Constitutional Sovereignty…Yay or Nay?

 “The American response should be that we recognize no higher earthly authority than the Constitution, which no valid treaty can supersede or diminish.”  

 (John R. Bolton, Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, concerning ‘international law’ versus Constitutional authority)

    

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In the Hillsdale College lecture series “Introduction to the Constitution”,  Part 4,  Dr. Larry Arnn, president of the College, distinguishes between Constitutional rule and bureaucratic, centralized government rule.  Both, he points out, are at work in our nation today.  He believes the time is coming when Americans will have to make a choice.  He uses the analogy of a house divided, stating that it cannot remain so indefinitely.  I wish he were wrong, but I fear he is not.  I wonder if the majority of Americans realize that such a crisis situation is and has been developing in our country, and that a day of reckoning may be appearing on our national horizon in our lifetimes.  If many American citizens are not even aware that liberty-threatening danger exists, how will they know what path & course to choose to avert that danger, when they are asked to do so?  Or when they must do so?

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of upholding the Constitution of the United States of America.  As I am not  a student of Constitutional law, I can only assume that interpreting it must often prove to be complicated, depending on circumstances – not so black and white.  Yet, in seeking this ultimate goal of upholding the Constitution, there are no shades of gray.  To the very best of our ability, abiding by this powerful founding document is the only wise choice for those who love liberty.

Our Constitution was not something created to be pushed aside or dismissed.  According to Dr. Arnn, the very word ‘constitution’ embodies the idea of something very big being set firmly in place.  In comparison to its predecessor, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution waxed triumphant. Whereas the Articles allowed for no executive, judicial, taxing or enforcement powers to be given the central government of the new young nation, the Constitution authorized, arranged, and yet restrained these things for the common good.  Whereas the Articles rendered the government of those days so impotent that George Washington attributed the near-disaster at Valley Forge to it, and Thomas Jefferson, in a still Revolutionary 1781, lamented the future of the United States to be “going down hill” because of this weakness, the Constitution granted the government, through Congress, the right & duty to remedy such potential catastrophes. Congress was given the right to prepare for & declare war. (Article I, Sections 8.11 – 8.16)  The Articles of Confederation merely bonded the states in a “firm league of friendship with each other.”  Without some centralized authority, States could and often did disregard requests from a government that had no power.  Bickering & animosities, boundary quarrels, commerce and money issues developed between states.  Civil officials and American representatives overseas went unpaid, as well as our soldiers, who then mutinied.  State sovereignty was operating on overkill, resulting in riots, mobs, revolts, exorbitant taxation & business closures. Talk of monarchy was beginning to be heard, even among its opponents.  George Washington saw conditions “…fast verging to anarchy and confusion.”  He wrote, “I do not conceive we can exist long as a nation without having lodged somewhere a power, which will pervade the whole Union…”   (Robert G. Athearn, The American Heritage Illustrated History of the United States, Vol. 4,  p.282,283 )   Radical government restructuring was critical to the survival of the United States of America. A convention called for the purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation produced instead the supreme law of the land, the Constitution of the United States of America.

And that has made all the difference.

Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States, by Howard Chandler Christy

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With the exception of the Internet and technological advancement in every area, I would submit that any kind of situation or crisis that may develop today existed back in the days of America’s founding.  Essentially, people are the same. We still want and need the same things today as our forefathers and their families did back then.  Sure, travel & communications time is greatly reduced and weapons have much greater destructive capabilities, but the people who produced these commodities & inventions…still people like those who sat in the Constitutional Convention, like those who signed the Declaration of Independence.  Saints & sinners alike.  Perhaps impatient, wanting freedom and/or power, needing to eat, wanting to socialize & marry…with the potential for both good & evil…able to think and speak and act.

We, and they, can go or could’ve gone either way, towards liberty, towards love…or over to the dark side.  (Sometimes within the same hour!)  So my question is, if this Constitution of the United States of America pulled a struggling, near desperate nation out of the jaws of the lion back then, and lifted her to heights only dreamed of  & debated about by other societies in other times, why would abiding by its principles not prove just as effective and beneficial today?

