By Matthew Rothschild on February 04, 2013

When our founders were drafting the Constitution, they went out of their way to give warmaking powers to Congress, not the President.

They understood that if the President could make war on his own, he’d be no different than a king.

And they also understood, as James Madison said, that such power “would be too much temptation” for one man.

And so they vested that power in Congress.

But since World War II, one President after another has usurped that power.

The latest usurper is President Obama, who did so in Libya, and with drones, and now is prepared to do so in cyberspace.

According to The New York Times, the Obama Administration has concluded that the President has the authority to launch preemptive cyberattacks.

This is a very dangerous, and very undemocratic power grab.

There are no checks or balances when the President, alone, decides when to engage in an act of war.

And this new aggressive stance will lead to a cyber arms race. The United States has evidently already used cyber weapons against Iran, and so many other countries will assume that cyber warfare is an acceptable tool and will try to use it themselves.

Most troubling, U.S. cybersupremacy—and that is Pentagon doctrine—will also raise fears among nuclear powers like Russia, China, and North Korea that the United States may use a cyberattack as the opening move in a nuclear attack.

For if the United States can knock out the command and control structure of an enemy’s nuclear arsenal, it can then launch an all-out nuclear attack on that enemy with impunity. This would make such nuclear powers more ready to launch their nuclear weapons preemptively for fear that they would be rendered useless. So we’ve just moved a little closer to midnight.

Now, I don’t think Obama would use cyberwafare as a first strike in a nuclear war. But our adversaries may not be so sure, either about Obama or his successors.

They, too, worry about the temptations of a President.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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