The Constitutional History of U.S. Foreign Policy: 222 Years of Tension in the Twilight Zone

Author
Walter A. McDougall
Content Type
Book
Institution
Foreign Policy Research Institute
Abstract
In 1973, Congress passed the infamous War Powers Resolution (WPR), over Richard Nixon’s veto. It was perhaps the most ambitious Congressional effort to bridle the President since the battle with Andrew Johnson over Reconstruction. The WPR is worth reading—once—then forgetting, because its convoluted, contradictory, and doubtless unconstitutional mix of instructions, restrictions, and ticking clocks has never been honored by any administration or upheld by any court. Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush all dispatched U.S. forces into combat situations without paying more than lip service to the WPR. In 1990, following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, President Bush stationed 100,000 personnel in Saudi Arabia. He sought no authorization and, in fact, informed just one member of Congress: Senator Sam Nunn (D., Ga.). When he then prepared Operation Desert Storm to liberate Kuwait, 54 Congressmen led by the chairman of House Armed Services Committee, Berkeley radical Ron Dellums (D., Calif.), filed for an injunction to stop the war. U.S. District Judge Harold H. Greene ran for cover. Noting that 54 fell far short of a majority, he judged the case “not ripe for judicial determination.”
Topic
Foreign Policy, War, Governance, Law, Constitution
Political Geography
United States