Honors Theses

Date of Award

Spring 5-8-2020

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis


Political Science

First Advisor

Miles Armaly

Second Advisor

Jonathan Klingler

Third Advisor

John Bruce

Relational Format



When crafting the United States Constitution, America’s Founders carefully prescribed the institutional balance of the Nation’s war powers between the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. To examine how America’s leadership has adhered to the Founder’s intentions, this study carefully studies United States history from the colonial era to the present day. Throughout this study, it is clear that there has been enormous deviance from the intentions of the Founders concerning the institutional balance and exercise of war powers between the legislative and executive branches. While American leadership adhered to the constitutional prescription for nearly 160 years following ratification, beginning in 1942, the Nation’s powers of war began to expropriate from Congress in favor of the presidency. Throughout the Cold War, American presidents typically ignored the traditional role of Congress in authorizing hostilities, by unilaterally ordering military action across the globe. In doing so, presidents typically the right to do so under an expansive interpretation of the president’s Article II authorities or under the auspice of supposed authority from United Nations (U.N.) resolutions or support from North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies. While the presidency’s powers over war have gradually increased for nearly eighty years through expansive assertions of power, Congress has largely enabled such expropriation of its powers through a lack of meaningful opposition to the practice. While the War Powers Resolution (1973) serves as the most meaningful example of congressional opposition to presidential assertions of unilateral authority, each president since its passage have ignored the resolution as an unconstitutional encroachment on their war powers authority. Additionally, as the nature of technology and warfare has changed throughout the post-1942 era, presidents have more easily been enabled to order U.S. military action across the globe. This is particularly evident following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States, where presidents have been aided by advancements in technology, which have enabled them to retain America’s global hegemonic role through increased U.S. military action, under broad and outdated congressional authorizations, supposed U.N. authority or in support of NATO allies.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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