Saturday, February 11, 2006

An interesting take on war powers

I was speaking with one of the Liberal Democrat MP's recently about Clare Short's bill to require Parliamentary approval for the use of force. I asked if it would actually achieve anything - after all, the Americans have this kind of law already (including a requirement for Congress to declare war actually written into the Constitution) and it has been rountinely ignored by all Presidents, particularly shamelessly in the case of the current President who believes that he doesn't have to obey the law anyway.

The MP in question argued that if that is what the law said, then the generals simply wouldn't go to war without the necessary Parliamentary authority. He suggested that the reason why the Attorney General's legal advice about the war in Iraq was so important was that the generals wouldn't fight an obviously illegal war.

What's the difference? A British Prime Minister isn't Commander in Chief of the armed forces (the Queen is) so he can't just give the generals an order and expect it to be obeyed. Score one for Parliamentary democracy.



  • At 10:32 am , Blogger Peter Pigeon said...

    Score one for a constitutional monarchy?

    I am of your (original) mind on this.

    I believe there has always been a parliamentary debate on declaration of war. Forces are sometimes deployed without a declaration of war.

    Crown prerogative is not such a bad thing in practice - perhaps I will blog on the reasons why it is worth keeping at some point. But it is a long argument.

  • At 4:03 pm , Blogger LibertyCat said...

    I agree that Parliamentary democracy does not (and constitutional monarchy does) imply the separation of Head of State (who is the notional Commander in Chief of the armed forces in every case I have looked into) and Head of Government. But in practice it does - there are no countries where a parliamentary Prime Minister is also the Head of State.

    I wonder if a non-executive President on the German or Irish model would act as a moderating influence on a warmongering PM as effectively as a Monarch - I don't know what the answer is.


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