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Copyright (c) 1993 Georgetown Law Journal
Georgetown Law Journal

SYMPOSIUM: Rethinking War Powers: Congress, the President, and the United Nations.

March, 1993

81 Geo. L.J. 597

Author

JANE E. STROMSETH *

Excerpt

The division of war powers between Congress and the President has never been free of ambiguity or tension. The Constitution grants Congress the power to declare war, to raise and support armies, to provide and maintain a navy, and to make rules for the regulation of those armed forces. 2 The President, on the other hand, is the Commander in Chief of U.S. armed forces. 3 Most scholars agree that the framers sought to strike a balance: the President alone could not commence "war," but he could use force to "repel sudden attacks" on the United States or its armed forces. 4 Reacting against the unilateral power of kings to go to war without the consent of the people, the framers desired a democratic check on the power of the President to initiate armed conflict. 5 Disagreement rages, however, over what the sparse words of the Constitution should mean today, when wars are hardly ever "declared" in advance, U.S. forces are stationed on foreign soil on a semipermanent basis, and the country's security interests are intertwined with those of other states in an increasingly interdependent international system.

Any adequate contemporary theory of the division of war powers between Congress and the President must take account of the growing role of the United Nations Security Council in responding to threats to international peace and security. In 1945, the drafters of the U.N. Charter responded to the devastation of World War II by seeking to limit the unilateral use ...
 
 
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