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Book Review: Presidential Power War Analytical Essay

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Updated: Jun 3rd, 2019

In his constitutional book, presidential power war, Louis Fisher elaborates the evolutionary powers of the president in foreign policy especially concerning international conflicts. Fisher’s central idea revolves around the constitution by focusing on its role in defining the powers of the president and the congress. He calls for the American political society to establish check and balances especially in relation to the president’s authority.

In the first and second chapter, Louis Fisher highlights the solid constitution whereby the president and congress had to work in consultation. In subsequent chapters, Louis focuses on the mutilation of the constitution of the United States of America, which has slowly granted the president powers therefore, sidelining the role of congress.

Consequently, from early 20th century the United States of America has taken part in a number of international wars such as the Persian Gulf War, Korean War and the Iraq war. Consequently, creating constrained international relations with the parties involved.

Therefore, as a legal advisor, Louis Fisher enlightens the society on the impact of the presidential powers to the political and social development of the United States of America. Fisher argues that the major arms of the government the executive, legislature and the judiciary have colluded in tampering with the constitution of the United States of America especially in relation to presidential powers on wars or foreign policy.

Fisher commences his book by focusing on the constitution definition of the presidential and congress powers. According to Fisher, the framers of the constitution prevented the establishment of unilateral powers of the president (Fisher, 2004, p.10). Therefore, the congress role was to provide bilateral powers thus, cutting down presidential powers (Fisher, 2004, P.60).

The executive had no central decision especially concerning wars, with the practice of collective judgment the president was to act within the constitutional requirements. Although the earlier predecessors of the constitution acted within their mandate, Louis subsequent chapters highlight the deterioration of the bilateral powers in the United State of America.

Dating back to the mid 19th century, the presidents of the United States defied the constitution by establishing himself as the key player in decisions, which concern international conflicts (Powell, 2002, P.40). President Regan, George Bush, Roosevelt and Clinton are among the leaders who have hindered the enforcement of the constitution law, which defines presidential powers.

Consequently, the Congress power as the bilateral player especially in matters concerning international conflicts has declined. Relating to the Mexican war of 1846, Fisher cites the passive participation of the congress gave the presidential powers to not only provoke international wars but also create flimsy reason to defend their actions (2004, P.30).

Commencing from mid 19th century through to the 20th century, president and the congress have tampered with the constitution clauses regarding presidential powers. Intuitively, the United States of America is yet to fulfill the wish of the framers and predecessors of the constitution stand in relation to presidential wars.

Therefore, Fisher cites major wars, which presidents have sparked and they include, the Mexican War, World War II, Korean War, Persian Gulf War and the Iraq war among others. Eventually, Fisher descriptively, focuses on the Korea War citing the role of the president and the failure of the congress in stopping the war.

Thus, by comparing the earlier wars in which, both the president and the congress had collective judgment, Fisher relates their impact in comparison to the current wars. Accurately, Fisher points out at the failure of the president, the congress and the judiciary.

Luckily, he motivates the American people to call upon their leaders more so, the congressional representatives to take up active role in foreign policy. With evidential facts, Fisher outlines the decline of the powers of the congress since 19th century up to the current leadership.

Analytically, the first argument Fisher points out is the failure of the congress in playing its role as the checks and balances of the presidential or executive powers (Hess, 2001, P.20). Consequently, this has led to presidential outrageous decision in declaring war in various countries. Intuitively, why did the framers of the constitution call from bilateral powers and not unilateral powers?

Initially, the president did not only consult the congress when issues concerning international arose but also the congress held the powers to initiate wars. Collective decision and bilateral powers prevented the United States of America from involving itself into many international conflicts. Evidently, the failure of the congress has initiated strained relationship between the United States of America and other countries like Iraq.

Essentially, according to Fisher all the American citizens end up suffering due to the failure of the constitution. Consequently, America has created dictatorship type of presidents, who have declared wars in most corners of the world. Evidently, in the contemporary society, America has created many enemies especially from the Asian region.

However, he notes that there is room to change the status of the constitution because the failure of the two parties lies within execution. Contrarily, he also points out failure on the part of the framers of the constitution who lacked to define clearly circumstances when there are urgent wars. Although the congress decided to offer president powers to decide on international conflicts, this has led to increased wars (Adler, 1980, P.16).

This move has led to wars like the Vietnam War experienced in 1964 and the recent Iraq war of 2012. Subsequently, the same congress is not yet ready to take over its role as the checks and balances of the constitution.

