June 15th, 2011
06:15 PM ET

Letters to the President: #877 'News from the front'

Reporter's Note: Members of Congress are firing complaints at the White House. I’m still firing letters.

Dear Mr. President,

As you have no doubt noticed, some of the congressional crowd seems to be heating up over this business of our military being involved with the NATO attacks in Libya. They want to know all those pesky things like: How much is it costing? What are we hoping to accomplish? When will we be done? (Come to think of it, those are the same questions my family raises every time I start talking about a vacation.)

Related: House members sue Obama administration over Libya mission

You really can’t blame them. As you well know, this business of presidents taking us into war zones is somewhat sensitive, and with good reason. Your predecessor ruffled a lot of feathers on this front, and they haven’t exactly been smoothed down during your time in office. So when we put the lives of our citizens at risk, when we walk onto foreign ground with guns drawn, and when we spend untold fortunes, it would not seem unreasonable for members of Congress to want to be involved in the decisions - if not right at the first, then at least in reasonable course.

Then again, Washington has not often been about “reasonable,” and neither is war.

It is certainly worth considering in this day and time whether all kinds of rules of engagement might need an update. Maybe back when George Washington, or Abraham Lincoln, or Franklin Roosevelt was in office, they had time to contemplate the deeper causes and consequences of war. Armies back then has to assemble and march great distances. Artillery had to be dragged along like reluctant elephants. Ships had to take on wood and build up steam. In short, war was something that came gradually, and could be well considered before the first shot was fired.

Obviously there were exceptions, but as rule, that’s how it worked.

Now, everything is faster. Jets can launch and strike in minutes. Missiles can rise unanticipated and streak toward unsuspecting targets. Small teams of Special Forces can strike crushing tactical blows before the target even realizes they are on the ground. In that environment, I have sympathy for any president who says to Congress, “Listen guys, I want to keep you in the loop, but seriously, I was eating my salad and this had to be decided before the soup came.”

Still, somewhere between “quick reactions” and “extended engagement” I have the feeling that you and your congressional pals are going to have to work out a deal on just who needs to know what, and when.

On another front: Are you going to watch the Stanley Cup game 7 tonight? It should be a barn burner! Call if you want to come over.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

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