Louis Fisher Offers Thoughts on Presidential War Power

9780700619313President Obama’s plans to expand U.S. military involvement in Syria and Iraq without congressional approval continues the unconstitutional conduct of Presidents after World War II.  Although Congress deserves a strong rebuke for failing to protect its constitutional authority over the war power, the real fault lies with the pattern of unilateral presidential actions.  In June 1950, President Harry Truman launched offensive action against North Korea without coming to Congress for prior authority as required by the UN Participation Act of 1945.  President Lyndon Johnson decided, after receiving the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution for a limited military response, to escalate the war year after year in the face of public and congressional opposition.  President Bill Clinton used military force on numerous occasions, including in Bosnia and Kosovo, without ever seeking statutory authority.  President George W. Bush took the nation to war on the basis of six claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, with each claim proven to be empty.  President Barack Obama, after promising not to repeat the unilateral actions of Bush II, supported military action in Libya in 2011 without ever seeking congressional support, leaving that country as a failed state and a breeding ground for terrorism.  After exceeding the 60-90 day limit of the War Powers Resolution, his administration falsely defended the Libyan initiative by claiming that seven months of military action constituted neither war nor hostilities.  A succession of presidential lies and deceptions from 1950 to the present time have greatly damaged constitutional government and the aspiration for democracy.

–Written by Louis Fisher, author of Presidential War Power (3d ed., 2013).