On March 28, 2017, the United States Senate voted to give the president the power to bring Montenegro into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The process reveals the extent to which Congress has abandoned its war power authority to the executive branch.
NATO is an international, intergovernmental military alliance created in 1949 to protect Europe against the United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). NATO has continued to expand despite the dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991.
I do not believe that there was ever a need for NATO. Scholarship has concluded that the “missile gap” didn’t really exist. It was also necessary for the Russians to constantly stamp out political and military rebellions in their sphere of influence. How much of a threat to the West could the Soviets have been if they couldn’t control their own puppet regimes? In other words, the threat from the Evil Empire was exaggerated. Yet, let us all assume for the moment, that NATO was necessary and did serve to protect the West from Communists.
What possible benefit could enlargement serve American interests now? How is the American union served by creating a supranational political and military organization? Moreover, what safety does Montenegro offer the United States?
James Madison wrote, “No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” But by enlarging NATO we are in a simmering state of continual warfare.
Instead of shuttering the doors of the NATO headquarters in Belgium, the powers that-be want to find a new mission for the alliance. First, they toyed with the idea of using it as Europe’s standing army. Then they floated the idea of using it for humanitarian missions. Now they say NATO is more important than ever in order to protect the West against Russia.
But the problem of creating a military as large and advanced as NATO is that politicians find themselves asking the same question that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright asked: “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”
The desire on the part of the political class to use these tools of war ensures a constant state of military tension. This can only lead to a real war. When a country maintains a continuous war-posture the political, military, and economic power flow toward the central government. The cause of protecting the nation supersedes any concerns of the states or individuals. This process almost ensures that the political lines between the union of states will blur. Political events in far away countries have a direct impact on our lives in the small corners of America.
Back to Madison for a moment:
“The constitution expressly and exclusively vests in the legislature the power of declaring a state of war… The separation of the power of declaring war, from that of conducting it, is wisely contrived…”
It is the Congress, not the executive, which must determine America’s foreign policy. For example, Article II, Section II of the Constitution states that the president has the power to make treaties, provided he has received the advice and consent of the Senate. A treaty obligation such as Montenegro’s accession into NATO is effectively an agreement to come to the military defense of that country if it is attacked.
However, the members of the Senate originally did not want to even debate admitting Montenegro into the alliance or if it’s membership would enhance American security. They initially wanted to let the resolution of accession pass through a process that does not require any debate or even an affirmative vote.
Only two Senators objected to this procedure. This forced a Roll Call vote. The resolution passed 97-2. Montenegro will now be a Member of NATO.
When Congress refuses to take its responsibility to limit U.S. involvement in foreign wars seriously, what can be done?
We should start thinking along the same lines of the Tenth Amendment Center’s Defend the Guard legislation. States can and should withhold members of their national guard if they have orders to go to countries or war zones that have not been appropriately debated and voted on in the Congress.