After the recent chemical attack by the Syrian government on its rebelling citizens, the war drums in Washington DC are rumbling. Ships are positioned, missiles are pointed, sabres are rattled, allies are consulted, the UN is in motion (sluggish, corrupt, meaningless motion). But can the President alone make the decision to attack another nation’s government or military forces? According to the Constitution and the War Powers Act of 1973, the answer is absolutely NO.
After decades of war in Korea and Vietnam without congressional authorization, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution (commonly known now as the War Powers Act) specifically to make explicit limits on the President’s authority to engage in military action. It states that the President can engage in hostilities under only three conditions: a Congressional declaration, other Congressional authorization, or in retaliation for an attack on America.