Kevin Drum just took the neo-cons to task over the recent Bush domestic spying flap. He argues that Americans wouldn’t have batted an eyelash if FDR had used the same techniques during WWII, and then continues with:
But aside from World War II, what else counts as wartime?
If you count only serious hot wars, the United States has been at war for over 20 of the 65 years since 1940. That’s a lot of “wartime.”
However, if you count the Cold War, as conservatives generally think we should, the tally shoots up to about 50 years of war. That means the United States has been almost continuously at war during the past 65 years — and given the nature of the War on Terror, we’ll continue to be at war for the next several decades.
If this is how we define “wartime,” it means that in the century from 1940 to 2040 the president will have had emergency wartime powers for virtually the entire time. But does that make sense? Is anyone really comfortable with the idea that three decades from now the president of the United States will have had wartime executive powers for nearly a continuous century?
Somehow we need to come to grips with this. There’s “wartime” and then there’s “wartime,” and not all armed conflicts vest the president with emergency powers.
He came close to getting something really important, but changed the direction of his article at this point. The reality is that there is “wartime” and there is “not wartime”. Since WWII ended, the United States has not been officially at war. Not in Korea. Not in Viet Nam. And certainly not in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you don’t believe me, just check wiki.
The congressional authorization for Bush to act in the Middle East carries the same relative weight as similar authorizations for our War on Drugs and War on Poverty. Does this mean we can intercept phone calls between civilians without a warrant to track down suspected marjuana growers? Are we free to tap the phone lines of poor people, since they are the obvious target in a War on Poverty?
There is already talk of a new war. What happens if we ever declare a War on Obesity? I don’t want the government eavesdropping on my private conversation with the local pizza delivery company.