According to Mark Helprin in the Wall Street Journal:
We owe them a decision to go to war ratified unambiguously by the American people through their constitutional and republican institutions. Except where instantaneous response is necessitated by a clear and present danger, this means a declaration of war issued by a Congress that will fully support its own carefully determined decision and those it sends to carry it out—nothing less, nothing hedged, nothing ducked.
This requires in turn the kind of extraordinary, penetrating debate that can occur only among those wise enough to understand mortality and weigh it against principles that cannot be left undefended. It requires a president who can argue for his decision not merely with eloquence but substantively and tenaciously—guided only by the long-term interests of the United States, not fatuous slogans, political imperatives, and easily impeachable ideological notions of the right, left, or center.
Helprin has been critical of the Iraq War, and those who instigated it, for failing to meet these criteria. A soldier, says Helprin, “should never have to die for the sake of an academic theory once the doctoral thesis of an Ivy League idealist working his way up through the bureaucracies and think tanks.”
This is fair enough as far as it goes. But considering that the chances of U.S. political leaders once again declaring their wars in a constitutional fashion are nugatory, as are the odds of civilians making the kinds of sacrifices Helprin calls for elsewhere in his essay, much more thought needs to be given to how to restrain the most foolhardy and ideological influences on our foreign policy. Responsibility hawks like Helprin are not going to get the policies they want — the question they should confront is whether their next-best option is to oppose all wars of choice.