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Opinion

Sending the U.S. to war is not the president's call

That power is Congress's alone; don't hand it over.

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As James Madison once observed, "In no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department... [T]he temptation would be too great for any one man."

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If there has ever been such a thing as a "limited" war, it is now a thing of the past. Our world is too small, too interconnected, and too well-armed for us to assume that "police actions" can be neatly contained any longer. We cannot afford to entrust the might of the American military to one person, no matter how many advisers he may have.

The men and women in uniform will certainly be called to arms again to deal with some new threat or act of aggression. It is imperative that the decision to send them in harm's way is made by Congress.

For these reasons, we take strong exception to the deference the Baker-Christopher Commission would have us give to the president to start "limited" wars and to override a congressional rejection of war. That suggestion is certainly at odds with the commission's proper call to Congress to live up to its constitutional responsibility.

Every member of Congress takes an oath to "faithfully discharge the duties" of the office. The authority to send American troops into combat is an essential duty of Congress, a heavy burden that can be borne only by the people's representatives. Members of Congress must treat the power to go to war as theirs and theirs alone.

The consequences of war are too grave for us to settle for anything less.

• Mickey Edwards (R) of Oklahoma and David Skaggs (D) of Colorado are former members of Congress and co-chairs of the Constitution Project's War Powers Committee. Mr. Edwards teaches at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and is a vice president of the Aspen Institute. Mr. Skaggs is executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education. Their views are their own.

[Editor's Note: The original version misstated the writers' political affiliations.]

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