Clinton, Kosovo, and the Final Destruction of the War Powers Resolution

29 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2006 Last revised: 20 Feb 2008


The United States air campaign to compel Serbia to halt military ethnic cleansing in Kosovo was the first combat operation conducted for more than sixty days without express congressional authorization. The decision by President Clinton to commit the armed forces of the United States to combat action as part of the NATO led campaign without seeking congressional authorization triggered a judicial challenge by a number of legislators led by Representative Tom Campbell of California. Representative Campbell brought the challenge based on his assertion that the President was acting in direct violation of both the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution. Unlike similar challenges to prior presidential military commitments, the duration of the combat operations against Serbia precluded any implied sixty day clock theory of compliance with the Resolution. The challenge was ultimately dismissed on justiciability grounds by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. This article analyzes the nature of the military operations and the basis for the dismissal, and asserts that the true effect of the court's decision was to effectively nullify the significance of the War Powers Resolution as a barrier to presidential war making initiatives. In so doing, the court confirmed the continuing validity of longstanding separation of power jurisprudence related to war making decisions.

Keywords: Kosovo, War Powers Resolution, UN Charter, Use of Force, War Powers, Constitutional Law, NATO, Serbia, Security Council

Suggested Citation

Corn, Geoffrey S., Clinton, Kosovo, and the Final Destruction of the War Powers Resolution. William & Mary Law Review, Vol. 42, p. 1149, 2001. Available at SSRN:

Geoffrey S. Corn (Contact Author)

South Texas College of Law ( email )

1303 San Jacinto Street
Houston, TX 77002
United States

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