As the President wrestles with the delicate decision of how to handle the war in Afghanistan, individual Congress members have eagerly put forth their own opinions on the situation while simultaneously pledging support for Obama “no matter what he chooses.” The President has met with members of Congress on this issue and he has supposedly considered plans submitted by Congressmen as viable options.
For the sake of debate, if nothing else, I think it’s important (or at least intriguing) to evaluate the role of Congress in this decision. As representatives of the American people, their inclusion seems a no-brainer. If more men are to be sent into combat, their envoys should be acting on their behalf and therefore be present to help decide if they should go, and if so, how many.
I would argue, however, that today’s Congress is not in a position to successfully perform this task. Though the legislative branch of our government was designed to represent and argue for the populous in times such as these, the group has strayed far from its inception, most notably in issues of federal control over issues that are best decided at the state or local level. For the most part (as there are notable exceptions), these men and women have come to believe that the people of their state elected them do whatever they felt was best; but not necessarily best for their state or representative area. This shift of focus from the needs of the electors to the opinions of the elected has drastically reduced the efficiency and legitimacy of such a system. Therefore, when presented with situations such as those in Afghanistan, the modern Congress does not look home, to the men and women who would fight, but inward, to their own opinions, caucuses and committees.
In short, the Congress as it was designed two centuries ago would most definitely, unarguably be included by the executive in such a decision. Today’s Congress, however, has gotten so far from those original roots that input from that group is rarely any more than partisan bombast. In my opinion, President Obama is wise to keep his consultation of our legislature to a minimum and deal more frequently with those who are not solely determined to stick to party lines, but those who have a first-hand appreciation of the situation on the ground and have a more vested interest in the success or failure of Afghanistan as a state.