The Constitutional Basis for Defense as a Federal Responsibility Part I

Posted by $ MichaelAarethun 4 years, 4 months ago to Government
39 comments | Share | Flag

A Constitutional Basis for Defense

By Jim Talent

About the Author

Jim Talent
Distinguished Fellow
The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy

Those who have not done so recently would benefit from studying what the United States Constitution says about the federal government’s responsibility to provide for the common defense. Most Americans had to memorize the preamble to the Constitution when they were children, so they are aware that one of the purposes of the document was to “provide for the common defense.” But they are not aware of the extent to which the document shows the Founders’ concern for national security.

Providing for the Common Defense

In brief, the Constitution says three things about the responsibility of the federal government for the national defense.

National defense is the priority job of the national government. Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution lists 17 separate powers that are granted to the Congress. Six of those powers deal exclusively with the national defense—far more than any other specific area of governance—and grant the full range of authorities necessary for establishing the defense of the nation as it was then understood. Congress is given specific authority to declare war, raise and support armies, provide for a navy, establish the rules for the operation of American military forces, organize and arm the militias of the states, and specify the conditions for converting the militias into national service.

Article Two establishes the President as the government’s chief executive officer. Much of that Article relates to the method for choosing the President and sets forth the general executive powers of his office, such as the appointment and veto powers. The only substantive function of government specifically assigned to the President relates to national security and foreign policy, and the first such responsibility granted him is authority to command the military; he is the “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.”

National defense is the only mandatory function of the national government. Most of the powers granted to Congress are permissive in nature. Congress is given certain authorities but not required by the Constitution to exercise them. For example, Article One, Section Eight gives Congress power to pass a bankruptcy code, but Congress actually did not enact bankruptcy laws until well into the 19th century.

But the Constitution does require the federal government to protect the nation. Article Four, Section Four states that the “United States shall guarantee to every State a republican form of government and shall protect each of them against invasion.” In other words, even if the federal government chose to exercise no other power, it must, under the Constitution, provide for the common defense.

National defense is exclusively the function of the national government. Under our Constitution, the states are generally sovereign, which means that the legitimate functions of government not specifically granted to the federal government are reserved to the states. But Article One, Section 10 does specifically prohibit the states, except with the consent of Congress, from keeping troops or warships in time of peace or engaging in war, the only exception being that states may act on their own if actually invaded. (This was necessary because, when the Constitution was written, primitive forms of communication and transportation meant that it could take weeks before Washington was even notified of an invasion.)

The great irony of our time is that the bigger the federal government has become, the less well it has performed its priority function of providing for the national defense. For example, Congress spent $787 billion in the “stimulus” bill last year, yet not a dime of it was spent on military procurement or modernization—despite the fact that America is in greater danger today than it has been at any time since Communism was threatening Europe in the late 1940s.

continued in Part II
SOURCE URL: http://www.heritage.org/issues/national-security-and-defense


Add Comment

FORMATTING HELP

All Comments Hide marked as read Mark all as read

  • Posted by Herb7734 4 years, 4 months ago
    Politicians who become rich by beoming politicians, Mountains of laws, rules and regulations, More people employed by the government than those doing productive work. This is not what the framers of the Constitution imagined. It's here and we must do the best we can to deal with it. Objectivism, more than any other philosophy, points the way to remedy. There are other guidelines as well. The articles regularly submitted by Robert Gore and others help point the way. But you've got to be the ant, not the grasshopper.
    Reply | Mark as read | Best of... | Permalink  
    • Posted by lrshultis 4 years, 4 months ago
      Yes, the framers of the Constitution had the problem of factions and the smallest of factions, the individual where no two individuals have the same understanding of reality. Various laws reduce the factions' differences but has resulted in a bloated beast of government. What is needed is common belief about reality that all can see to be necessary and sufficient to insure the domestic tranquility and allow all to see the direction to a world with individuals able to recognize what a reasonable general welfare might be. A faith based basis will not work because each faith is not necessarily rational in the sense that such beliefs do not necessarily demand a adherence to objective reality. An objective based philosophy would be necessary for each individual to even be able to have a commonness in beliefs about the world and life upon it including individual humans. Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, as long as it is open as a philosophy is by definition and not closed as every religion is. I doubt, from experience with emotion driven individuals that that is possible.
      Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
      • Posted by Herb7734 4 years, 4 months ago
        So, rather than politicking, perhaps educating is a better answer,
        Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
        • Comment hidden by post owner or admin, or due to low comment or member score. View Comment
        • Posted by $ 4 years, 4 months ago
          It's not the only answer but it is a precursor to any meaningful politicking and follow on action.

