Election 2016: Better Than Two Evils – Part Three

2016 election banner(Guest Commentary) Mike Farris – Citizens for Self-Governance – Senior Fellow for Constitutional Studies, co-founder of the Convention of States Project

One of the reasons we have accepted the premise of the “lesser of two evils” in our voting decisions, is that we don’t have clear ideas of what “good” looks like. This is the third in a series of ten short articles giving a coherent philosophy on what we should be looking for in a President.

There can be “the better of two goods” just as there are the “lesser of two evils.” But, I respectfully suggest that if we had a President who believed and practiced the ten views I will outline, most of us would say, “this is really pretty good.”

3. We will need a president who will follow the Constitution in matters of military intervention

America needs a strong military to defend our people, our land, and our liberty. We need a robust intelligence network that utilizes human resources and technical savvy to protect us from dangerous peoples and movements (keeping in mind that the Fourth Amendment must be obeyed in relationship to searches and seizures of American citizens and lawful residents).

But having a strong military and intelligence services does not answer the question: When should the United States intervene with its military?

The starting point for our answer is this: When we engage in military operations against another nation, this is an act of war. So this leads us to a second question: When should we engage in war?

There are two times we should engage in war. First, if we are attacked—like we were at Pearl Harbor, we should instantaneously fight back. Japan declared war on us. The President has the authority and duty to defend this country in that instant.

But, sometimes wars are entered into by our decision. The Constitution does not specify the parameters for deciding when a war is wise. Rather, it gives us the rule to ensure that the decision to enter war is not the judgment of just the President. Congress must declare war, the Constitution says.

The 9-11 attacks were not perpetrated by a traditional enemy army. But, it was still an act of war that justified the consideration of a strong military response against any nation responsible. But, since judgment was required because of the lack of direct involvement of warriors in uniforms, we had to make a decision about entering this war. Congress should have declared war against any nation responsible.

Congress sort of did this. But the Authorization for the Use of Military Force was vague in terms of the nations targeted and was deliberately labeled not a declaration of war. Sort of complying with the Constitution is not sufficient.

When Congress declares war, the nation is committed to the effort. When the President declares war, the nation is quick to blame the President for his decision. Our troops deserve to be sent into battle only when the entire nation is behind them. It is too much to ask them to risk their lives for a cause that is the decision of a single individual—even the President.

We need a President who will defend our nation with the will to win the moment we are attacked. But, we need a President who will not send our military into other battles without a declaration of war by Congress on behalf of the whole nation.

Our military takes an oath to defend the Constitution. We should not send them into a battle without complying with the Constitution’s provisions. They deserve our whole allegiance and authority.


Mike Farris

Michael Farris is the Chancellor of Patrick Henry College and Chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association. During his career as a constitutional appellate litigator, he has served as lead counsel in the United States Supreme Court, eight federal circuit courts, and the appellate courts of thirteen states.

Farris has been a leader on Capitol Hill for over thirty years and is widely respected for his leadership in the defense of homeschooling, religious freedom, and the preservation of American sovereignty. A prolific author, Farris has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Salvatori Prize for American Citizenship by the Heritage Foundation and as one of the “Top 100 Faces in Education for the 20th Century” by Education Week magazine.

Farris received his B.A. in Political Science from Western Washington University. He later went on to earn his J.D. from Gonzaga University School of Law, and his LL.M. in Public International Law, from the University of London.

Mike and his wife Vickie have ten children and 19 grandchildren.