The current debate over the Homeland Security bill raises fundamental questions about fundamental constitutional principles. The following discussion proves illuminating in a way the political debate has not. This is an excerpt from the Claremont Institute-sponsored panel "The Administrative State Goes to War," Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Sept. 1, 2002.
The roundtable on the domestic politics of the current war featured Mackubin Owens of the Naval War College and John Eastman of Chapman University School of Law. Dr. Owens is a Fellow of the Claremont Institute, decorated Marine veteran of Vietnam, and author of numerous scholarly and popular articles on political philosophy and foreign and domestic politics. Dr. Eastman clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and heads the Institute's Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence.
"In sports you like to play home games. In war you like to play away games."
There are two problems in the administrative state: On the one hand, the open-endedness of the public finance system, seen in deficit financing, enabled the administrative state to develop. On the other, the open-endedness of the military, reflecting its employment and success at diverse tasks, leads to its over-use, misuse, and abuse. These two problems are related in that the administrative state seeks domestic security of its citizens so much that in the long run the social spending ends up crowding out defense spending, and you might make yourself weaker militarily. But this hyperactivity of the administrative state leads it to turn to its instruments for work not originally intended. I have in mind the U.S. military-getting them involved in doing things that will take them away from their ability to do their job, which is ultimately to prepare for and to fight wars.
I have an alternative to Paul Kennedy's argument in The Great Powers.... First of all, Great Britain's real problem was not imperial overstretch as it is traditionally understood, but it was that it would not or could not take the precautions that were necessary to prevent the rise of another great power. Therefore they had to fight a war they could not avoid. That war led to tremendous problems, and tremendous amounts of social spending. Rather than imperial overreach, you might suggest that the real problem in the administrative state is social spending. The dangers I see is that there are competing claims for material resources in the administrative state, and you're not going to have any money to spend on defense, given the circumstances.
Now the other problem has to do with the idea that the administrative state asks too much of its institutions. You probably know the big debate right now about whether or not the military should get more heavily involve in domestic policy problems. There's a tendency to have the military engaged more and more on the domestic side. Is it a legitimate use? The citizenry asks the military to supply a host of functions over a period of time-internal law enforcement (fighting riots in Los Angeles), patrolling the border, providing humanitarian services, fighting forest fires, etc.
Now, the military is very good. If you give them a job, they will do it. But, let's use this analogy: In sports you like to play home games. In war you like to play away games. And part of that is that our military has been very effective and projecting power and defending the U.S. not so much by sitting at the border but by reassuring our allies.
My only reason for invoking Charles Dunlap's speculations (in his fictional work, "The Military Coup of 2012") is to suggest that it portrays one of the real problems we face in the administrative state. The citizenry asks the military to supply a host of functions over a period of time-internal law enforcement (fighting riots in Los Angeles), patrolling the border, providing humanitarian services, fighting forest fires, etc., the military is very good. If you give them a job, they will do it. Certainly there is no problem with the loyalty of officers to the Constitution. The problem rather lies in civilians who over commit the military to duties civilians should be performing.
Moreover, when the military gets too heavily involved in these peripheral matters, it loses its ability to fight wars. If you look at Latin American military or African military, they are very heavily involved in domestic politics. They are very good at repressing the people, but they are not very good at external wars. And a number of scholars argue that that's one of the causes of the institutional changes of the military getting involved in doing these sorts of social humanitarian operations. The more the military is politicized, the more it's criticized, the more corrupt it's going to be, and what's going to happen is that it's going to deteriorate.
"[T]he Secretary of the Interior objected to going to war because the government had not run an environmental impact report to take governmental action."