          For example. If people were educated they would view a move against the Obama Regime and the pending socialist follow on as Counter Revolution not a Revolution and then discover the military has already been assigned that job so it' s a. legal b. required and c. honorable thing to pursue.

          One doesn't learn that in high school Civics 101 anymore.
          Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
          • Posted by lrshultis 4 years, 4 months ago
            Rand seems to have been right in that the process toward human hood will be a long, long process. That bicameral mind that OldUglyCarl emphasizes might be key. The breakdown of the bicameral mind is only partly done. It seems to be paced by the rate of gained objective knowledge which is slowly being lost as mankind slowly drifts back toward a religious view of reality and away from a fully conscious state. Thus, violence, wars, rise of Islam, giant mega churches, extreme fads, the fleeing from science, etc., all from the inability to counter the left over hallucinatory non objective thoughts which drive nearly everyone. It is like existing in a dream world where one believes that ones mental content is reified in reality. Education may not make things better. Rand's approach was in novel form to demonstrate the problems and a direction toward the solution in her Objectivism. How to get that as a basis of knowledge for humanity is not going to be easy. Even just an understanding of the three axioms will be more than most humans want to know.
            Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
  • Comment hidden by post owner or admin, or due to low comment or member score. View Comment
  • Posted by $ 4 years, 4 months ago
    Apropos of nothing whatsoever to quote Mr. Griffin. and long as I'm in a civilized, polite, non-sarcastic teaching mood

    Cambridge Dictionary British Version

    to behave in a silly, stupid, or annoying way:
    There'll be a serious accident sooner or later if people don't stop playing silly buggers.

    the US version

    slow-witted often in combination (dumb-ass)

    If ypu don't agree there is one more definition in the urbandictionary that may be more to your liking.
    Reply | Mark as read | Best of... | Permalink  
  • Comment hidden by post owner or admin, or due to low comment or member score. View Comment
  • Posted by $ 4 years, 4 months ago
    For the rest of you and especially those who are new. and perhaps searching for answers to constitutionally based questions the referenced article and the referenced siource of information provide two top drawer to begin. Whether your interest is studying our Consitutional Republic as history, for the present, or for pehaps one day again in the future, or perhaps objectivism is your interest the Hillsdale course and other courses are no charge. Reference material is on hand by dlownloading or go to http://Amazon.Com Books for the inexpensive paperback.

    The starting point is Constitution 101, 202 and a faster paced not so in depth introduction with as I said much more available all at no charge. The Bernie and Milleniums shoudl be estatic there really is such a thing as a free education ...minus the time and personal effort of listening to taped lecturesd and studying. They even provide a test sequence to gauge yourself. For objectivists it's all about self and adding the study of philosophy behind a working government. or lack thereof.

    There are some who as the British say play at silly buggers one can just ignore them but plenty who will engage in serious discussion without the need for the crutches of Yodaic Aphorisms but with the need for rindividual reasoning and thinking.

    I particularly invite the participation of our men and women in the Armed Forces having beent hat route myself. Never fear I am NOT a REMF but more especially the current members of the teams and the groups.

    Enjoy the material or even just the conversation and the discussioin or debating. You will find all three types of particiapants here. Righteous, Debate Sakers and those that apply lessons learned.

    Education is for those who never stop learning and to quote Mr. Frank Zappa if you want an education go to the library - if you want to get laid go to College. That Mother of Invention spoke the truth in thhose two sentences.

    Welcome to our library.
    Reply | Mark as read | Best of... | Permalink  
  • Posted by jdg 4 years, 4 months ago
    I don't know where you're ultimately going with this screed, but I believe it reveals mostly ignorance of both our history and the Founders' writings.

    Many of the Founders understandably didn't trust a national government with the power to keep standing armies during peacetime. The Constitutional Convention debated a complete ban on the practice, and though they didn't enact one, the federal government did in fact go without a standing army from 1783 to 1812 and again from 1815 to 1845. (The Navy and Marines were not disbanded, and fought in Tripoli.)

    The Constitution allows state militias to mobilize and fight without approval from Washington if actually attacked or in imminent danger, and that was enough by itself to handle the dozens of Indian wars during that period.

    Declaring war is supposed to be reserved to Congress, in order to make it more difficult to start wars for stupid reasons. But that seems to have gone by the wayside when Teddy Roosevelt established that he could send the army or navy wherever he wanted as Commander in Chief and Congress couldn't do anything about it except to stop appropriating funds. That is only one of many ways our Constitutional system of government has become, and still is, broken. Obama has started three wars, and at least two of them were not authorized by congress, in the 2001 AUMF or anywhere else.

