In order to expand or reduce presidents' war making authority, a new constitutional amendment would need to be adopted. Propose a new amendment for expansion and reduction. Justify the need for...

In order to expand or reduce presidents' war making authority, a new constitutional amendment would need to be adopted. Propose a new amendment for expansion and reduction. Justify the need for this amendment using specific details, examples, and data, if applicable.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We can justify the need for either type of amendment (one expanding or one contracting presidents’ powers) in the same way. In both cases, we need the amendment because it is currently not clear as to what the president can and cannot do if the Congress does not declare war.  It is important to clarify this issue.  This is important because we have seen, time and again since WWII, that there is no clear line between what the president can do as commander-in-chief and what the Constitution reserves for Congress because that branch has the power to declare war.  For example, there were more than 20,000 American troops in Vietnam before Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and there had been at least 10,000 troops for two years before that.  As another example, Presidents Bush and Obama have attacked and killed suspected terrorists in places like Pakistan and Yemen using remote-control drones without a declaration of war.

This is not necessarily a problem. We can believe different things about whether the president should have these powers.  What is a problem is the fact that we are not sure whether the president has those powers.  This means that we often disagree on whether presidents’ actions are legitimate and legal. When we kill people in other countries and when we expose our own soldiers to be killed, we need to be sure that we are doing so legally.  Therefore, we need to clarify when the president can commit troops to combat without Congress giving him (or her) permission.

The real problem comes in writing the amendments. There are various problems that you will face when you try to write these amendments.  Let us say that you want to write an amendment saying that the Congress must approve in order to send troops into combat for a given amount of time.  When you do this, you will need to think about how to define various things.  You will need to define what it means to send troops into combat.  Are they in combat any time when they might be attacked? Does there have to be organized warfare going on?  How will you define this?

Let us say that you want to say the president can send troops to war if the country is being threatened. How do you define a threat? How serious does that threat have to be in order to warrant sending troops?  Who gets to decide whether the threat is serious enough?

When you write your amendments, you will need to decide how you are going to resole these problems and others like them. You will have to decide how you could possibly write an amendment that would clarify the circumstances under which presidents can send troops to war in such a way that people would no longer agree about whether the president had the right to act.

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