L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 269, May 2, 2004
You Go First: The Peace Amendment
by L. Neil Smith
Exclusive to TLE
The idea is probably as old as the Pharaohs, maybe even as old as Homo Erectus. Whenever and wherever old men have sent young men off to die, sooner or later someone has suggested that the old men should go first.
There are two reasons for this, I think. The first is that, unless you're running an empire of some kindwhich we Americans are not supposed to be doingand you're fulfilling a Manifest Destiny you imagine that you have, to reach out and steal everybody else's life, liberty, and property, finding yourself involved in a war represents a serious failure on the part of a nation's political leaders. In fact they've screwed up bigtime, and there ought to be a price to pay for that.
Instead of paying a price, however, politicians are traditionally rewarded for screwing up. Like the man said, "War is the health of the State". And of the statists, too. War offers them expanded power and prestige, more stolen money to spend and less need to make excuses about it, greater control over society in general as well as every facet of an individual's life, and plenty of justifications for employing violence and threats to shut anybody up who objects. But just as nobody should be allowed to profit from a crime, no politician should be allowed to profit politically from plunging his country into war.
Beyond anything else it may be remembered for a thousand years from now, the 20th century was a century of warunprecedentedly widespread and brutalbrought about by a century of the most swollen and powerful governments this battered world's six or eight thousand years of bloodsoaked history have ever witnessed. If we are determined to prevent another century of war, it's time to take more seriously this idea that for millennia has only been half-dream and half-joke.
It is time to ratify the Peace Amendment.
Here's how it would work: the first clause would repeal the War Powers Act and any other law, regulation, or directive that allows a president to send troops overseas (or do very much of anything else militarily) without a formal declaration of war passed by majority of congress.
Maybe even a super-majority.
The second clause would reinstate the 1878 Posse Comitatus in full, forbidding the government to use the military to enforce its will anywhere within the United States. Perhaps this idea belongs in another piece of legislation, but my belief is that politicians feel an irresistible urge every waking minute to use the military to beat somebody up and kill them. Prevent them from doing it overseas, and things could get worse here, unless we prevent that with the same stroke.
The third clause is the meat of the amendment. Having voted to declare war, every Congressman who voted "aye" will immediately get up from his seat and march right out the door, where he will be handed a uniform and a weapon and be conveyed directly to the front, defined as that area of military activity that is producing the highest number of casualties.
No excuses. Practicing politicians will be denied Conscientious Objectorhood. As long as they voted to subject yet another generation of Americans to war, their age, sex, prior service, or state of health won't keep our valiant congressional warriors from going with the "boys". If they can't march, they'll be given knobby tires for their wheelchairs.
In the case of another 20th century-style undeclared war, where all Congress does is contribute our money and our children to the conflagration and give the President the go-ahead, everybody goes, whether they voted affirmative or not. Voting "no" is not enough. They should have gotten up and walked out, in protest of the rape of the Constitution.
The fourth clause winds it up. Immediately upon notification that the Congress has declared war, the President will put on a uniform of his own, pick up his rifle, and march into the sunset as a common soldier. The Vice President replacing him will do the same thing in 30 days if the war isn't over. War is hell for everyone else, but heaven for politicians. If we desire to survive the 21st century, that has to change.
So do many other things. Conscription is a form of slavery that must be banned once and for all. Clearly it violates the Thirteenth Amendment; to deny that is like denying that the Second Amendment guarantees the individual right to own and carry weapons. Any nation with a military draft should be regarded as having committed an act of warmaybe the ultimate act of waragainst its neighbors. If it refuses to abolish conscription, it should be treated as an outlaw regime.
Likewise, the entire notion of taxation has to be reconsidered. Taxation is the fuel of war, and democracy has placed the matches to ignite that fuel in the hands, not just of children, but of insane, murderous, evil children, the very worst that our civilization has to offer. Any government that aggregates more fundsby any meansthan are necessary for the barest minimal public services (if you're thinking of anything over one percent of what's customary now, you're out of line) should likewise be considered to be committing an act of war.
On second thought, make that one percent of one percent.
While we're at it, let's do something about the generals and other officers who lead from the rear. Napoleon and Wellington took their chances on the field of battle. Nelson fell so nobly at Trafalgar that we can almost forgive him for defending a regime as vile as the one he fought. It's time to get the Schwartzkopfs out of their comfortable, air-conditioned bunkers and back out into the hell of war where they belong.
One way or another, the world will be a safer place for it.
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