Fresno State celebrated Constitution Day Wednesday by hosting a campus forum to discuss the constitutionality of America’s foreign policy actions in the Middle East.
Constitution Day, formerly known as Citizenship Day, was established by a law passed by Congress in 2004 which mandates that all publicly funded institutions provide educational programming on Sept. 17.
Three campus experts participated in the forum, held in the Satellite Student Union, to discuss the “president’s foreign policy and the U.S. role in international conflict.” The event was hosted and organized by Dr. Jeffrey Cummins, a professor of political science.
Dr. Ethan Kyle, a professor of history, and Dr. Alfred Evans and Dr. Russell Mardon, professors of political science, spoke from their points of expertise about the government and military operations against the Islamic State.
Kyle, a 19th century history expert, explained the similarities and differences of this military operation as compared with the Mexican-American War in 1846.
Unlike then-President James Polk, President Barack Obama has been reluctant to commit troops to the conflict.
“President Obama hasn’t approached the current crisis in this sort of way. He is not seeking out this conflict,” said Kyle.
Mardon, the second speaker at the forum, attempted to answer the question of who gets to decide to go to war? According to Mardon, the Constitution is “ambiguous” about that decision.
“Predominantly, presidents decide,” said Mardon.
The decision to go to war should rest with Congress, but that authority has been “captured” by the president, he said, pointing out that Congress has not declared war in the traditional sense since 1942.
Congress attempted to rein in the president’s military authority in 1973 after the Vietnam War by passing the War Powers Act. This act put time limits on military operations conducted by the president without congressional approval.
While the Obama administration claims that it already has the necessary congressional approval that it needs to attack the Islamic State, Mardon said constitutionally the president should still seek approval for this conflict. And, as Mardon said, he should do it quickly before the midterm elections when some analysts say Democrats may lose their control of the Senate.
The final speaker was Evans, who spoke on the nature of Obama’s foreign policy.
“The invasion in Iraq by the United States and its allies was to transform Iraq into a democracy,” Evans said. “This was their main vision behind the invasion of Iraq.”
However, he said the vision of a democracy in Iraq is now a mess and the attempt of a transformation has failed.
He also said every American president chooses a mixture of realism and ideological thinking. He used Obama as an example, saying his realism shows up when he is talking about the means of trying to achieve the goals of foreign policy.
All three speakers stayed after their speeches to answer any questions that the audience had. Students were also encouraged to register to vote and were offered pocket Constitutions.