The Glorious Commander-in-Chief

17 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2008 Last revised: 17 Nov 2008

Date Written: August 6, 2008


I examine the executive's power as Commander-in-Chief (or "CINC") of the armed forces, and the resulting problems for constitutional design and interpretation. Drawing upon Machiavelli's analysis, I attempt to state an economy of glory: an account of the benefits and costs of executive glory-seeking, and an account of how glory-seeking motivations on the part of the CINC can best be harnessed to the public interest. I then ask how the American national constitution should be interpreted in light of the economy of glory. I conclude that the optimal constitutional regime is one in which the executive is constrained in initiating conflicts, but not constrained in carrying them out.

Keywords: president, war powers, national security

Suggested Citation

Vermeule, Adrian, The Glorious Commander-in-Chief (August 6, 2008). Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 08-18, Harvard Law School Program on Risk Regulation Research Paper No. 08-4, Available at SSRN: or

Adrian Vermeule (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1525 Massachusetts
Griswold 500
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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