Argumentative Essay on President and Unilateral War Powers

President and Unilateral War Powers


The President of the United States is ranked the top most powerful political leader in the world, and being the office bearer is expected to collaborate with the congress to declare war on the countries that are suspected to be involved in perpetrating acts of terrorism or even production of nuclear weapons that are a big threat to the world peace.  Nevertheless, in some cases, the Presidents have made up their own decisions and disregarded the approval of the Congress. There has been recent debate on the employment of unilateral presidential directives and this suggests that, void of the consent of the Congress, the ability of the president to shape and act is largely unchecked by traditional institutional arrangements.  There are yet others who have suggested that Congress is more likely to restrain the powers of the presidents by using these orders.Nonetheless, the fact that majority of the unilateral powers are justified by the interbank authority, makes it necessary to define variations in the utilization of such orders. This paper aims to explain the reasons why the president ought to have unilateral war powers as well as cite examples of circumstance under which previous Presidents of the United States have utilized their unilateral powers.

President and Unilateral War Powers


The issue of presidential powers during the times of war is one of the most contentious issues that has sparked off lots of debate across the United States during the recent times. Many academic researchers and political analysts find it quite interesting that is the president has the ability and authority to solely order for the invasion of other territories abroad by America. This also entails the ability of the President to get a hold of different communication processes and activities that have been conducted by persons who were  within the United States and have been in contact with crime humanitarian criminal offenders such as al Qaeda supporters, proponents, and other global terrorists groups. This is not limited to operations that deal with terrorism only,but also affect other affairs that concern countries such as Russia and the manufacture of nuclear weapons that may potentially threaten global peace.  During unavoidably commissioned war, the power of the president as the head of the military may entail the ability to access the communication of the enemy as well as monitor the correspondences between such enemies and the persons who might be allied to them, and he or she may also wage war against the enemy with the aim of protecting the country from further assault(Fallon, 2013).

Background information on the introduction of presidential unilateral power

In 1970, there was a section of the House representatives that were ready to admit the need of the president to secure and protect the country and its citizens from any danger especially in unforeseen crisis contexts, without being approved to do so by the Congress. Nonetheless, rather than identify the specific conditions that would warrant the president to act in such a manner, the House of representatives relied on the procedural protections. Often, the president has the obligation to consult with Congress prior to dispatchingthe American powers into armed clashes on missions abroad. In addition, he is expected to also report the circumstances and defend his request with regard to America declaring war on a particular country that may entail sanctioning the international relations with the country.

In 1973, the House revisited this discussion and tightened the rules regarding the unilateral powers of the president hence set more restrictions on the activities that the president can authorize. Without the authorization of Congress in terms of declaration of war or specific sanctions against the use of this kind of power within a specific territory or country, the President would be required to end any such invasion by America within one hundred and twenty days. In addition, the simultaneous resolutions would have to pass in both chambers but were free from the president’s veto. The House of representatives refused to give the seemingly one-sided power and instead limited the ability of the president to declare war in other countries to only 120 days. In fact, the conditions under which the President would be allowed to exercise such powers as in a unilateral manner was defined by the Senate. This limited the utilization of the executive power by the president to three circumstances. The president could exercise such power to repel any designed attacks against America. He could also use his power to retaliate against enemies who attacked the military of the United States in outside territories and also rescue any endangered American citizens or residents who were in remote countries or in water territories.


Even though many people tend to think that president of the United States has the sole powers to make decisions concerning the country, the forefathers of America placed many measures and conditions that would facilitate balanced governance, shapedpolitical officials andauthoritatively defined the relations with regards to war powers. The ability and powers to announce war were initially vested in the Congress. Despite the President being approved as the authority to repulse any unforeseen or sudden strike against the United States, the overall power and leader with regards to wars abroad would be the Congress. Similar to other one-sided forces, official requests and decrees give the president the power to make important arrangements simply by through his signature. An example of this was when President Truman made the decision to integrate the U.S. military even though the Congresswas unwillingto authorize such enactment. Another example happened when George Bush relied on the official request to get permission to begin war, all the while obstructing the Congress from  overlooking his veto of enactment. There are also some few disputable and essential announcements that have since taken place and can apply in this scenario(CATO Institute, 2009).

Even though these two Presidents, Bill and Bush, were elected from distinctive political parties in the US and servedunder different yet very necessary circumstances altogether, throughout their regimes in office, they both employed their unilateral powers to force Iraq to surrender  Osama Bin Laden, the terrorist leader. In spite of the obligation of the president to serve as stipulated under the constitution,the Congress was apportioned the power to pronouncewar and manage military matters. As a matter of fact, President Bill Clinton in 1999, utilized his unilateral powers to declare the Kosovo war over after 78 days. His actions were contrary to the 60-day time limitations that are stipulated in the War Powers Resolution with regard to the battle operations that require express congressional approbation. In fact, president Clinton ignored the few congressional votes that had denied him the power to lead the Kosovo mission and even though the Congress recognized and rejected to sanction the war, the president proceeded.

