Give government an inch and they always take a mile. Especially when it comes to war powers. Under the Constitution, Congress has the power to determine if the country will declare war and against whom. Only after that decision is made by the Congress, the President takes charge of waging that war. James Madison put it this way, “The constitution supposes, what the history of all governments demonstrates, that the executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war in the legislature.” Hammering things home, Madison pointed out that the Constitution gave the president no authority to decide the question of whether or not the country would declare war. In the 18th Century, to “declare” war was widely understood as making a decision to enter a war. This could be done with a printed statement. Or it could be done in any number of other ways. John Adams said the mere act of arresting a person and taking them back to another country for a trial – without the permission of the home country should be considered an act of war. Withdrawing from a treaty was also seen as evidence of an intent to wage war. For example, in 1787 the French regarded a British withdrawal from a naval treaty as a formal declaration of war. One leading scholar noted that “the most forceful and unambiguous declaration of war was the commencement of general hostilities.” A very typical Founding-era dictionary definition of war was, “the exercise of violence under sovereign command against such as oppose.” As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Faced with these facts, many people today just twist definitions. For example, one common view is that “limited airstrikes don’t count as war.” But under the Constitution, dropping a single bomb on another country over their opposition is an act of war. Twisting these definitions isn’t just wrong, it has led to some pretty terrible results too. Under George W Bush’s two terms in office, the military dropped over 70,000 bombs. Not to be outdone, Barack Obama raised that number to 100,000. Donald Trump is putting those numbers to shame so far, with more than 44,000 bombs dropped in just his first year in office even though the country isn’t supposedly at “war” with anyone. The lesson here should be straightforward. When you turn a blind eye to violations of Constitutional limits, or you change definitions in the document to fit your own political goals, you shouldn’t be surprised when politicians act like there are no limits at all.