The Clinton Wars: The Constitution, Congress, and War Powers

By Niesen, Paul | Air & Space Power Journal, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview

The Clinton Wars: The Constitution, Congress, and War Powers


Niesen, Paul, Air & Space Power Journal


The Clinton Wars: The Constitution, Congress, and War Powers by Ryan C. Hendrickson. Vanderbilt University Press (http://www.vanderbilt. edu/vupress/index.html), VU Station B 351813, Nashville, Tennessee 37235-1813, 2002, 240 pages, $49.95 (hardcover), $24.95 (softcover).

Ryan Hendrickson's The Clinton Wars provides outstanding information about presidential versus congressional war powers. Every president from Truman on has claimed constitutional authority as commander in chief to unilaterally deploy (and employ) America's armed forces. To stem the growing threat of an imperial president, the House and Senate passed the War Powers Act of 1973: Joint Resolution Concerning the War Powers of Congress and the President-also known as the War Powers Resolution (WPR).

By means of the WPR, Congress intended to reclaim the constitutionally provided war-making authority. The resolution spelled out specific requirements the president needed to meet in order to deploy American armed forces. Included were limitations on the length of deployment (subject to congressional approval) and mandatory consultation with Congress prior to deployment. Despite the passage of the WPR, presidents have continued to unilaterally deploy American armed forces, frequently with minimal (or no) consultation with Congress.

By examining six case studies, Hendrickson addresses the president's unilateral exercise of war powers during the two terms of the Clinton presidency. The studies range from American involvement in Somalia to Operation Noble Anvil over Kosovo. They cover not only President Clinton's perspective as commander in chief, but also the views of Congress and the framers of the Constitution. …

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