The Importance of Presidential War Powers

John Yoo, former official of the United States department of Justice, wrote an interesting article in February of last year (found here) regarding the importance of presidential war powers. He indicates that because the international sphere is so volatile and constantly changing, we need a strong executive in order to respond to international threats quickly and precisely, specifically citing terrorist attacks as being something we need to respond to quickly. He also argues that Congress inherently takes too long to effectively respond to such fluid threats.

I by and large agree with John Yoo’s assessment. Congress was designed by the founding fathers to deliberate and debate for an incredibly long time before coming to a conclusion, making it impossible to respond quickly to a problem. Assuming that there are problems that we need to respond to quickly (terrorism would certainly be one, although whether we should intervene with military presence in order to prevent future attacks is debateable, and something that will be discussed in future posts), the president is certainly the best actor to ensure a quick response.

Yoo also addresses the concern of an unchecked executive branch resulting in tyranny, a problem that the Founding Fathers (and Mothers) and numerous Tea Party activists are concerned about today. Even though the president by-far has more military power than any other branch of government, Congress has the power of the purse and the right to weaken and reign in the military if it doesn’t agree with what the president is doing. While the War Powers Resolution has never been successfully used (another topic to be discussed in the future) it could also theoretically prevent Obama or any future president from perpetuating a war that Congress or the people don’t agree with. Thus, the issue of tyranny isn’t something to be concerned about.

I believe John Yoo’s assessment about the necessity of strong executive war powers is correct.


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