It is well known that the American Revolution was spurred in large part by the colonists’ reaction to King George’s use of the military to enforce English laws in the colonies. After the colonists had become sufficiently disgruntled by the increasingly martial measures imposed by the King, the drafters of the Declaration of Independence listed among its central complaints the tendencies of the English Crown “to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.”
Just as King Charles had been beheaded in 1649 for violating what became a fundamental Anglo- American value – that soldiers are respected for defeating enemies of the state but are never to be used against their civilian neighbors – King George lost the colonies when he employed troops to control disorderly civilians.
Reviewing The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs After 9/11, by John Yoo
John Yoo is nothing if not controversial. During his tenure at the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), he became widely known for, among other things, drafting the Administration’s legal justification for the use of aggressive interrogation techniques.1 His prior academic writing also frequently staked out bold positions supporting expansive interpretations of executive power in the realm of foreign affairs. Yoo’s recent book, The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs After 9/11, amplifies many of the themes of his earlier work in academia. In it, he addresses two fundamental aspects of foreign policy making, the war power and the treaty power, each of which he analyzes from a decidedly revisionist perspective.
The system of detention and military trial authorized by President George W. Bush on November 13, 2001, and additional claimed authority to hold terrorist suspects indefinitely without process, have been litigated in several judicial circuits, moving from district courts to the Supreme Court and back down again. In 2006, these authorities returned to the Court for further exploration in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. Regrettably, until very recently the separation of powers issues raised by the President’s initiatives received little attention from Congress, which, under the Constitution, has primary responsibility over military courts, tribunals “inferior to the supreme Court,” “Offenses against the Law of Nations,” the war power, and “Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.” Because of congressional passivity, the principal checks on presidential power have been supplied instead by litigants and courts. The constitutional issues that emerge from this concentration of power in the presidency form the central theme of this article.