The Presidency and the Constitution

"The War Power"

Overview

The president serves as commander in chief of the armed forces, and he also has the power and responsibility to direct the foreign affairs of the nation. However, the Framers of the Constitution were careful to limit the president’s war power by vesting the powers to declare and fund war in Congress. The Founders believed that the fundamental object of any foreign policy should be America’s safety and independence, for the sake of protecting American citizens’ rights. The Progressive view of foreign policy and the war power—which marks a rejection of this principled position—has transformed America into an exporter of ever-changing political ideals. 

Lecture

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Recommended Readings

Discussion Questions

  • Why did the Founders put limits on the president’s war power?
  • How does social compact theory inform the Founders’ ideas regarding foreign policy?
  • In what ways has the relationship between the presidency and the war power changed over the last century? Is the presidency weaker or stronger because of these changes?

Q & A Session

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John W. Grant is assistant professor of politics at Hillsdale College. He received his B.A. from Eureka College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Dallas.