As the unconstitutional war in Afghanistan marches toward the end of its second decade, the Trump administration has upped the death and destruction raining down from Afghani skies to decade-high levels.
According to the latest data released by the U.S. Air Force Central Command, the U.S. military dropped 7,423 bombs on Afghanistan in 2019. As the Military Times put it, “U.S. aircraft are bombing the hell out of the Taliban and other militants.” It’s the highest number of bombs dropped in the Afghanistan war in nearly 10 years.
To put the number in perspective, the Air Force dropped 5,100 bombs in 2010 and 5,411 in 2011, at the height of Pres. Barack Obama’s troop surge.
In a recent report to Congress, the Pentagon revealed that it kicked off plans last fall to “intensify pressure” on the Taliban and force it into a settled negotiation to end the war. This is just the latest on a long list of operations and initiatives to end the war that has no end. Meanwhile, Pres. Trump has talked about pulling troops out of the country, but the rhetoric has never been backed up by any concrete action.
While the active combat operations in Iraq and Syria are supposedly winding down, the Air Force still dropped 4.729 bombs in the region. This is down sharply from the high in 2017 when the Trump administration dropped a total of 44,000 bombs in a single year.
War enjoys broad-based bipartisan support. U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has lumbered on fundamentally unchanged from George H.W. Bush, to Bill Clinton, to George W. Bush, to Barack Obama, to Donald Trump. The tactics have changed and evolved, but the unconstitutional wars have continued unabated. As Ron Paul said in the Liberty Report:
“Both sides support the war activity no matter what they say. They support it because they vote for the money … It’s almost like to cost of life and limb and money is irrelevant.”
If dropping deadly munitions on people in pursuit of an unconstitutional foreign policy doesn’t bother you, perhaps the cost of these undeclared wars will.
According to a study by the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University, Between 2001 and 2018, America’s wars cost $5.6 trillion. That equates to $23,000 per taxpayer. This is more than three times the Pentagon estimate – which still comes in at a staggeringly high $1.5 trillion.
This is precisely why the Constitution carefully separated the power to initiate war and the power to execute it. James Madison wrote in detail about constitutional war powers in his Letters of Helvidius.
“In the general distribution of powers, we find that of declaring war expressly vested in the congress, where every other legislative power is declared to be vested; and without any other qualification than what is common to every other legislative act. The constitutional idea of this power would seem then clearly to be, that it is of a legislative and not an executive nature…
“Those who are to conduct a war cannot in the nature of things, be proper or safe judges, whether a war ought to be commenced, continued, or concluded. They are barred from the latter functions by a great principle in free government, analogous to that which separates the sword from the purse, or the power of executing from the power of enacting laws.”
Without any restraint from Congress – the representatives of the people – one president after another has dragged America into undeclared war after undeclared war. Sometimes Congress rubber-stamps executive action with unconstitutional, open-ended authorizations to use force. But over the last several years. presidents have even abandoned this formality. As Tenth Amendment Center executive director Michael Boldin put it, “Give government an inch and they always take a mile. Especially when it comes to war powers.”
Madison insisted that you can’t have liberty and perpetual war. As he put it, “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.”
“War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” [emphasis added]
The founders understood this and created a system that would make it difficult to drag the United States into military entanglements. Having unfettered itself from its constitutional restraints, war has become the default position for the U.S. government. And we have all paid the price. These undeclared wars have cost countless lives, trillions of dollars in treasure and have eroded our liberties here at home, just as Madison predicted.