Turns out the war is over, after all. Which war? All the ones America is involved in.
That’s the only explanation for John Yoo’s about-face. You see, he used to be a stern critic of executive overreaching, saying things like this:
President Clinton exercised the powers of the imperial presidency to the utmost in the area in which those powers are already at their height — in our dealings with foreign nations. Unfortunately, the record of the administration has not been a happy one, in light of its costs to the Constitution and the American legal system. On a series of different international relations matters, such as war, international institutions, and treaties, President Clinton has accelerated the disturbing trends in foreign policy that undermine notions of democratic accountability and respect for the rule of law.
But then war happened, and war changed everything. Yoo’s opinion was that:
We are used to a peacetime system in which Congress enacts the laws, the president enforces them, and the courts interpret them. In wartime, the gravity shifts to the executive branch.
Gravity – heavy stuff. This is the kind of reasoning that helped Yoo to formulate legal opinions that the Geneva Conventions don’t apply to “unlawful enemy combatants”, making it fine and dandy to torture and otherwise mistreat them. To summarise Yoo’s conclusions: it might be a war, but it’s one without war crimes.
But now Yoo has written an op-ed in the New York Times (pernicious liberal media stifling the voice of reasoned conservatism!) with his good friend (and not at all an unhinged warmongering loon), John Bolton. What is their concern about the Obama administration:
THE Constitution’s Treaty Clause has long been seen, rightly, as a bulwark against presidential inclinations to lock the United States into unwise foreign commitments. The clause will likely be tested by Barack Obama’s administration, as the new president and Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton, led by the legal academics in whose circles they have long traveled, contemplate binding down American power and interests in a dense web of treaties and international bureaucracies.
“Unwise foreign commitments”. Apparently you only get to enter those if you’re a war President.
Still, it’s good to know that the war is over. Does that mean Americans don’t need the PATRIOT Act, the new FISA Act, and all of the other “necessary” executive infringements on their civil liberties any more?