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The Clinton Wars

The Constitution, Congress, and War Powers

Ryan C. Hendrickson

Publication Year: 2002

"The Clinton Wars is a timely and significant examination of the war powers issue. I know of no other work that treats the major uses of force in the Clinton administration so thoroughly from the vantage point of legislative-executive interaction. Moreover, because there is a growing body of literature on congressional assertiveness of late, this book makes an important contribution to this debate." --James M. Scott, author of Deciding to Intervene: The Reagan Doctrine and American Foreign Policy Today the United States is fighting a "war" against terrorism, a military action whose definition will be a matter of controversy, particularly, if history is any guide, between Congress and the president. Throughout its history, the United States has grappled with the constitutional tension built into the conduct of its foreign affairs and the interpretation of the power to make war and use force abroad. Since the Cold War's end, the United States has had to navigate through a period of strategic ambiguity, where American national security interests are much less certain.  Ryan Hendrickson examines the behavior of the Clinton administration and Congress in dealing with the range of American military operations that occurred during the Clinton presidency. He uses a case-study approach, laying out the foreign background and domestic political controversies in separate chapters on Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq. Of special interest after the World Trade Center attacks is the chapter "Terrorism: Usama Bin Laden." The author analyzes a number of factors that influence the domestic decision-making process. We see the president relying on congressional consultation and approval during periods of political or personal weakness, and, conversely, in better times we see a president with a freer hand. Also influential is the ability of the public to comprehend and support the reasons for a particular action, with troops in Bosnia requiring more explanation than cruise missiles over Baghdad. Consideration is given to the relevance and effectiveness of the War Powers Resolution of 1973, a Watergate-era attempt by Congress to restore what it perceived to be its legitimate constitutional role in the decision to use force abroad.

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

This book has been a journey that began in graduate school at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 1993 and culminated with the end of the Clinton administration. While this book was being researched and written, many people provided comments or critiques or were simply supportive of my efforts. Many former colleagues and professors from ...

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pp. ix-xv

The question of who has authority to deploy American troops and use military force abroad is one of the most profound and important constitutional issues raised since the republic’s founding. In the aftermath of the terrorist strikes on the United States on September 11, 2001, this issue surfaced again on the American political agenda. American for- ...

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1. War Powers in American History

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pp. 1-20

Since the republic’s founding, American presidents have engaged in over three hundred different uses of force abroad. During the same time, Congress passed only five declarations of war. To the casual observer, it may seem that as commander in chief, the president is entitled to unilateral military powers and acts in a perfectly constitutional man- ...

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2. Somalia

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pp. 21-42

Somalia represented President Clinton’s first real foreign policy challenge and crisis. By October 1993, the mission was a deep embarrassment for the United States, as American lives were lost in this peacekeeping and later “nation building” operation. When the troops were originally deployed, President George Bush had gained the support of ...

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3. Haiti

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pp. 43-67

The United States’ military deployment to Haiti represents another occasion when U.S. armed forces were used abroad by the Clinton administration. As was the case in Somalia, American participation in this peacekeeping operation was approved by the United Nations Security Council under Chapter 7 authorization and entailed the use of Ameri- ...

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4. Bosnia

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pp. 68-98

The United States military action in Bosnia was the third major deployment of American armed forces under President Bill Clinton. Like the operations in Somalia and Haiti, this U.S. deployment involved a peace-enforcement operation authorized by the United Nations Security Council and Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. However, this case is consider- ...

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5. Terrorism

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pp. 99-116

Bill Clinton’s strikes on Usama Bin Laden represented a very different sort of military action than the other uses of force considered thus far. The president had multilateral support from either the United Nations or NATO prior to the use of force in Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia. The responsibilities of the president and Congress in carrying out the “con- ...

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6. Kosovo

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pp. 117-137

The political climate surrounding the United States’ use of force in Kosovo in 1999 was substantially different than what the Clinton administration had dealt with in its past military actions. First, the United States’ and NATO’s military operation in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was the most prolonged and intense use of force during the ...

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7. Iraq

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pp. 138-159

An ongoing security concern during President Clinton’s two terms in office was Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Clinton inherited a strategic challenge in Iraq that in many respects plagued his administration for eight years. For various reasons, the United States used military force against Hussein in 1993, 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000. In his many strikes ...

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8. The Politics and Future of War Powers

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pp. 160-174

In the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War and as George Bush spoke of a “new world order,” the prospects for international peace and security seemed considerably better for the post–cold war world. Yet through the eight years of the Clinton presidency, ethnic conflicts, civil wars, and even incidents of genocide continued in disturbingly high...


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pp. 175-182


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pp. 183-218


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pp. 219-224

E-ISBN-13: 9780826591609
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826514134
Print-ISBN-10: 0826514138

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2002