    And I agree with you that a lot of the "defense" budget today is wasted, largely because the DoD has become a huge, self-serving bureaucracy.

    Meanwhile, you seem to be asserting that the federal government is not doing the job of defense well enough, but you don't seem to have given any evidence beyond your bald assertion that "America is in greater danger today..." If you have any, or better yet a proposal that would deal with that danger, I'd like to hear it.
    Reply | Mark as read | Best of... | Permalink  
    • Comment hidden by post owner or admin, or due to low comment or member score. View Comment
    • Posted by $ 4 years, 4 months ago
      I don't know where you are going with this as the articles author and publication source is clearly listed. I had these objectives One is offer some factual evidence as everything the author said is clearly and easily found, most of it in Article I. Secondly it is to the benefit with those who may be asking the same question in a more serious learning mode and those who can offer some additional information . 3. it sometimes brings the moochers out. I let them expose themselves in their ignorance.

      We seem t have accomplished that to some extent.

      There are two clear reasons to even have government, One is defense and the other is cooperative building - infrastructure - if you will - that are beyond the capabilities of a single individual. Beyond this article in the Hillsdale Course going beyond their brief is clearly discussed and referenced.
      Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
  • Posted by $ sjatkins 4 years, 4 months ago
    We have by far the largest conventional and nuclear force in the world. We spent nearly $800 billion last year on military which is more than enough, particularly if we are not engaged in rampant adventurism. Saying if we don't spend more than we need to or that there is any reason for then the government is failing to provide for the defense of the nation is specious.
    Reply | Mark as read | Best of... | Permalink  
    • Comment hidden by post owner or admin, or due to low comment or member score. View Comment
    • Posted by $ 4 years, 4 months ago
      That last sentence is a bit weighted down Saying (who is saying) IF we don't spend more than we need spend or (What is the amouont needed?) Or that a reason exists to show the government last year failed to provide for natonal defense is specious. (because saying is not doing?)

      Really I tried to decipher it.

      I would say the primary reason is to enhance certain individuals insider trading privileges. They are called Congressionals. Another reason would be to enhance the payout to defense contractors and suippliers and the two are related. What the auithor of the article said is up the author of the article but that url will lead you to dozens of such comment sheets.
      Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
  • Posted by james5820 4 years, 4 months ago
    citing the constitution as a reason the federal government has the responsibility (or the power) to do something is an "appeal to authority". It is not a just argument for anything. I never signed the constitution. I never voted for it. It is forced unto me by the barrel of a gun. My rights do not come from the constitution. Before it was ever written, mans rights to life, property existed. As nobel an attempt the piece of paper was at a justified state by our founders, it is still a failure. This constitution did not create a limited government, it created the largest government that has ever existed in planet earths history. It created a government that steals more wealth than any other state in all of history. using the constitution as a reason for anything is nothing more than an appeal to authority and a logical fallacy. this is not an argument against national defense or the need for it. Merely pointing out your argument is no different that someone telling you "the bible says" for a moral basis of something
    Reply | Mark as read | Best of... | Permalink  
    • Posted by term2 4 years, 4 months ago
      Having a government-less society is an interesting proposition. I am sure that free market solutions to the problems that come up would be available.

      One could foresee mobs of gangs would spring up and could become so large that individuals would be unable to protect themselves from them. Thats one argument for a limited government larger than any mob. Another is protection from mobs outside the country.

      In essence the limited government idea really springs from the concept of allies- you and I get together to better ward off the bad guys. The problem comes in when there are 300 million of us, and getting everyone to agree who the bad guys are, whats "bad", and what do we do about it. I am not sure its practical to get 300 million people to agree on anything. Having 50 different "states" seems a better solution
      Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
    • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 4 years, 4 months ago
      Perhaps it's not the "Constitution's" fault...nor the Framers, I might add. No more than it's a "Guns" fault for a murder or a "Car's" fault for an accident.

      It's our fault for not binding with those principals and holding our representation's feet to the fire!

      The only valid purpose for government is for the protection of the individual; his property and his contracts...no more, no less. All else is the "Individuals" responsibility... just like every individual cell in your body.
      Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
    • Posted by Herb7734 4 years, 4 months ago
      I've noted your posts. I can agree with you if we were in some future Edenesque setting. However, what is your proposal for conduct here and now? Acting as you seem to propse will not avail you much, if anything. When those who are working to create a Objectivist Atlantis, you'll fit right in. Until then.....?
      Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
      • Comment hidden by post owner or admin, or due to low comment or member score. View Comment
      • Posted by $ 4 years, 4 months ago
        Until then we do what we can and think of the future and our children's children without, as the case is at present, education. In our various ways we prepare for the inevitable.
        Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
    • Posted by jdg 4 years, 4 months ago
      I agree as far as it goes. The Constitution morally binds the government officials, cops, and soldiers who swear to follow it, not the rest of us who don't.
      Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
    • Comment hidden by post owner or admin, or due to low comment or member score. View Comment
    • Posted by $ 4 years, 4 months ago
      Then your choice was to not join in the social conract and leave. The majoriy does not change for a minority of one but it also does not change nor modfiy the social contract accepted by millions and millions without at least being asked.


