I am certain I have previously discussed the idea that the President of the United States does NOT have the power to take the United States to war. That authority was reserved expressly for the Congress by the founders of this country. The Constitution is quite clear on this point, but that authority has been usurped by several Presidents in their over-reach. I usually find it best to defer to the founders in these matters, and when checking we find that James Madison once observed, “In no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department… [T]he temptation would be too great for any one man.”
Mickey Edwards and David Skaggs have an excellent article on the Christian Science Monitor about this very topic, and it should be required reading for every American. Edwards and Skaggs make the point:
Presidents of both parties have sought to arrogate the power to go to war into the executive branch. In one recent and notable example, senior advisers to President George W. Bush asserted that he had no constitutional obligation to seek authorization from Congress for use of force in Iraq.
It is easy to blame the president for this state of affairs. He has, after all, advanced a theory and practice of executive supremacy in national security matters that most constitutional scholars find contrary to the tenets of this republic’s very principles.
But they go on to point out how the Congress has allowed this incremental power grab to go unanswered over several administrations. I believe the reason a lack of backbone on the part of the Congress. They are afraid to be held accountable, so they allow the President to take action, and later either share in the glory…or more often, address the blame for failure on the President.
The authority to go to war is admittedly a heavy burden, but forming a commission to examine possible changes to war powers act is a useless exercise which, as pointed out by Edwards and Skaggs, stands the Constitution on its head. The division of power is already written into the Constitution. The Congress must take us to war, the President is then responsible for the execution of the war.