Presidential Power in War

Posted: 12 May 2011

See all articles by William G. Howell

William G. Howell

University of Chicago - Department of Political Science

Date Written: June 2011


This review critically evaluates the largely consensual view that wars naturally and reflexively augment presidential power. After summarizing the key arguments advanced by presidency scholars in the aftermath of World War II, this article canvasses the existing empirical basis for their claims and the theoretical microfoundations upon which they are offered. Both appear wanting. Few systematic studies yield unambiguous evidence that the adjoining branches of government reliably support elements of the president's domestic or foreign policy agendas during war that they otherwise would oppose. And no one, to date, has offered a clear theory explaining why either Congress or the courts would behave in this way. The article therefore calls for continued empirical research on the causal effects of war on presidential power, and for renewed investments in theories that might account for the ways in which war figures into congressional and judicial voting.

Suggested Citation

Howell, William G., Presidential Power in War (June 2011). Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 14, pp. 89-105, 2011, Available at SSRN: or

William G. Howell (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Department of Political Science ( email )

Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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