      The failure has nothing to do with the social contract, nor the Constitution. The failure is in failing to use it as intended and a very imperfect understanidng but then there are now other similar versions, Panama for one, that you might find more to your liking.

      We have a large enough siupply of couch potato whiners that wish to suck up our resources without offering anything constructive. AKA a free moocher.

      Question? What exactly have you done to effect change? That would be an interesting read especially to thoise of us who fought long and hard to dump the draft but found and find little support until the possibility of being put in uniform rears it's ugly head.
      Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
      • Posted by $ dballing 4 years, 4 months ago
        "Then your choice was to not join in the social conract[sic] and leave."

        Ah the "you stayed on the playground, and so you consent to being bullied" argument, again. That old chestnut never gets old.
        Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
        • Comment hidden by post owner or admin, or due to low comment or member score. View Comment
        • Posted by $ 4 years, 4 months ago
          But remains spot on accurate accept for those who leechers and moochers.
          Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
          • Posted by $ dballing 4 years, 4 months ago
            It's funny that you consistently try to paint folks who don't want to just be subservient to "the state" as "moochers", when in fact it is any sort of state mechanism itself which is the prima facie moocher, stealing from those it claims to have authority over.

            But I've long since stopped trying to pretend that anything you say makes a lick of sense.
            Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
  • Comment hidden by post owner or admin, or due to low comment or member score. View Comment
  • Posted by $ 4 years, 4 months ago
    I recently read the most amazing set of questions concerning the why and the extent of national defense including the draft.

    a. I agreed with the last part completlely. '"if it's worth doing enough will come forward and if they do not it isn't worth doing.""

    b. But the initial question was a commentary on the sparcity, paucity or absence of US History and Civics in the country today.

    In the first article some seventeen reasons and requirements are given if I remember the number correctly. Most of the responsibility of Congress is the answer to the question.

    I advised the individual to read the Citizens Handlbook - The Constitution. Not that hard a task that document along with the Declaration of Independence is scarcely 5,000 words - A good Magazine article in length.

    I then advised him to go find his high school civics teacher or if it wasn't taught i should have added the school board.

    and jack slap the crap out them for sending him and others like him into the world so ill prepared.

    I deleted that part in the other thread. Added it back for this one.

    Never did i think anyone in this forum would be that unfamiliar with those two documents.

    Hillsdale will give iyou the whole course or group of courses at no charge you may have noticed them mentioned . The companion volume for that course in paperback is quite affordable from Amazon.

    Considering our two major candidates seem well steeped in the hand book for life in a Socialist Democracy I thought better to remind those followers of life in a Constitutional Republic.
    Reply | Mark as read | Best of... | Permalink  
  • Posted by $ Temlakos 4 years, 4 months ago
    Question for the anarchists here: how can you guarantee the security of a free society against invasion from without by another society having an industrial capacity vastly superior to your own?
    Reply | Mark as read | Best of... | Permalink  
    • Posted by $ dballing 4 years, 4 months ago
      Those who feel that it's in their own personal economic interests to do so form a voluntary partnership and share the costs of such military needs as they jointly decide are necessary or desired.

      That military can defend your own economic interests. You can decide for yourself whether or not you want to empower them to defend the interests of non-contributory parties. (I would recommend not doing so, the same as how subscription-based fire services won't put out your fire if you didn't get a subscription in advance, as a ... motivator.)
      Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
      • Posted by $ Temlakos 4 years, 4 months ago
        In other words, a Committee of Safety.

        But I put it to you: it is in your interest to defend certain properties and interests of non-contributing parties, especially if your war becomes that much harder to fight once certain industrial capacities, inventions, etc. fall into enemy hands.
        Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
        • Posted by $ dballing 4 years, 4 months ago
          Yeah, basically.

          And you're absolutely right that it might be determined that it's in the interests of the contributors to defend some portion of the non-contributors' territories, for the betterment of the contributors' position (ie, it costs more to push people off the shores than it costs to keep them from landing in the first place), but that's strictly a decision for the partnership to decide, and nobody else.
          Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  

FORMATTING HELP

  • Comment hidden. Undo