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Presidential Powers and the War on Terror Research Paper

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Updated: Oct 12th, 2018


By answering various relevant questions, this paper seeks to look into the aspect of the presidential power and its relation with the war on terror. To this end, an analysis of the various incidences that called for the intervention of the president shall be delved into before a shift is made to identify the key aspects and discourses that play a role in the establishment of presidential supremacy.

The paper shall make attempts to identify and put into use a multi-sited ethnography by not only borrowing examples from various timeframes in the various continents across the globe but also taking into consideration the uniqueness of the situations at hand.

This paper will serve as an analysis of the theoretical propositions implied by political ideologies and present them in conversation with human nature as a global manifestation of the phenomenon. This project shall also serve as an illustration of the theory of multidimensional transnational involvement of politics in their historic and contemporary manifestations as well as present the argument that current analysis as has been presented by various scholars.


The September11, 2001 attacks on the United States put the powers of the president on a spot-check and led to a generalized debate on what the president could and could not do even in the pretext of the war on terror. Among other items, President Bush argued that presidential powers allowed him to define the status and handling of individuals regarded as proponents of terrorism.

This element was later implemented with the president being allowed to issues orders without congress approval. The American constitution and indeed the constitutions of most nations in the world hold that the individuals who entitled with public authority must note that they cannot be above the law.

This guidance by the law should be maintained even when dealing with terrorists. So, to what extent are the powers of the president limited? This essay seeks to point out the extent to which the president can act when faced with administration and leadership decisions. To this extent, a number of publications shall be consulted outlining how some presidents handled certain situations especially in relation to the war on terror.


Data will be extracted from various journals, articles and books. The criteria of selection for the literature will be the relevance to the research topic as well as the year of publication. Both public and private libraries as well as online libraries will be visited in order to access the data.

This research will be partly evidence based and partly founded on professional research by professionals in the field. Various articles will be studied in order to provide background information which will essentially give credibility to the final essay.

History analyses cannot be effectively presented without obtaining information from real case scenarios. This will definitely make for some interesting research and in as much most of the information will only be used for reference purposes, it will effectively came round to form the back-bone of the paper.

Domestic Surveillance and presidential powers

Following the September 11 attacks, officials tasked with the role of ensuring state security had to come up with new goals and objectives as well as ways of assessing the homeland security strengths. Homeland security’s new mandate in the eyes of the president was described based on three of its strategic objectives.

First, it can be said to be a national effort applied with the sole aim of curtailing terrorist activities. Secondly, it can be defined as the utilization of all state machinery in the reduction of a state’s vulnerability to terrorist attacks (Edwards, Wattenberg and Lineberry, Rober299).

Finally homeland security can be described as all the conscious effort by a nation to try and reduce all the destruction occasioned by terrorist attacks and recover from such incidents. The performance of homeland security is mainly assessed in the view of the national strategy. The latter is in turn founded on law, technology, information and international unity. The law aspect of the national strategy comes in to ensure the utilization of federal laws in a bid to fight terrorism while securing the public welfare (Guy 353-356).

In 2005, President George W. Bush jnr. was accused of commissioning domestic surveillance without seeking the required parliamentary approval. In his support, it was argued that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 gave him the leeway to do that. However, it was later revealed by the Attoney General of the time asserted that FISA did not give the president any inherent authority to carry out electronic surveillance (Genovese 52, 124).

Following the September 11th attacks, the government tried to justify acts of domestic surveillance by citing inherent powers. Upto now though for the president to conduct any institutional or personal check, even in the name of the war on terror, he must seek approval from special courts according to guidelines established by the Congress.

Presidential powers and preemptive war

In 2001 and onto 2002, George bush was on record for having declared a war on terrorism whose start was symbolized by the Afghanistan invasion (Paolucci and Clark 88). In addition he said that there was a domain of terror present in the Middle East particularly around the borders of North Korea and he said that the United States President had the right to enter into preemptive war as a way of protecting his country’s borders.

The attack on the United States in 2001 was the first time Homeland security had been challenged in 79 years and it came unexpectedly. It was difficult to device an appropriate response following the attack and this could be the reason why the president had to respond in the way that he did.

The president in personally announcing preemptive war might also have been considering the fact that state armies could also be agents of terrorism (Welch, Gruhl, Comer and Rigdon 315). For instance the London bombing by Germany and the destruction of the Hiroshima by the United States were both terrorist acts committed with the aid of state armies.

States by virtue of their ability to access more resources in the form of artillery are more likely to exercise terrorism within the realm of international diplomacy as compared to insurgents. With changes taking place after the Second World War terrorism strategies became entrenched with institutions and usage of violence as a diplomacy tool came to be seen as an acceptable form of state conduct.

State armies can also be used as agents of terrorism against a government’s own people with the sole intention of creating a fear of the state. This has been particularly evident in developing nations and more-so those in the Middle East where individuals are subjected to extrajudicial murders.

Presidential powers and relation to homeland security

By presidential powers leaving the office holders pre-occupied with issues of homeland security, the threat of terrorism is bound to speed up in the advance of globalization.

This is because the collaborative effort between nations that has helped keep terrorist activities in check is gradually declining and states are becoming more and more self-centered. Country borders are becoming more and more porous as nations try to ignore the welfare of their neighbors and are therefore not particularly keen to establish who crossing over into the said neighboring countries is.

If global security against terrorist attacks is to be attained, presidential powers clauses should be amended to allow him direct homeland security to extend its influence beyond national borders. In this way, events taking place in other nations will serve to guide states on what measures to take against impending security threats. Unfortunately, the threat of terrorism has an impending effect on globalization in the sense that the more people become suspicious of foreign leaders, the more they will make efforts to lock them out of their country.

This in a way creates a vicious circle in which each country tries to prevent the entry of members of other nations. This will to a great extent slow down the process of attaining global unity and nations will tend to stick to their traditional ways of doing things even when new and better ways have been devised elsewhere due to the perennial fear of foreigners.


This paper had set out to accomplish a number of goals and it has effectively achieved them. A well detailed analysis of presidential powers and its relation to the war on terror has been presented with the focus being particularly around the aspects of preemptive war declaration.

The analysis has revolved around the elements of fluidity and flows especially by focusing on the multidimensional participation of allowances inherent in presidential powers. In the light of the discussions above, it can be concluded that ideologies have a crucial role to play in both the social and political developments of contemporary nations. This analysis of the relations between the politics and legislation has illustrated how governing principles describe the limits of presidential powers.

Works Cited

Edwards, George, Martin Wattenberg and Robert Lineberry. Government in America: People, Politics, and Policy (10th Edition). United Kingdom: Longman Publishing, 2005. Print

Genovese, Michael. Presidential Prerogative: Imperial Power in an Age of Terrorism. California: Stanford University Press, 2010. Print

Guy, James J. People, politics, and government. 7th. Ed. Scarborough, Ontario: Pearson Education, 2010. Print

Paolucci, Henry and Richard Clark. Presidential power and crisis government in the age of terrorism. New York: Griffon House, 2003. Print

Welch, Susan, John Gruhl, John Comer and Susan Rigdon. Understanding American Government. Florence: Cengage Learning, 2009. Print

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