Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 10, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

CONGRESS AND WAR....James Baker and Warren Christopher have proposed a new piece of legislation that would replace the War Powers Act and clarify Congress's role in declaring war. David Broder approves because this would "signal a healthy change toward bipartisanship in foreign policy."

Maybe. But my first thought when I read about the Baker/Christopher proposal was that the only thing bipartisan about it was that no one in either party would want to touch it with a ten foot pole. Congress, I figured, doesn't want war declaring power. They'd rather pass the buck and then complain about it later. In Slate today, Timothy Noah confirms my skepticism:

There's only one problem. Congress doesn't want to streamline its role in declaring war, because, for all its bluster (not to mention its constitutional responsibility), Congress doesn't want to be held politically accountable for the results. I first became aware of this phenomenon 21 summers ago while covering a House debate on the use of Navy convoys to escort 11 Kuwaiti oil tankers through the Persian Gulf.

....What amazed and shocked me, and moved me to write up the debate for the New Republic, was the unembarrassed manner in which members of Congress declared as their paramount interest the absence of any legislative fingerprints on whatever might result from allowing (or not allowing) the Navy convoys to enter an area of violent conflict. In fact, it was pretty much taken as a given that the War Powers Resolution would not be invoked, not because the president was not complying with it (no president ever has) but because doing so would require Congress to either approve or revoke Reagan's decision.

This is pretty much standard congressional MO, so it doesn't surprise me. If members of Congress could get away with never voting on anything, they'd probably do it.

Kevin Drum 1:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (48)

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Congress, I figured, doesn't want war declaring power. They'd rather pass the buck and then complain about it later.

Kevin, this the most spot-on thing you've written in a while!

Of course, it really shouldn't be up to Congress to decide whether they want that responsibility or not, any more than the Supreme Court should get to just punt and say, "We don't know what the law means. YOU go interpret it!"

But when we have a lazy legislative branch that's happy to let the executive use scope creep to increase its powers, we get a status quo that's not really what the Founders intended.

Posted by: Equal Opportunity Cynic on July 10, 2008 at 1:53 AM | PERMALINK

"I disagree with the label "Bush's War"

Okay, then. Cheney's war. Feel better?

Posted by: Everyman on July 10, 2008 at 2:06 AM | PERMALINK

it looks like our 2 presidential candidates both want to pass the buck to their corporate interests.

Yesterday, obama sold us out on the 4th ammendment, breaking a promise from last year (when he was a nobody and needed cash to run a campaign). And mccain?

He didn't even bother to vote - why be bothered with obama will do the dirty work?

As POTUS, either one has shown they will pander to the public, state whatever they need to say to get some applause lines, and then defer to the corpocracy that underwrites their existant.

obama = slick packaged mccain, same interests
mccain = bush
obama = slick packaged bush, same interests

Stay home this fall or vote for cindy mckinney - the dems need to know that, if they are going to capitulate to the same interests, political/economic agenda, and policies of the bush administration, that progressive and liberals won't support them.

I resent being used for money and votes in a primary by a dishonest candidate and spend a lot of time, energy, and resources working for obama's defeat.

Posted by: on July 10, 2008 at 2:32 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum >"...If members of Congress could get away with never voting on anything, they'd probably do it."

No, no.

They ALWAYS would want to vote for their pay raises.

"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." - George Bernard Shaw

Posted by: daCascadian on July 10, 2008 at 2:45 AM | PERMALINK

Anonymous troll certainly wants Democrats to stay home this November. Are the Republicans so worried that they're having their interns plague liberal blogs with their ridiculous blather?

McCain voting record:
http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/members/m000303/votes/

Obama voting record:
http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/members/o000167/votes/

Judge by what they've done over the long haul, not what they say they're going to do during a campaign.

You may not want to wake up next to either one of them, but Obama offers a clear choice. In 2000, people whined about Gore. Some chose Nader. In 2004, people whined about Kerry. Think either of them would have done the damage the Republicans managed to do these past eight years?

Don't be stupid: Refusing to vote is not an option.

Posted by: Everyman on July 10, 2008 at 3:25 AM | PERMALINK

'Refusing to vote is not an option.'

