Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Presidential Power

A number of observers have lamented the extraordinary power over national security matters vested in the president of the United States since the rise of the national security state following World War II.  Garry Wills, in Bomb Power:  The Modern Presidency and the National Security State, puts too much emphasis on the nuclear dimension but nonetheless effectively traces many of the steps that have produced  the problem.  Andrew Bacevich, in Washington Rules:  America's Path to Permanent War, places the issue in the context of a consensus regarding the indispensability of American military might for world order.  The late Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., in War and the American Presidency, critiqued the way the Bush administration expanded presidential power while noting that the tendency was not unique to George W. Bush.  There are many other scholars who ask why power, once taken up by an American president to meet the immediate demands of a national security crisis, cannot be relinquished in the manner of Cincinnatus in ancient Rome.

Those who want to contemplate the problem as it relates to the Obama administration would do well to read the long article in today's New York Times about the ongoing hunt for suspected terrorists.