Our wars are eerily like those pursued by European monarchs in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: conflicts carried out by professional militaries and bands of mercenaries, largely at the whim of what we might now call a unitary executive, funded by deficit spending, for the purposes of protecting or extending the interests of a ruling elite.
Cynics might say it has always been thus in the United States. After all, the War of 1812 was known to critics as â€œMr. Madisonâ€™s Warâ€ and the Mexican-American War of the 1840s was â€œMr. Polkâ€™s War.â€ The Spanish-American War of 1898 was a naked war of expansion vigorously denounced by American anti-imperialists. Yet in those conflicts there was at least genuine national debate, as well as formal declarations of war by Congress.
Todayâ€™s ruling class in Washington no longer bothers to make a pretense of following the letter of our Constitution — and they sidestep its spirit as well, invoking hollow claims of executive privilege or higher callings of humanitarian service (as in Libya) or of exporting democracy (as in Afghanistan). But Libya is still torn by civil war, and Afghanistan has yet to morph into Oregon.