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

Executive Power

The Future of War Is Unilateral but Small

Recent moves and countermoves by the U.S. and Iran in the Persian Gulf over the past few months have increased speculation about the prospect of war in the region. Some members of Congress, including a few Republicans, have stated that the president cannot use military force against the Islamic Republic without the approval of the legislature.

War Powers

Daniel Webster, War Powers and Bird$h*t

In the course of researching a book, I’ve come across many episodes that Benjamin Wittes and I like to call “Weird War Powers $h*t.” One of my favorites is a story about American constitutional war powers and actual $h*t. It’s a story about very expensive bird-$h*t, or guano, and how one of the 19th century’s most important thinkers on war powers nearly stumbled the nation, figuratively speaking, into a giant pile of it.

Daniel Webster and War Powers

Executive Power

Remembering the Bombardment of Greytown

On this date in 1854, the U.S. Navy bombarded and torched the town of Greytown, in present-day Nicaragua. The event gave rise to a federal court opinion by Justice Samuel Nelson favored by modern-day lawyers who believe that the president wields vast unilateral power to use military force. The story behind the case reveals much more about how presidential naval powers, as well as congressional checks, operated in the mid-19th century.

Durand v. Hollins

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.

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