Nuclear Warfare and the American Presidency

Garry Wills discusses Bomb Power.

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How can Yoo make this argument? 

He says, "True, the Constitution says that Congress shall have the power to declare war." But he says that "declare" doesn't mean "authorize." And he gives one citation from Sam Johnson's 18th-century dictionary where it says that declare means "publicize." We now say the president is at war and we let you know he's at war. He ignores all the legal uses of "declare." But think of it. Does "I now declare you man and wife" mean, "I'm just publicizing the fact that you've been sleeping together?" That's how absurd the whole president war-making power became under the Cheney-Addington administration. I don't even say it's the Bush administration. Who knows what Bush knew? It's extremely likely that he didn't know a lot of this stuff. 

You write that the current state of affairs means that it is not America's enemies but American people who are left in the dark. 

A good example of that is Fidel Castro knew that Bobby Kennedy was trying to knock him off—sending assassins, mining harbors—but the Americans didn't. It was denied for a long time. Fidel Castro did not have great motive to accept missiles from Khru­shchev, while Khru­shchev had a good motive because he knew America had missiles in Turkey, threatening his homeland. So Khru­shchev wanted to threaten us, and he wanted to use Fidel to do it. Fidel thought, "Why would I want to get involved in a nuclear exchange when the first effect of that would be to annihilate my island off the face of the Earth?" But when he was convinced by all of these attacks on him that we were probably trying to invade him, he said, "All right, I'll accept the missiles as a deterrent from an outright attack from America." Well, President Kennedy went on TV and told the American people, "There is no conceivable, defensive rationale for these missiles. Therefore, the only reason they're there is offensive." Well, he was lying. There was a defensive rationale, and that's why they were there. 

You make the point that Khru­shchev, rather than Kennedy, was actually the responsible actor in the Cuban missile crisis.  

Kennedy wanted to look tough, so he said, "I'll take out the Turkish missiles if you don't say it was a quid pro quo." Khru­shchev agreed. So Khru­shchev was acting responsibly, and of course throughout it all, he and Fidel knew Kennedy was lying; the American people didn't. That's the result of this secrecy—that we're kept out. 

Why do you think the Obama administration, which criticized the secrecy of the Bush administration during the election, has continued its practices? 

When a president comes in—say, President Obama—[the CIA goes] to him and says, "You've got to protect us. You've got to uphold our morale, our loyalty. It took us years to build up this apparatus, and you're probably going to need it down the road—so don't try to dismantle it."  

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