Of course it's an option. Just an incredibly bad one.

Posted by: Fel on July 10, 2008 at 5:01 AM | PERMALINK

For the Iraq war debate, I always thought it would be useful to have Congress vote on a declaration of war. Simply put, I think it would be a way of redefining the "war on terror" by comparing it to an outright declaration.

It's a different battlefield than military funding votes were efforts to change the course of the war failed.

For military funding, it's easy for the president and war supporters to claim cutting funding is undermining the troops, un-American, etc., etc. Same thing for anything else the White House has wanted -- not for warrantless wiretapping? Don't you know there's a "war" on?

I think an actual vote on whether to officially declare war would hopefully raise a lot of questions about the conflicts the United States is fighting.

Posted by: Ryan on July 10, 2008 at 5:10 AM | PERMALINK

If James Baker, aka Bush Consigliere is for it, that is reason enough for me to oppose it right there. It is a prettily wrapped box of s#!+, with the timer set to explode all over the Constitution during the Jeb Bush administration.

Posted by: bluewave on July 10, 2008 at 5:46 AM | PERMALINK

James Baker is one of the biggest slimeballs in modern American history. He must be wanting to do something decent in his life before he passes on, having helped Dubya steal the 2000 election and secretly fund Saddam Hussein and the Contras, among other shady dealings.

Look, the Founders never intended the Executive branch to use the American military as a toy and a tool of imperialism. How we got so far off the Constitutional moorings at this point is a deep mystery. If we impeached Bush and imprisoned him for the rest of his pathetic life, that might send a strong message to the next asshole who thinks they can use the military as the first resort in foreign policy.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on July 10, 2008 at 5:50 AM | PERMALINK

The Senate voted on the first gulf war. If I remember correctly the vote was non-binding, but I clearly remember it being debated and important and Senators stuck their necks out one way or the other. The resolution Hillary is being held accountable for is another of those votes. I wouldn't dismiss too quickly any step toward trimming the Executive's power in this area. Conservative Deflator is right, and right about impeachment too. Even better would be a war crimes trial at The Hague. Holding them accountable somehow is critical.

Posted by: dennisS on July 10, 2008 at 7:07 AM | PERMALINK

The Senate voted on the first gulf war. If I remember correctly the vote was non-binding, but I clearly remember it being debated and important and Senators stuck their necks out one way or the other. The resolution Hillary is being held accountable for is another of those votes. I wouldn't dismiss too quickly any step toward trimming the Executive's power in this area. Conservative Deflator is right, and right about impeachment too. Even better would be a war crimes trial at The Hague. Holding them accountable somehow is critical.

Posted by: dennisS on July 10, 2008 at 7:07 AM | PERMALINK

You're probably right and like most legislative concepts it's probably DOA for multiple reasons. My guess is the main one is something about "a post 9-11 world" and "flexibility in the war on terror." However, I'll play devil's advocate:

1) With no wars on the horizon (and no money to pay for one regardless), it's all hypothetical. Congress could use this vote as a way to look tough on stupid wars without the real prospect of having to vote on particular stupid wars in the future. I think most Americans are for making the hurdle more difficult.

2) Congress looks like stupid when they're stepped on by the executive branch no matter what. Going to war without a vote makes the congressional leadership look impotent. Voting on aresolution concerning "serious consequences" can screw folk too (just ask Hillary and John Kerry). Voting on an actual war simply can't be that much worse.

Of course it seems Obama would probably be against it or any other law limiting the executive branch. Just like democrats are now excited about corporate donations and 2010 gerrymandering prospects.

BTW Kevin, are you self-censoring on the religious charity issue? It might be a fun discussion in the Amy Sullivan sense of the words "fun discussion."

Posted by: B on July 10, 2008 at 7:31 AM | PERMALINK

Congress, I figured, doesn't want war declaring power. They'd rather pass the buck and then complain about it later.


Kevin Drum should vote for Dr. Ron Paul!

Join the March on Washington, July 12!

Revolution!

