Constitutional War Powers (NHPR)

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NHPRLinda Fowler, professor of government and the Frank J. Reagan 1909 Chair in Policy Studies at Dartmouth, joins NHPR’s Laura Knoy on The Exchange to talk about President Obama’s recent decision to seek Congressional support for intervention in Syria and the subsequent debate over what the Constitution says about how and when the United States engages its military.

As Knoy notes, the United Nations is taking the lead in an international effort to ensure that Syria eliminates its chemical weapons, but at the same time, Secretary of State John Kerry reminds Syria that the threat of force still stands. Given this, Knoy says, there is much interest in the question “who has what authority when it comes to armed conflict?”

Fowler tells Knoy, “My view of where the problem is, is whether a war is an emergency, something for which the president has discretion to act to protect the welfare of the people, or whether it is a discretionary war.”

“And if you look at the post-World War II history,” she says, “where presidents have gotten into trouble is with discretionary wars.”

Listen to the full story, broadcast 9/16/13 on NHPR.