Furthermore, the Emancipation Proclamation of Lincoln is effectively ranked as the most important of all strategy decrees that the U.S. history has ever witnessed. Lincoln depended on the powers of his presidencyas the Commander in Chief and not a responsibility of the Congressto free slaves and he relied upon what he highly regarded as a military need. This scenario can also be exemplified by PresidentHarry Truman when he issued two declarations of control over the coastline and secured the fishery zones in 1945 and Congress, waited until 1953 and 1976 to order and validate the enactment of his proposals. These examples are a clear illustration that the presidential unilateral powers with regards to war are necessary, especially when the decision at hand is urgent. It is under such situations that the president may be forced to act independently without the approval of the Congress.

The Congress is vested with the power to announce America’s involvement in war under the first and eighth articlesof the Constitution.  Pursuant to this power, in the course of the history of America, the Congresshas sanctioned 11 presentations of war, and identified with five separate cases of war, the latest being the presentations that were received throughout the World War II. Furthermore, the Congress has received various approvals to use the military capacities and resources with the latest of this being the joint determination that was instituted in October 2002, and approved the use of military force against Iraq. Amongst the reasons that are cited in defense for the appeals and requests include armed ambushes and attacks on the United States region that places therights or diversions of America as a sovereign country in danger(Huber, 2009).

In addition, the Congress and the President have also sanctioned commissions to use powers against forces that are opposed to formal affirmations of war. It is these measures that have by and large led to the approval of the utilization of power against either a named nation or anonymous countries. More often, the Presidents have asked for the war power to invade dangerous countries. In most cases, the Congress has always given the Presidents less than their requests and it should be noted that not all approvals form Congress for the utilization of power have resulted in real battle. The need for the President’s signature is necessitated in both the affirmations and sanctions because the ultimate goal is to act in accordance with the established rules and regulations. Any disapproval by Congress can restrict the power and ability of the President hence creating the need for him to act based on his unilateral war powers.

Generally, Presidents work under exceptionally specific designated laws and regulations from Congress with a particular end goal which is to practice their official capacities. The Congress has put in place certain control measures on the desires of presidential military activities and practices by conveying political signs to the president with regard to utilization of power choices.However, the WPR itself has clearly illustrated constraint in checking the impacts on the president(Rottinghaus & Maier, 2010). For instance, most of the people in Congress upheld the request by President Clinton despite the fact that a sizeable minority of around forty percent of the House members,knew the intentions of the president in terms of noting that the timing of the assaults were almost similar to the president’s personal political issues. This case shows the importance for the president to have unilateral war powers to enable him make decisions even during the times that the Congress appears indecisive.

Researchers have asserted the need for these unilateral powers especially in the President’s office, and in particular towards his last phase of leadership. This is due to the fact that this period marks one of the toughest times for presidents to argue with the Congress with regards to the facts and issues facing his office and the country at large and also reach an amicable consensus of solving pertinent state affairs. The rationale of not issuing unilateral powers for the President are politically weaker in the second portion of his term because he is in the “intermediary” stageand as such Congress feels little need to deal with him or her. This leads the president to make use of his unilateral power preference and act without the Congress. This desire can be explained by the fact that presidents have a tendency to issue fewer requests when the government appears to be in isolation because they are scared of receiving a retaliatory denial of their request, and with Congress being less averse to limiting the president in times of separated government, the president tends to place fewer requests under the partitioned government. Having been unified in order to transform more requests, the government is aware that issues between the president and the Congress are prone to concur. An alternative explanation is that by settling on one-sided war choices, the presidents are actualizing the forces provided for them by the Congress.


It is important to point out that the Congress is authorized to accept or decline a Presidential request on war. In case it needs to control the official war making, the Congress has access to a highly influential protected device which is the force of the vote. If the Congress is required to end the Iraq War, for example, it can lawfully call for the withdrawal of the planned troops and alsorecoil or dispense with units sent to Iraq. This force was used by the Congress during the force of the emphasis of President Nixon to end the Vietnam War, and literally twenty years after this occurred, the Congress utilized comparative strategies to end America’s building outing in Somalia. Despite this, the inconsistency of the Congress in terms of pegging its decisions to political party affiliation and interest can limit the President’s ability to act hence necessitating him to use his unilateral power in other instances.

CATO Institute. (2009). CATO handbook for policy makers. Retrieved from

Fallon, R. (2013). Interpreting Presidential Powers. Retrieved from

Huber, J. (2009). Sleepwalking Democrats and American Public Support for President Bush’s Attack on Iraq. Retrieved from

Malone, D. (2003). Unilateralism and U.S. foreign policy: International perspectives. Boulder, Colo: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Rottinghaus, B., & Maier, J. (2010). The power of decree presidential use of executive proclamations, 1977-2005. Retrieved from WORK/Presidential Proclamations (research note) (PRQ)/The Power of Decree.pdf