Posted by: Ron Pauliac on July 10, 2008 at 7:34 AM | PERMALINK

Stay home this fall or vote for cindy mckinney - the dems need to know that, if they are going to capitulate to the same interests, political/economic agenda, and policies of the bush administration, that progressive and liberals won't support them.

I resent being used for money and votes in a primary by a dishonest candidate and spend a lot of time, energy, and resources working for obama's defeat.

Are you nuts? She's a black woman! We need a white man in the White House. Vote for Dr. Ron Paul. He wants Congress to make foreign policy!

Posted by: Ron Pauliac on July 10, 2008 at 7:38 AM | PERMALINK

Look, the Founders never intended the Executive branch to use the American military as a toy and a tool of imperialism. How we got so far off the Constitutional moorings at this point is a deep mystery. If we impeached Bush and imprisoned him for the rest of his pathetic life, that might send a strong message to the next asshole who thinks they can use the military as the first resort in foreign policy.

Yes, if you read the Jay and Madison in the Federalist, and even Randolph, many were wary of the dangers of placing so much power in the hands of one man.

And yet, after the war, some wanted to make George Washington, a victorious general, president, or a monarch, for life. He refused.

In traditionibus scriptorum non quod dictum est, sed quod gestum est, inspicitur.

Posted by: Well Known Gun on July 10, 2008 at 8:03 AM | PERMALINK

I don't disagree with the lack of interest by Congress to have a stronger War Powers act, but I have to disagree with Timothy Noah's shock - how exactly is providing convoy protection a "war" act? The fact that there are violent conflicts going on in the world does not prevent the US military from providing protective actions such as this. As long as we're not engaging in direct, offensive military actions against another state, it's not a War Powers issue. Moving on...

Posted by: Jason on July 10, 2008 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

The Conservative Deflator,

Congress can zero out the funding for the war any time it wants to. Congress had no more courage in doing that invoking the War Power Act.

It is hard to argue that President Bush is out of Control and without oversight when Congress keeps approving funds for him to use.

I suspect that keeping civil servants from losing a days pay is more important than trying to control the president.

Posted by: superdestroyer on July 10, 2008 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

How many ships have been blown up that they require naval convoy protection? Are other countries providing naval convoy protection in the area? Could these naval convoys be construed as preparations for other U.S. intentions in this pre-election, critical time?

Please. Acting as though these naval convoys are innocent reactions on the part of an innocent Administration is naive beyond belief.

Posted by: Everyman on July 10, 2008 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

Jasper is partly right. This Iraq clusterfuck is not Bush's(or Cheney's) war alone. If the true disgraceful history of the last few years is written there will be a chapter reserved for the cowardice of our elected representatives who rolled over and played dead, even when they knew better, while the drums of war were beating. Who went along with the bullying because they didn't want to appear "weak."
Shame.
Shame on every God-damned one of them, Democrat and Republican alike.

Which doesn't stop me from voting against McSham.

Posted by: thersites on July 10, 2008 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

superdestroyer:

Your points are well taken. This Democratic Congress has been craven and utterly lacking in spine. I also acknowledge that Democratic presidents have misused the military - Johnson in Viet Nam, Clinton in Bosnia/Kosovo. Arguably, every military action since WWII has had little or nothing to do with "national defense" and everything to do with imperial aggression and forward power projection to defend America's corporate interests. Our unique geography (two oceans on our east and west and weak, passive neighbors on our north and south) make the need for massive spending on "defense" highly questionable. Even the attack on Pearl Harbor was not against the United States (Hawaii didn't become a state until 1959), but rather Japan's reaction to our aggressive land grabs in the Pacific. Let me be clear - the American military has been misused for at least the last 60 years by presidents of both political parties.

TCD

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on July 10, 2008 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Since the war started, the Congress has had a boatload of opportunities to invoke the War Powers Act. Since the Dems regained Congress and have been in a position to do this, even, they haven't.

To riff on the old Washington cliche:

Congress may have 535 Secretaries of State but it has 0 Secretaries of Defense.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 10, 2008 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

Why are we complaining about 'congress' or even Bushism?

The real problem comes right back to the American people. Congress and Bush are just projections of the people. We have met the enemy and it is us.

