Presidential Power in War
Posted: 12 May 2011
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.
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