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 an institutional balance of the Nation’s war powers between the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. To examine the intentions of the Founders regarding the Nation’s war powers as well as how American leadership has adhered to this intent post-ratification, this study carefully analyzes the circumstances which compelled this balance as well as its application throughout the history of the American experiment. Following an examination of these circumstances and the history of the United States, it is clear that American leadership, despite adhering to the Founders’ intentions for nearly 160 years, has deviated tremendously from this constitutional balance in the modern era. Beginning in 1942, this study demonstrates that the balance of the Nation’s war powers began a dramatic shift away from its founding intention in favor of a subservient Congress and an emboldened presidency. Throughout the Cold War, this study finds that American presidents almost always ignored the traditional constitutional role of Congress in authorizing hostilities by unilaterally ordering military action across the globe. In doing so, modern presidents have asserted the right to do so under an expansive interpretation of the president’s Article II authorities or the auspice of authority from international organizations such as the United Nations (U.N.) or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). As these expansive assertions have gradually swelled the presidency’s powers over war for nearly the past eighty years, Congress has largely enabled the expropriation of its war powers through appeasement and a failure to mount any meaningful political or legal challenge in response.


Original version updated by the author on March 15, 2021.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
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