Museler les chiens de guerre

WASHINGTON – Alors qu’il était à Paris en tant que premier ambassadeur des Etats-Unis en France, Thomas Jefferson se demandait comment le premier gouvernement américain pourrait éviter les erreurs des « despotes » européens qui avaient assujetti leurs peuples par la guerre et les dettes. Dans une lettre adressée à James Madison, il observait que la Constitution américaine avait au moins prévu le contrôle du « chien de guerre » en transférant « le pouvoir de le lâcher de l’exécutif au législatif, de ceux qui doivent dépenser vers ceux qui doivent payer. »

Dans le même temps, cependant, la Constitution désigne l’exécutif « Commandant en Chef », un pouvoir que les présidents américains ont invoqué pour utiliser la force militaire sans autorisation du congrès en plus de deux cents occasions. Le président Barack Obama a usé de ce pouvoir lorsqu’il a déclaré au Congrès et au peuple américain qu’il avait l’autorité de procéder à des frappes limitées en Syrie sans devoir passer devant le Congrès.

En revendiquant cette autorité tout en recherchant l’approbation du Congrès, Obama fait son entrée dans le petit club des dirigeants qui cherchent activement à limiter leur propre pouvoir. Et c’est parce qu’il a considéré son héritage historique comme celui d’un président qui aura mis fin aux guerres et les aura rendues plus difficiles à déclencher, choisissant plutôt de réinvestir les ressources de l’Amérique dans son propre peuple. Il s’est opposé à la guerre en Irak en 2003 et a promis en 2008 qu’il mettrait fin à la « guerre illimitée contre le terrorisme », qui avait constitué un chèque en blanc potentiel aux présidents américains pour recourir à la force partout dans le monde.

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