According to a reader I made some “good comments as mostly always” (birdwalking), which I'm pretty sure is a compliment. :-]
He also asked me a question about the current war situation with Congress and the President:
If Congress delegates the power to the president or any other entity, isn't it really saying, “whatever you decide is going to be okay with us; decide what you think is best and then come to us and we'll approve it?” ...this would in effect BE declaring war, wouldn't it?
He pointed out this would mean Congress was being lazy and somewhat lacking in their duty, but perhaps not necessarily inconsistent w/ Constitutional procedure. Good questions, and good points.
Unfortunately the situation isn't quite as layed out in the question, I don't believe. Congress voting to declare war is a much heftier vote than voting just to give the President military power to attack. If Congress were to vote today whether to declare war on Iraq, I highly doubt it would be voted through for logical reasons. Namely, they haven't done anything to us. If it would easily pass, though, well what's the big deal then, vote on it already and let's declare war, none of this pussyfooting around. But it's much easier, with the right amount of spin, to convince citizens and even most of Congress probably that there is an imminent threat, and to pass a measure giving the President the authority.
Procedurally, both approaches might seem similar, but they're not really. There isn't really any provision in the resolution for the President to make a decision and then come back to Congress and have them declare war. So basically the power's delegated to him, and it's up to him how to use it (Hello dictatorship). If we attack, Bush won't come back to Congress to declare war.
The last declared war, that I'm aware of, was WWII. No military action since then has been under declaration of war, and an interesting thing to ponder about those undeclared wars: they were failures. Vietnam, N. Korea, Gulf War I (a failure by some, Saddam's still in power)
The “precedent” for delegating the war power to the President comes from back in Vietnam, the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. What “happened” leading up to that was one of our ships was fired upon two different times in the Gulf of Tonkin. Thus Congress signed over the war power to the President.
It's now common knowledge that the Gulf of Tonkin incident did not happen. It was hastily reported and the resolution was rushed through Congress.
Scary stuff, in my opinion. The Gulf of Tonkin resolution left it up to the President when it would expire, and as far as I know there is no “sunset” provision in the Iraq resolution either.
Bumper sticker I need to get: “I love my country, but I fear our government”
EDIT: Awesome! I just found the entire book 1984 online (free, even).