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Bacevich: the president’s authority to wage war must be curbed

Andrew Bacevich says the president’s authority to wage war must be curbed.

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While the Constitution makes clear in Article I, Section 8 that Congress has the authority to declare war, U.S. presidents since 1945 have increasingly exercised wide discretion in ordering American troops into action, writes CAS and GRS International Relations Professor Andrew Bacevich in a October 31 New York Times opinion piece.

“After 9/11, the Bush administration wasted little time in expanding executive prerogatives even further,” he writes. “Acting in his capacity as commander in chief, President Bush committed the nation to open-ended war on a global scale. Concluding that eradicating terrorism meant going permanently on the offensive, he promulgated a doctrine of preventive war . . .

“But defeating today’s jihadists, who are unlikely to be impressed by the prospect of incineration, requires a different strategy,” continues Bacevich, author of The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War. “Victory will come when we have deprived violent radical Islam of its claim to legitimacy. . . . In the interests of national security today, we should curb presidential war-making powers. A hitherto compliant Congress must reclaim the institutional authority conferred upon it by the Constitution. When it comes to wars, the first responsibility of the legislative branch is not to support the commander in chief. It is to exercise independent judgment, an obligation that transcends party.”