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The Bad News is…..Getting Better?

So…picking up where I left off

In Mr. Kagan’s article, “Planning Victory in Afghanistan”, he first makes clear the necessity of not allowing the country to become a terrorist haven, and that this necessity is a major reason for our military presence there. Achieving this goal will require, Kagan writes, “building an Afghan state with a representative government.” Now, in my earlier exposure to this foreign scenario, I didn’t get the connection. Why not just drive out the bad guys, right? Just shows I wasn’t thinking it through. Thank God, our military planners, strategists, advisers & endless other involved persons do not make that error!

Following the thread of this idea of building a representative system of governance in Afghanistan expanded my vision. This country is not a stranger to political organization. In fact, the villages often have ‘representative bodies’, and/or elders, who manage local issues & tribal concerns. But there does not exist a strong tie to centralized government. In fact, even among themselves, many villages are ‘highly localized’, not connecting with other villages and possibly viewing Afghans from another area as outsiders. Multi-ethnicity and many years of internal warring added to the mix ensure a violent resistance to any form of government not representative of such diversities among the people. However, Kagan believes that “building local solutions that do not connect with the central government is the path toward renewed warlordism and instability.”

(Talk about cliques!)

We can compare such a situation to our early history, during the times prior to the framing of our Constitution, when the Articles of Confederation were in effect. America lacked a strong central government, and though she had individually developed states, those states were at risk for becoming individual monarchies, of sorts. What was supposed to be one united nation was actually thirteen of them! basically doing their own thing. Not exactly the best of plans! Washington predicted ‘the worst consequences’ for such a government, which was fast becoming impotent, & ridiculed by other nations as well. (Wayne Coffey, How We Choose A Congress) So, as in the case of those thirteen United States, Kagan sees Afghanistan’s hope as “develop{ing} local solutions that are connected to the central government but not necessarily completely controlled by it.” Has a familiar ring to it…

However, if the government to which the people & their states are connecting is corrupt, stability will be hard to come by.

Bottom line, “…we must work hard to develop local solutions to local problems, but always with the goal of integrating those solutions into a loose but real central support-and-control system.”
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Let’s talk about counterinsurgency.


Absent a counterinsurgency and nation-building strategy that leads the population to reject the terrorists, killing bad guys will not defeat well-organized and determined terrorist networks.”

In Iraq, during 2006, “…U.S. Special Forces teams had complete freedom to act against al-Qaeda…”,with tremendous air and ground support, both US & Iraqi, killing “scores of key terrorist leaders”, including al-Qaeda’s head in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Yet, in a sense, it was to no avail, producing rather an increase in terrorist activity, violence and control. Not until a counterinsurgency approach was applied did we defeat al-Qaeda in Iraq.
The proof is in the pudding, people…
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Kagan discusses the concept of ‘awakening’, which proved so effective in Iraq in 2007, and caused the Sunni-Arab rejection of al-Qaeda as well as their turning to coalition goals. He specifies that this change of heart was the result of ‘myriad local developments’ (meaning, not a pre-determined, regulated movement, I’m assuming?) and that each grouping of Iraqis remained independent. From there, he extrapolates that, concerning the Afghanistan populace, “…we must allow and encourage local movements to grow organically—in accordance with local conditions and traditions, but moderated by Afghan and coalition forces that understand the local area.” If memory serves, a major strategy change in General McChrystal’s plans is just such a move – partnering our troops with the Afghan soldiers in a way that they will be not just fighting with them, but living in their midst, walking their streets, getting ‘down with the people’. In other words, ‘understand{ing} the local area’ through exposure to the local dynamics. Mirroring McChrystal’s thinking, Kagan believes that such understanding can be gained “…only by living among the people…”

Working from the inside out…

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(Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from the National Review Online article “Planning Victory in Afghanistan” by former West Point professor and Yale graduate Frederick W. Kagan.)