interventionist imperial policy has been dependent on the public susceptibility to emotional manipulation.

That era is coming to an end.

The Bush administration is delegitimizing all of the mechanisms by which the government would get consent for imperial interventions around the world. It used to be that people would say things like, "Well, they have access to secret information that we don't have, so we should assume that they know what they are doing." Now, people are beginning to understand that it is entirely possible that there is no such secret information, and that "intelligence gets fixed to match the policy."

When this long tragic saga is over, we will see that Bush's Presidency, through its overreach, helped bring the Imperial Presidency and the era of US hegemony as the world's only hyper-power to an end.


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