Exercising War Powers

Exercising War Powers

The president, who is the Commander in Chief, is considered the highest military authority in the United States. Nevertheless, the Constitution grants Congress most of the war power as it gives Congress the power of declaring war (Quirk, 2008). Ginsberg et al. (2013) observe that in exercising war powers, the contribution made by Congress was based on the acknowledgement of the centrality of power and consent in the Constitution. Granting Congress the powers to declare war was aimed at ensuring that, in case of war, there is a popular acceptance to reassure the citizens that they were represented by the declaration. With the Congress being the body with power to enact laws, Congress delegates to the President the powers to implement the congressional declaration. It is based on the declaration that the president proceeds to deploy the military troops (Ginsberg et al., 2013).

Nevertheless, in times of war or national emergency, the rights, duties and obligations of the presidency are likely to prompt the president to issue executive orders to the military even without the delegated powers from Congress. However, various presidents have exploited this inherent power of the presidency, as it has been the case in the several military engagements undertaken without Congressional declaration. However, to stem such presidential unilateralism, the Congress passed the War Powers Resolution in 1973. The president, prior to engaging the military, is expected to inform Congress for authorization. The only times when the president can send troops abroad without informing Congress is when American troops are being attacked or under serious threat. Upon authorization, the president should withdraw the troops within 60 days unless Congress has approved extended military action (Ginsberg et al., 2013).


Ginsberg, B., Lowi, T. J., Weir, M., Tolbert, C. J., & Spitzer, R. J. (2013). We the People (Ninth ed.). New York: W.W. Norton and Company.

Quirk, W. J. (2008). Courts & Congress : America’s unwritten constitution. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers.

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