Senior Honors Theses

Publication Date

2016

School

College of Arts and Sciences

Major

History

Keywords

1971 War Powers Resolution, War Powers Resolution, War Powers Act, presidential war powers

Disciplines

American Politics | Defense and Security Studies | Diplomatic History | Legal | Legal Theory | Military and Veterans Studies | Peace and Conflict Studies | Policy History, Theory, and Methods | Political History | Public Policy

Abstract

Reluctant students often criticize the study of history as irrelevant to the present day.

In the case of one important and controversial piece of legislation, nothing could be farther from the truth. The 1973 War Powers Resolution (WPR), which places limits on presidential power to deploy troops in combat situations, has ample application to the political functioning of the United States today. Thus, investigating and studying the resolution remains relevant and important today. The WPR became law in 1973, overcoming a predictable veto by President Nixon. The legislation has consistently been a flashpoint for political controversy – eliciting criticism by both parties, and both opponents and supporters of expansive presidential power. Not only has it created political controversy, but its effectiveness has been a constant source of study, debate, and disagreement. This thesis will argue that the WPR has been largely ineffective at achieving its goals of restricting presidential powers. It will analyze several conflicts that the United States has been involved in since its passage. This paper will examine the political climate at the time of its initial passage, and then examine the effect it has had on subsequent conflicts. Ultimately, this paper will contend that the WPR has been an ineffective attempt at restricting presidential war powers, due to its political nature, vague language, and the modern strength of the American president.