This story has been sitting on my toolbar since Thursday. I didn’t want to write it because I don’t fully understand it and it is very complex, but it needs to be written.
Paul Mirengoff at Power Line posted an article on Thursday entitled, “Power and Constraint — how the JAGs hijacked U.S. anti-terrorism policy.” The article deals with how our actions in fighting the war on terror have been hijacked by lawyers rather than being run by the military.
The article reports:
During the Bush years, we often heard from the left that the war on terror was changing America for the worse by undermining our values and our Constitution. These claims were mostly nonsense. But one portion of our system did take a hit — the concepts of civilian control of the military and the Commander-in-Chief as chief law interpreter for the executive branch. This was the handiwork of the JAGs.
We covered this development as best we could on Power Line, mostly by reporting on the work, and the preening, of Lindsey Graham, the JAGs men in Congress. However, until I read Jack Goldsmith’s book Power and Constraint, I didn’t know the half of it.
Mr. Mirengoff then excerpts a large portion of his review of the Book Power and Constraint to explain how the JAGs have influenced the way the war is being fought. I strongly recommend that you follow the above link to the Power Line article and read the entire article.
The article at Power Line concludes:
Goldsmith appears troubled by the military’s undermining of the President’s ability to interpret the law on behalf of the executive branch. He also recognizes that the injection of lawyers into battle harmed U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Ultimately, he is agnostic as to whether the harm is outweighed by the possible prevention of misguided polices and the blowback they would have caused.
Goldsmith’s agnosticism is understandable. Both sides of the cost-benefit equation are impossible to measure. But this much should be clear: our elected executive is responsible for making the cost-benefit decisions. His decisions may be subject to judicial review, but they should not be undermined or thwarted by military lawyers. It also seems clear that in war, including war on terrorism, the president should err in favor of defeating the enemy, rather than minimizing “blowback.”
As a relative of a soldier who served two tours in Afghanistan, I object to the current rules of engagement. I think it’s time we either fought wars or left situations alone. There really is no successful in-between path.