Issacharoff: “Democracy Under Total War”

New post from Sam Issacharoff:

Ukraine is engaged in an existential war for survival. One need not accept the full role of the exception from Carl Schmitt to acknowledge that the struggle to withstand a brutal assault on civilians transcends all other issues. Ukrainian constitutional law recognizes the need for exceptional powers during a state of emergency, as does every other constitutional order whether expressly or tacitly. Necessarily, a war for survival shifts authority from parliament to the executive and many of the founding principles of democracy may be suspended during the emergency, even such defining features of democracy as popular selection of the government. The United States uniquely managed to hold elections during the Civil War, but the oldest democracy, the United Kingdom, did not hold elections from 1935 to 1945, recognizing the reality of full-scale warfare and the German assault on Britain.

There are some historic observations of how a constitutional democracy responds to total war, but these are advanced with great hesitation. I sit comfortably in my Manhattan apartment, far removed from a reality of cluster bombs falling on innocent civilians. No form of state organization can override the central task of survival and collective security. For Ukraine, this means that war defines all domestic considerations and that traversing difficult foreign relations is the key to survival – both of which disrupt the normal parliamentary prerogatives in a healthy constitutional order….

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