This post comes on the last night prior to my school year starting, so I’ve decided to uptake a little something which I had originally created for academic purposes. I’m part of the Junior Statesmen of America, or JSA for short, a political debate organization across the nation’s high schools. The group has several conventions during the year, and for one such convention I prepared an amendment for debate. Ultimately, the amendment was denied in favor of a bill which had been prepared by one of my fellows, but that matters not within this context.
The amendment I prepared for debate last year was one concerning U.S. military power and influence in the modern world. I have prepared the text of the amendment, so that you all know exactly what I’m talking about. So here it is:
An Amendment to Limit the Military Power of the United States
The United States government has authorized military interventions in countless nations in support of capitalism, freedom, and other similar monikers. However, these interventions have led to millions of deaths and have helped to put repressive dictatorships in power around the world, which not only worsen the condition for those directly affected, but also allow anti-American sentiments to burgeon. In order to prevent global suffering as well as to improve the United States’ image, the power and discretion of the U.S. government in deploying the military must be limited.
Be it amended by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, and upon approval of ¾ of the states, that:
Section 1. The ability of the president and Congress to deploy military forces anywhere not on U.S. soil be limited to usage only under these conditions:
Subsection a. The foreign nation in question has directly attacked the United States in some way, shape or form. Offensive attempts will be treated as attacks, but threats will not be.
Subsection b. The foreign nation in question has directly attacked an ally of the United States in some way, shape or form. Offensive attempts will be treated as attacks, but threats will not be.
Subsection c. The United Nations has called upon the United States to engage in military action with the foreign nation in question. Calls made by NATO and other multinational bodies will be denied pending further review by the executive branch and the Congress.
Subsection d. A majority of the populace of the foreign nation in question has asked specifically for intervention by the United States. Calls for foreign aid in general by the population in question will not be met unless other conditions here are met in kind.
Subsection e. A humanitarian crisis is occurring in the foreign nation in question. A humanitarian crisis may be brought forth by genocide, direct and careless repression of citizens, widespread torture of civilians, or other qualifications met under United Nations classifications for humanitarian crises.
Section 2. The United States military forces may not be deployed outside the U.S. unless one or more of these conditions are met. Under no circumstances will the executive or legislative branches be allowed to use military force otherwise; including under previous justifications such as the protection of capitalism, democracy, freedom, or the disposal of leaders unfavorable to the United States’ interests, and those of its allies.
And so concludes my amendment, in all of its formality. Now, I’ll explain each part in order to make my case.
The introduction is obviously concerning U.S. military interventions during the Cold War. There are many that I could lay out, each with a deadly cost, although I’m sure many of us are familiar with at least a few of them. The most striking examples can be shown through the Korean and Vietnam Wars, both of which caused huge death tolls for little benefit. Let me stress this: we lost the Vietnam War. Our intention upon going in was to prevent the nation from unifying under communism, and in 1975 that was exactly what happened. We killed others, and we allowed others to kill us, in a fruitless endeavor. As for the Korean War, we were not at a complete loss of our intentions, although we did not fully succeed in our goals. North Korea still exists as a communist state today, and one that’s particularly angry at America at that. Due to the cost these wars and other interventions caused, it is only logical to at least put forth and effort to prevent these costs in the future.
I specify in section 1 both the Congress and the executive because both branches have the ability to use military force and have done so in the past, so an amendment limiting such powers must be extended to both branches. As for the first two subsections, I assume my reasoning is obvious and agreeable to most any party. The United States must be prepared to willingly fight back should it or its allies be attacked by other nations; this is a common tenet of sovereignty and alliances. When I say “offensive attempts”, this means any attempted attack on a nation, whether successful or not. For example, say a government sent a missile towards Washington, D.C., but missed and the missile simply went into the ocean. That would be treated as an attack, and the military could respond as such. However, I specify that threats cannot be acted upon because they give far too much leverage for military intervention. Because many things can be interpreted as threats, the leverage given to the government for military force would be too great. Attacks and attempted attacks, on the other hand, are clear to see and are not vague in definition.
As for the third subsection, I specify that only calls by the U.N. to action shall be met immediately due to certain ideas around the world concerning NATO and other organizations. Many people consider NATO to be an ideological organization that acts on the whim of Western interests rather than in a non-partisan way, and so I exclude it from an immediate list of groups to listen to. However, I also provide a system for such requests to be met; I allow both Congress and the executive branch a chance to debate and decide whether or not to listen to such calls to action. This way, such requests can be determined as either ideological or not, and responded to as such. The U.N. on the other hand is viewed in generally a good light and is enshrined as a place for all nations to come together and solve issues, and as such is considered to be a good source for calls to action. The U.N. does not have a huge record of being an ideological organization or as being one that is reactionary, and so it is given special privileges when seeking U.S. military force. However, the U.S. government still reserves the right to deny such requests if the circumstances call for such inaction; you’ll notice I never specify that the U.S. must comply with U.N. calls to action.
As for the fourth subsection, it is the vaguest, and for that I am sorry. It was originally struck from the amendment, but I decided to include it here so I could at least give my opinion. This subsection was written with the crisis in Syria in mind, which at the time had not been as severe or old as it is now. I noted that much of the Syrian rebel movement was calling for outside help. However, I also thought that unless the majority (at least over 50%) of the nation all wanted the same thing, it would be unfair to the remainder of the country to take action on minority request. The vague part I accidentally left out was how such a statistic would be determined. Countries in crisis generally are hard places to gather stats from, and such is the biggest issue with this subsection, and it’s one I don’t have an answer for. Should anyone be able to think of a way to wrangle out this issue, please let me know. I specify “calls for foreign aid in general” due to both the Syrian crisis and the Libyan revolution, both of which had the opposition crying out for general help from any willing nation. Since these groups were not asking specifically for our help, I felt it could be risky to intervene without knowing the particulars of the situation. Rebel movements may resent our presence and help, and as such I believe we cannot move in without knowing what we’re getting into if at all possible. As such, I try to give these movements the best possible chance by introducing a portion which allows intervention should any other subsection requirement be met.
The last subsection was created as I pondered the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. The people of the region cried out for long, and many suffered, yet few did anything to help. This last subsection is intended to counter such situations, by allowing unilateral intervention on the basis of a humanitarian crisis as defined by the U.N., whose definition is generally viewed as fair and universal. It would appear to give us significant leeway in making interventions, however this is why I specify the use of a U.N. definition. Without that, we could invade on many more grounds which would be at fault. Because there are guidelines, the military is still restricted on a reasonable level.
The final section is intended to erase former excuses for interventions as possible future excuses. That way, we no longer make the mistakes of our past. It also keeps a tight grip on the military capabilities of Congress and the president, ensuring that neither can act without meeting correct conditions.
That is my reasoning for the amendment, and should it or something like it make it to Congress or the states, I would be more than happy. If you find any holes other than the one I already pointed out in subsection d, please let me know so that I may change the amendment to suit its needs. If you have any other responses to the amendment, I’d be more than happy to hear them.
That’s all for this week, and I hope I’ve provided a good sample of reasoning as to why I believe this amendment should be applied to our Constitution. If you have feedback of any kind, please feel encouraged to comment here or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact me through Facebook, Twitter, Google+, DeviantArt, and Steam. Goodnight, and this is KnoFear, signing off.