They American electorate is putting up with this crap. In reality, it far more than just 'putting up', they are they are actively aiding and abetting the gutting of the constitution that stands between them and a totalatarian government.

Sadly, it is not a phenonema local to the USA... across the pond the Brits are busily giving up their freedoms too.

Fear gives power.
Ignorance gives power.
Religion gives power.

These are our real enemies... how do your combat these things?

Posted by: Buford on July 10, 2008 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

I think it can be argued this is Bush's War:

The intentional use of false Nigeria info in his SOTU speech.

Powell's unconvincing case to the U.N. on WMD's

"Bring em on" from our cowboy CinC.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on July 10, 2008 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

The problem with Baker's and Christopher's piece is that it mouths a persistant mistake:

"Our Constitution ambiguously divides war powers between the president (who is the commander in chief) and Congress (which has the power of the purse and the power to declare war)."

Commander-in-Chief is not a constitutional power. It is a role, and no more than a role. Congress is the first branch, and as laid out in _Federalist_, should predominate. Congress has sole power to declare war. The president can give orders as the Founders recognized that battle by committee won't always work well. Until the American public gets its head around the idea that C-in-C is a role, not a power and abandons its love of pseudo-aristocracy, we'll be reliving this nightmare over and over again.

Posted by: disgusted on July 10, 2008 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

The Conservative Deflator: If we impeached Bush and imprisoned him for the rest of his pathetic life, that might send a strong message to the next asshole who thinks they can use the military as the first resort in foreign policy.

No, no. Take them to the Hague for war crimes:
--authorizing torture
--authorizing collective punishment in an occupied country
--authorizing bombing of civilian areas in an occupied country

Everybody who participated in the meetings where these were approved should be tried for war crimes.

Posted by: on July 10, 2008 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

The Conservative Deflator: If we impeached Bush and imprisoned him for the rest of his pathetic life, that might send a strong message to the next asshole who thinks they can use the military as the first resort in foreign policy.

No, no. Take them to the Hague for war crimes:
--authorizing torture
--authorizing collective punishment in an occupied country
--authorizing bombing of civilian areas in an occupied country

Everybody who participated in the meetings where these were approved should be tried for war crimes.

Posted by: anandine on July 10, 2008 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on July 10, 2008 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

FWG: So historically the president has always used the military as he has seen fit with no interference from congress.

So historically, men have always beat their wives without interference from the authorities. so it might be better viewed as the traditional way order has been maintained in the home than abuse. Especially since the authorities have often given tacit approval by turning a blind eye to these "interventions."

Try again.

Posted by: thersites on July 10, 2008 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

This is a point I made some time ago:
The Congress holds the purse stings to limit the ability of the executive to make war by his own will. This is one of the most salient features of the American Constitution because British kings had long abused the power of raising revenue to fight unpopular wars. In fact, one of the main causes of the English Civil War was Charles I assertion of his right to tax for war without the consent of Parliament under the condition of national emergency. Charles had secretly entered into a treaty to aid the King of Spain against the Dutch. Knowing this war of discretion would be unpopular he made the argument that the interests of the realm were threatened by ‘certain thieves, pirates, and robbers of the sea, as well as Turks, enemies of the Christian name….’ and thereby sought legitimacy for his power over the purse. Charles limited his original taxation for ‘ship money’ to port towns, as was the custom, but later tried to extend it to a general and permanent tax. Over time opposition grew until his power was limited in the Long Parliament.


The condition of a permanent standing army in modern nations and permanent war funding in the US since WWII have led to a situation where anyone who gets into the White House can run any war they want. All they need is a good, or not so good, PR team to tell the nation about the threat- just like Charles I and his ‘certain thieves, pirates, and robbers of the sea, as well as Turks, enemies of the Christian name….’. They can beat up the other politicians with charges of anti-patriotism. There is so much war money around that even small groups within the executive can run little interventions on the side. None of these wars are national emergencies. They are project-wars by interested parties made up, often out of stunningly childish pretext, into epochal struggles for national survival.

Because these wars are not expensive to politicians, they will continue to look the other way when the next monarch for 4 years ascends the throne and has a project he is interested in. When war is funded by a direct tax- called the war tax- it will end.

