Sunday, October 26, 2008

Something That's Been Bugging Me

John Jay (Publius)

Alexander Hamilton (Publius)

James Madison (Publius)

This Insane Fixation on the President as "Commander in Chief"

Maybe I'm more of a paleoconservative than most. Maybe I'm more Libertarian than I am anything. Goddammit though, I back my shit up with study and reading.

As Hamilton, Madison, and Jay described that situation in Federalist 24-31, it is clear, even to a casual reader, that the President as Commander in Chief, was intended to be a limit on the establishment of, and the conduct of the military. It was never intended as being an empowerment of the Executive to start wars on whims and impulse.

Our founders had just fought a long, bitter, and often perilous war with one of the greatest standing armies in the world. They saw the very idea of a standing "professional" army as a huge threat to liberty. They also saw civilian control of the military as a necessary protection against tyranny and oppression.

Ever since that dim ass bulb Reagan (whose continuous mixing up real and life B-movies still creeps me out) decided how much he wanted to return salutes from military escorts, the Presidents always acknowledged the salute with a nod. It was, and remains to the military, a gesture of service and respect, an acknowledgement that the military if firmly controlled by the civilian government.

The salute goes all the way back to the phalanx. The Corinthian helmet of the Greeks covered the face. When soldiers would meet one another they would tip back their helmets in order to show their faces. It's a gesture of trust, and respect from one soldier to another. Soldiers in uniform don't salute, recieve or return them. Reagan started that crap because he was stupid and didn't know. He just wanted to be cool. Bush 41 kept it up because he didn't want to show up Ronnie, Bill Clinton did it because the last two Presidents did it and he didn't want to miss out on anything cool. W. does it because he's a swaggering prick.

If you want to know how much meaning the little hand flippy thing (which if I was the D.I. teaching military courtesy would get that smart ass a shitload of pushups) has when Bush does it, look and see that the soldiers and marines rendering those salutes don't acknowledge it at all. They hold their salute until he has passed. His return is meaningless.

The President as Commander in Chief of the military was first and foremost a curb on military power. The second service it provided was that it provided a place and structure for unification of command among the several, mostly independant state militias.

Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison all shared the non-de-plume of Publius because they wanted to present a unified case of thought and explanation for the then as yet, unadopted Constitution.

It should be required reading for all Americans.