War Powers

The White House / Ben Balter (background)

Throughout history, presidents and congresses have jockeyed for control over war powers. Article I of the Constitution grants Congress the exclusive authority to declare war, while Article II names the President as “Commander in Chief” of the army, navy and militia. The jockeying reached a watershed moment of congressional assertiveness with the passage of the 1973 War Powers Act. Since then, however, presidential war-making power has been in a state of near-constant expansion—an expansion only accelerated by overseas counterterrorism actions and recent presidential military actions in Libya and Syria.

Latest in War Powers

War Powers

Remembering the Bay of Pigs: Law and Covert War

Tomorrow is an ignominious anniversary. On that date in 1961, about 1,400 American-trained Cuban exiles launched a secret invasion of Cuba in an effort to overthrow the Fidel Castro regime. After landing on the island’s southern coast at the Bay of Pigs, the invading guerrillas were routed by government forces. The humiliating disaster gave rise to a rare, publicly available Justice Department analysis of presidential power to wage covert war.

War Powers

Remembering Eisenhower’s Formosa AUMF

On this date in 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower signed a congressional joint resolution authorizing military force to protect Formosa, as Taiwan was then called by the U.S. government, and surrounding islands. It’s one of the most interesting force authorizations in American history: It reflected Eisenhower’s complicated ambivalence toward constitutional powers, it was open-ended, it contemplated the possible use of nuclear weapons, and it was never actually invoked.

War Powers

Remembering the Ludlow Amendment

Few people today have ever heard of the Ludlow Amendment—a radical proposal that would have required a popular referendum before Congress could declare war and which lost a critical House vote on this date in 1938. The proposal was the closest the United States ever came to formally amending the Constitution’s allocation of war powers, and it would have revised them in exactly the opposite direction in which their interpretation has evolved in practice since the amendment’s defeat.

Yemen

The Senate Acts on Yemen

Yesterday, on Dec. 13, the Senate made history. By a vote of 56-41, it adopted S.J. Res. 54, a bipartisan joint resolution that directs U.S. forces to withdraw from “hostilities” in Yemen not related to al-Qaeda within 30 days of enactment—a move that, its supporters maintain, will end U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition currently waging a military campaign against Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

War Powers

Taking Stock of the Yemen Resolution

On Wednesday, Nov. 28, Congress took what may be its most important step to date towards openly opposing U.S. involvement in the Yemen war. By a vote of 63 to 37, the Senate elected to discharge a joint resolution directing an end to U.S. involvement in Yemen out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and on to the Senate floor. The resolution in question, S.J. Res.

Scholarship

Remembering St. Clair’s Defeat

Today is the anniversary of, by some measures, the U.S. military’s worst battlefield defeat ever. On Nov. 4, 1791, U.S. military forces, under the command of Northwest Territory Governor and U.S. General Arthur St. Clair, were routed by a confederacy of Native American tribes near the Wabash River in present-day Ohio. Although Indian Wars rarely feature much in discussions of constitutional war powers, they were among the most urgent threats facing the new republic. “St.

War Powers

NATO and War Powers: Remembering the ‘Great Debate’ of the 1950s

As President Trump goes into this week’s NATO summit complaining about burden-sharing, amid inflamed anxieties at home about presidential powers over foreign relations, it is worth remembering the “Great Debate” of the early 1950s. That dispute pitted President Harry Truman and Secretary of State Dean Acheson against congressional NATO skeptics, and it concerned whether the president could unilaterally deploy four additional U.S. Army divisions to Western Europe.

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