Posted by: bellumregio on July 10, 2008 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Congress, mainly the house, is very good at earmarks.

This may seem out of character, but I have come around to believing in earmarks, precisely that is what congress does efficiently, Whenever we find something that congress does well, we should take a closer look and maybe budget f0or it.

Posted by: Matt on July 10, 2008 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

Our war for resources is a repudiation of our stance in WWII. The Japanese invaded SE Asia for resources they needed.How is this any different from our actions in the Middle East?

Posted by: who used nukes on July 10, 2008 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

The Japanese invaded SE Asia for resources we wanted.

Fixed it for ya.

Posted by: thersites on July 10, 2008 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on July 10, 2008 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

Our Constitution ambiguously divides war powers between the president (who is the commander in chief) and Congress (which has the power of the purse and the power to declare war).

Um, not that I expect former high government officials to know this, but Congress' enumerated war-related powers go rather beyond merely funding and declaring war. To wit, Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which provides that Congress shall have the power:

To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;

To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

To provide and maintain a navy;

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

Posted by: Stefan on July 10, 2008 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Okay, FWG, you tried again three times.

I didn't say there was anything illegal going on here. I was saying that the fact that congress goes along with these little adventures does not make them right.

The right or wrong of it is tainted by your political views on the action or your feelings towards war in general.

That doesn't even make sense.

Is a negative "feeling toward war" a political issue? I happen to think it's a moral issue.

The right or wrong is that Presidents go to war at their whim, and congress plays along after the fact, out of a cowardly fear of appearing "weak."

Posted by: thersites on July 10, 2008 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

. In 2000, people whined about Gore. Some chose Nader. In 2004, people whined about Kerry.

If you don't live in a swing state, what does it matter? Under the present system, voters in Massachusetts or Texas may as well vote their consciences instead of picking the lesser evil. If Texas is competitive, the national election is already decided.

Don't be stupid: Refusing to vote is not an option.

As a staunch Libertarian, I'll probably vote for Bob Barr unless by some strange accident I end up voting in a competitive state.

Posted by: Equal Opportunity Cynic on July 10, 2008 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Buford appears to win the thread: People get the Congress they want. But, is that really true?

Rather, most people are so clueless, as in Frank's "What's the Matter with Kansas," they don't even think about what sort of Congress they should want.

EO Cynic: I would vote for McKinney (assuming she's the Green nominee) even if I lived in Ohio or Florida rather than in Texas. Speaking of which, the Green convention started today Presidential nomination is Saturday.

I have info on all four candidates (no, none of them is Nader) here.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 10, 2008 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

War powers should only belong to the branch of the government least willing to approve it. That is probably why the founding fathers gave Congress that terrible power.

Posted by: Brojo on July 10, 2008 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo at 1:53 has nailed it precisely!

The question remains: how do we get them to exert it?

Posted by: thersites on July 10, 2008 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

War powers should only belong to the branch of the government least willing to approve it. That is probably why the founding fathers gave Congress that terrible power.

Posted by: Brojo

we could give it to the supreme court, but then scalia might declare war on stevens. at least as it stands he would be limited in d.c. to handguns.

your pal,
blake

Posted by: blake on July 10, 2008 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

Congress had no trouble declaring war on Dec. 8, 1941. Congress will use their power to declare war when the circumstances warrant it, and will allow the executive branch of the government to wage undeclared war as long as it is profitable for their lobbyists, which is the problem.

Posted by: Brojo on July 10, 2008 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

Is a negative "feeling toward war" a political issue? I happen to think it's a moral issue.

What does morality have to do with it? If morality was the issue, we wouldn't need courts because no one would commit "crimes". The fact is, even with the law, there are a variety of elements to it that are morally ambiguous. Conflict is ubiquitous and whirled peas come in a jar labeled: Gerber's Baby Food.


Orwell: "Pacifism is objectively pro-fascist."

Posted by: WKG on July 10, 2008 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

D'ya suppose things like this dereliction of duty is why the favorable opinion rating of Cangress is at 9%? Huh, y'think?
Ball-less, triangulating, motherless, spineless.
And by ducking the FISA issue and pandering to the evangelicals with faith-based initiative support, Obama is right in the center doing nothing along with them.