Furthermore, Fisher goes ahead and points out at the president’s decision to manipulate the congress in order to buy his decision. Among the famous presidents, he notes is George W. Bush who cunningly manipulated the congress to declare war to Iraq. At this level, the United Nations security docket was unable to act much because of the failure of the congress.

A similar move leads to the Persian gulf war, where the president deliberately takes action against other countries therefore, sidelining the roles of other parties like the United Nation security council. Other political analysts also highlight war and subsequently, their funding as a move that has increased due to the imbalanced powers between the president and the legislature (Weissman, 1996, P.32).

Similarly, Fisher eloquently outlines historical events that have taken place in the United State of America especially in relation to political wars and constitutional practices. Relying on his personal participation and observation in the constitutional changes that have taken place over the last five decades, Fisher comfortably points at the role of the president in declaring war in foreign states.

Therefore, what is the consequence of the failure of the congress? Fisher compares wars that occurred in the early 19th century in which, both the congress and the president had collective judgment and the consequences of the current wars to the United State of America is experiencing.

For instance, the wars fought with the American Indians, France and Barbary ended amicably because there was cooperation between the two parties, the congress and the executive (Wormuth & Firmage, 1989, P.60). However, the congress delegation of the constitutional clause to the president has seen a fast rise of destructive wars.

Although the aim of this move was to prevent harming of Americans in other countries, this has done more harm than good. Many wars have come after the Second World War II because the congress has silently watched as its constitutional powers disappear.

For instance, the case of President Harry Truman initiation of the Korean War without consulting the congress led to international conflicts. All these warring problems escalated immediately after the congress decided to play a passive role on presidential powers on wars.

In the contemporary society, there is an increase in the number of rebellions groups against America; most of them aim at killing their citizens or bombing embassies among other ill motives. A major example is the bombing of the American embassy in Kenya in 1998 and the September attack on the American twin towers in 1999 (Powell, 2002, P.23). How many Americans lost their lives?

Therefore, Fisher is calling upon the congress to control the presidential decision on declaring international wars because of the drastic damages the region is experiencing. Fisher’s main argument is to wake up or urge the congress members who are constantly failing the American people take up their responsibility as per the constitution requirements.

The aforementioned attacks originated from a rebellious group called Al-Qaida, led by Osama Bin Laden they led various massive destruction on American property thus, injuring its citizens (Fisher & Adler, 1989, P.40). Clinton had no option but to call for military action against them.

However, at this point the president acted in a collectively manner with support from both the Democrats and Republicans for the stability of the country as cited by Hendrickson (Fisher & Adler, 1998, p.10). President’s Bill Clinton military action in Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq created strained relationships between America and the involved countries.

In addition, Fisher also features the role of judiciary in relation to the executive powers, which have led to international wars. In the recent past, the federal courts have played a great role in supporting the presidential decision on wars. More often, when the congress calls upon the courts to stop the president from issuing military authority the courts have always ruled in favor of the president.

Therefore, is the judiciary ignorant of the constitutional requirements or is it a matter of negligence? For instance, the case against president Regan who had violated the presidential wars in the 1980s was rule against crockett (Javits, 1973, P.20).

According to the district judge, the president had the power to ensure or confirm that El Savador had hostile intention thus, sending him his military advisers. Similarly, in 1984 some congress member sued president Regan for attacking Grenada in 1983. Unfortunately, the judge expunged the case and its evidence because the congress members failed to act within their constitutional mandate.

Furthermore, when two more cases against president Regan went to court, the judiciary cleverly dodged them thus, supporting the president in his move regarding presidential wars. Consequently, the judiciary has greatly failed the constitution of the United States of America. Thus, Fisher notes that the judiciary though independent, it has a role in giving a clear stand about the president’s power when it comes to wars.

Additional when, president Bush solely decided to use countries like Saudi Arabia in attacking Iraq, the congress ,members approached the courts for legal action. Unluckily, the courts urged the congress to use both the house and the senate to condemn the president’s move before it can take any legal action against him.

However, the congress of the United States of America is always reluctant to confront the president in relation to his decision on wars. Consequently, currently, the president of the United State of America has powers to declare war on any country, when the need arises without consultation of the congress.

Hence the predecessors and framers of the constitution whose aim was to control presidential powers on wars while at the same time preventing any form of encroachment of either the congress or the executive on the statue has failed. On the other hand, the predecessors of the constitution like Roosevelt argued that the president had powers to provide military action in other countries especially concerning to foreign policy.

