Presidential Use of Force
When the framers of the Constitution constructed the executive branch of government, they envisioned a president with certain limited powers. Having delegated to the president a specific type of authority, the framers would probably be surprised to see that they had actually created a rather dynamic officer. The presidency is continually changing over time. That is, the power of the president has been both increased and decreased a various stages in history. Opportunites for change did not generally result from the characteristics of individual presidents, but rather came as a result of specific historic occurrences that impacted the nation as a whole. For example, the Civil War created a forum that expanded presidential power, whereas certain acts of Congress have contracted the president's power. Although the framers of the Constitution may not have intended to create such an executive, the presidency of today has more power, greater responsibility, higher demands and expectations; and the US toady is the world's military and economic superpower.
Presidential power when viewed from a constitutional perspective, is both specific and obscure; specific in that some elements of presidential power are clearly spelled out; obscure in that the limits and boundries of presidential power are either ill-defined or open to vast differences in interpretation. In an effort to understand presidential power, the Constitution is a starting point, but it provides few definitive answers. The Constitution, as it relates to the powers of the presiden, raises more questions than it answers.
As historical circumstances have changed, so too has the meaning or interpretation of the Constitution. The scope and meaning of the executive clause in Article II of the Constitution has changed to meet the needs of the times and wishes of strong presidents. The skeleton-like provisions of Article II have left the words open to definition and redefinition by courts and presidents. This skeleton-like wording leaves it up to an aggressive chief executive and a willing Supreme Court to shape the actual parameters of such powers. In effect, history has rewritten the Constitution. The words are flexible enough to mean different things in different situation. On the whole though, a more expansive view of presidential power has taken precedence over a more restrictive view. The history of the meaning of presidential power through the Constitution has been one of the expansion of power and the enlargement of the meaning of the words of the Constitution.
The numerous "undeclared wars" of the twentieth century also presented an avenue for Congress to supress the executive. The widespread disapproval of the Vietnam War was the last straw for American legislators. Congress felt the need to limit the president's ability to engage in military conflicts with forgein lands without their consent. The War Powers Resolution, passed in 1973,...