Presidential War Powers: The Constitutional Answer

by Tom Woods There’s a lot of confusion, on right and left alike, regarding the president’s war powers under the Constitution. Here’s an overview of the most common claims on behalf of such powers, along with replies to these claims. “The president has the power to initiate hostilities without consulting Congress.” Ever since the Korean War, Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution – which refers to the president as the “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States” – has been interpreted this way. But what the framers actually meant by that clause was that once war has been declared, it was the President’s responsibility as commander-in-chief to direct the war. Alexander Hamilton spoke in such terms when he said that the president, although lacking the power to declare war, would have “the direction of war when authorized or begun.” The president acting alone was authorized only to repel sudden attacks (hence the decision to withhold from him only the power to “declare” war, not to “make” war, which was thought to be a necessary emergency power in case of foreign attack). The Framers assigned to Congress what David Gray Adler has called “senior status … Continue reading Presidential War Powers: The Constitutional Answer