Posted by: Stewart Dean on July 10, 2008 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Tim Noah's in a much better position to assess Congress' attitude about this than I am, and Lord knows the Democratic majority is a bunch of scared rabbits with respect to national security issues, so I'm sure he's right.

Which is a shame. IMHO, the responsibility of setting our strategic goals - especially at the level of whether or not we should be at war with another country, and what our war aims are - clearly lies with Congress. I can't see how that's anything other than an Article I power.

The question of how to achieve those war aims, or how to extricate ourselves from a war in a reasonable amount of time (e.g. a year or two) should certainly be the province of the President, acting as Commander in Chief.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on July 10, 2008 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

WKG: What does morality have to do with it?

The decision to go to war is, or should be, based at least in part on a moral perspective. To go to war against a country that has bombed you, e.g. after Pearl Harbor, is not immoral. To go to war against a country that has not attacked you, and to sell that war to the public based on lies, is immoral.

If morality was the issue, we wouldn't need courts because no one would commit "crimes".
That's the silliest argument I've heard in a while. Does the fact that some people commit crimes mean that there's no such thing as morality?

You can have a negative feeling toward war and still accept its necessity, just as you can have a negative feeling toward incarcerating your fellow human beings and still accept that in come cases it is necessary. But in the end, it's a moral decision in either case. Law is just a society's means of turning morality into an enforceable code.

Posted by: thersites on July 10, 2008 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK
James Baker and Warren Christopher have proposed a new piece of legislation that would replace the War Powers Act and clarify Congress's role in declaring war.

Hey, I've got an idea for clarifying that. How about a law that states: "Congress shall have the power [...] [t]o define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations; [t]o declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water; [t]o raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years; [t]o provide and maintain a navy; [and][t]o make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces [...]"?

What the Commission headed by Baker and Christopher proposes is not an act to "clarify Congress' role in declaring war", but an act to replace the unconstitutional abdication of Congressional responsibility reflected in the War Powers Act with a different unconstitutional abdication of Congressional responsibility, one which would create a Presidential authority to declare war subject only to negative Congressional action (which itself would be a regular law, subject to the veto power). It would attempt to replace Congress exclusive Constitutional power to declare war with a congressional power to (subject to the veto power) declare not-war.

Posted by: cmdicely on July 10, 2008 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

TCD @ 10:15 AM wrote "...Even the attack on Pearl Harbor was not against the United States (Hawaii didn't become a state until 1959),..."
Under that sort of reasoning the attacks on the USS Cole or the bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut weren't attacks on the US either. Unless, of course, that is what you meant?
"...but rather Japan's reaction to our aggressive land grabs in the Pacific...".
The attack on Pearl Harbor was carried out by the Japanese in anticipation that any further encroachments in SE Asia and China (ie: the British and Dutch colonies) might be met by an armed response by the US.
In 1941 the US claimed the Philipines, part of Samoa and Wake and Midway Islands. The US government also officially supported the "Open Door" policy in China, which the Japanese were doing their best to make irrelevant. The Japanese, on the other hand, were at war in China and controlled the entire Chinese coastline as well as Taiwan. They established a "protectorate" over French Indochina in late 1940 and over Siam/Thailand in 1941. They had already fought several major battles with the Soviets on the Manchurian/USSR border. They had also annexed Korea during the 1904 Sino-Japanese war.
While there were reports prior to the Pearl Harvor attack that the US government was considering military action to prevent Japan from controlling the oil, rubber and aluminium of SE Asia (Indochina, Dutch East Indies, etc), nothing was actually done to prepare for a war, aggressive or defensive, until the late summer of 1941. I don't believe any sort of talks, even, were held between US/Brits/Dutch, etc. until AFTER Pearl Harbor.

Posted by: on July 10, 2008 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

ANOTHER constitutional power Congress has let slip quietly away. Why, it hasn't issued any letters of marque and reprisal in generations. WTF!?

Posted by: Pat on July 10, 2008 at 9:27 PM | PERMALINK
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