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Article Review - Wrestling over War Powers - July 12, 2008

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Dahlia Lithwick wrote the article, "Wrestling Over War Powers," on July 12, 2008. The article was published in Newsweek and was written in an attempt to influence the current legislatures at the time.

Lithwick commences the article by stating a recent happening in Congress. She writes that former Secretaries of State, James Baker and Warren Christopher, have expressed strong interest in making revisions to the War Powers Act of 1973. The proposed changes included that president must meet with Congress before deploying the troops into battle for over a week, and that the president is required to gather with Congress if the armed forces have dealings with covert operations and emergency circumstances for at least three days.

While Lithwick admits congressmen are beginning to fix what is wrong with the War Powers Act, she believes that the problem is being approached the wrong way. Lithwick claims that Congress believes the problem lies in the ambiguity of the writing of the act. However, Lithwick thinks the problem is a much too powerful executive. She states that the executive branch has too many privileges when it comes to war and Congress is too timid to stand up to a strong president during disagreements.

According to Lithwick, if Congress is nervous about stepping up to one man, the president, then that man might as well be a king. She writes that if the president has too much control of the army, and that the main group responsible for limiting him (Congress) is too quiet to say no to him, then the United States will have a king in the making. Lithwick states that even the founding fathers feared giving the executive control of the army. She writes that James Madison feared that the idea of war is very attractive to the executive, who is very prone to entering into it. It is for these reasons that Madison and the other founding fathers decided to place majority of the war responsibilities in the legislative branch.

Luthwick states Madison and the founding fathers feared the return of a king. They took many provisions to try and prevent this from happening, but according to Lithwick, the president is looking more and more king-like with the revisions made to the War Powers Act. Lithwick quotes President Abraham Lincoln stating that kings go into wars causing great destruction for the citizens, but claiming the war is in their best interest. It is Lincoln who also states that one of the main objectives in the writings of the Constitution is to prevent a king. Lithwick then concludes her argument by stating that the founding fathers would see the editing of the War Powers Act as a step in the wrong direction, and something must be changed or we will indeed be under the rule of another king.

After reading Dahlia Lithwick's article, I feel that I am split on the subject. I believe that war is a serious and complex subject that should not be allowed to be handled just by one branch of government and certainly not one man. War costs millions, if not billions, of dollars plus the lives of US citizens to fight in it. War is extremely costly and I believe that in order to keep those costs at a minimum, Congress and the President need to work together quickly and efficiently to decide what to do. I know that this is harder than it is made out to be as Congress and the President have historically butted heads, but when it comes to war, they need rise to the occasion and get things done rather than going about it their own, separate ways.

I do agree with Lithwick that giving the president too much control over war is insanely dangerous. I agree with the quote from James Madison saying that the executive of the country is always the most attracted to the thought of war and is also the quickest to jump into war.



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