The U.S. Should Amend Its Constitution to Reflect the Changing Character of War

The U.S. Should Amend Its Constitution to Reflect the Changing Character of War
President Donald Trump speaks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House about the United States’ military response to Syria’s reported chemical weapons attack, Washington, April 13, 2018 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

In the horrible days following the 9/11 attacks, America’s full attention was on punishing the culprits and reinforcing its defenses against terrorism. While these tasks clearly had to take priority, the attacks also demonstrated that the United States needed to decide whether its 18th-century Constitution was adequate for national defense in the 21st century.

Yet this issue still has yet to receive the consideration that it deserves. Although the United States has poured immense effort, money and blood into the fight against transnational extremism and dramatically augmented homeland security, it has not assessed its constitutional framework for national defense. But there comes a time with any system when repairs, patches and upgrades are not enough. That’s where the United States is today: The security environment and the character of war have changed so much that it is time to seriously consider amending the Constitution.

The Constitution actually says little about war largely because America’s founders intended to avoid it at much as possible. For them, war was conflict between the military forces of “civilized” nations. Armed force to “pacify” Native Americans was so routine that the Constitution did not mention it other than recognizing the need for an armed, well-regulated militia.

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