The current involvement of the American foreign policy is continually hindering the requirements of the constitution. According to most American presidents both current and their predecessors, the president has supreme powers in matters concerning foreign policy.

Subsequently, in attempt to cut the powers of the president on wars, the congress established a clause on War Powers Act of 1973 (Fisher, 2004, P.45), which clearly define circumstances under, which the president can solely declare war. On the other hand, the president can declare war if he thinks that it is an emergency especially when the country or its people are in danger.

More over, according to the constitution of the United States of America, the president has the power to sent troops and declares war as the commander in chief of the army. Essentially, this raises a contradiction in the role of both the congress and the president in matters concerning declaration of war especially on other countries. The power to withdraw troops from wars is among the roles the legislature should take up.

Unfortunately, although this Act is under the constitution, the presidents of the United States of America have sidelined its content. Critically observation also shows that the Act has continually created conflicts between both the house and the senate.

Evidently, the statute does not clearly demarcate the role of the president and the congress incases of wars. Fisher is therefore, calling upon the legislature to get involved in the use of American military troops and the funding of international conflicts.

As a renowned political scientist, Fisher enlightens the reader on the power or role of war and its eventual culmination into lasting peace. Besides the judiciary, the media and other public forums have a role in reinstating the role of the congress in determination or execution of the foreign policy.

When the congress constructed the Act of 1973, which limited the powers of the president, in relation to foreign policy the element of collective judgment was one of the aspects they intended to fulfill.

On the other hand, the centralization of the budget granted the executive more powers in matters concerning the use of military action in foreign countries. Therefore, what steps should the legislature take to relinquish its powers? This is the most challenging question Fisher expects the legislature to take up because the decline of their powers started more than 50 years ago.

Finally, Fisher asserts that the presidents of the United States of America are at the centre of making or creating wars. Although foreign conflicts are hard to come by, the choice solely lies within the president. In comparison with other nations like England, the United State of America is outstanding in initiating foreign wars.

Unfortunately, this military initiative predicts many wars that United States of America is yet to face with other foreign countries. Therefore, the strengthening of the legislature is the only way that would create peace in America. The president of America should be urged to act in a collective manner in issues concerning foreign policies especially wars.

Notably, the constitution is already at hand therefore, it is the role of the legislature to fight for its rightful position. Eventually, this move will save Americans from many conflicts and destruction they are facing. Therefore, the success of American lies within not only the legislature, judiciary and the executive but also the citizens.

Citizens have the right to ensure that their leaders implement the constitution. Other political analysts like Hendrickson concur with Fisher by pointing out the impact of the wars that presidents have declared on the United States of America especially from the terrorist groups (Fisher, 2004, P.29). Therefore, besides the legislature, the executive should also swallow its pride and fulfill the constitution requirement.

Fisher is singing this silent song to the leaders of America before their country faces resistance from all faces of the world. In addition, Fisher is also urging the civil society to wake up and urge the three arms of government to follow the constitution in exercising their powers.

In conclusion, armed with facts and historical records, in his book presidential power war, Fisher elaborately outlines circumstances that have led to constrained relationship between America and other countries especially in the Asian region. The laxative nature of the congress to work in hand with the president in matters concerning foreign policy has majorly contributed to the failure of the constitution.

By outlining various wars different presidents of the United States of America have declared, Fisher notes that unless the legislature takes up its role as the checks and balances of the constitution, USA will face resistance from many other nations.

He also sadly, points at the failure of the judiciary in reinstating the constitution of United States of America especially in matters concerning the powers of the presided. Finally, Fisher creatively enlightens the society on the impact of mutilating a constitution especially in matters relating to foreign policy.


Adler, D. G. (1988). The Constitution and Presidential Warmaking: The Enduring Debate.Political Science Quarterly, 103(1),16.

Fisher, L. (2004). Presidential War Power. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.

Fisher, L. & Adler, D.G (1998). The War Powers Resolution: Time to Say Goodbye.Political Science Quarterly 113(10), 1

Hess, G. R. (2001). Presidential Decisions for War: Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press.

.Javits, J. K. (1973). Who Makes War: The President Versus Congress. New York: Morrow.

Powell, H. J. (2002). The President’s Authority Over Foreign Affairs: An Essay in Constitutional Interpretation. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Weissman, S. R. (1996). A Culture of Deference: Congress’s Failure of Leadership in Foreign Policy. New York: Basic Books, 1996.

Wormuth, F. D.& Firmage E.B (1989). To Chain the Dog of War: The War Power of Congress in History and Law, Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.

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