While Dangers Gather: Congressional Checks on Presidential War Powers

Princeton University Press
Free sample

Nearly five hundred times in the past century, American presidents have deployed the nation's military abroad, on missions ranging from embassy evacuations to full-scale wars. The question of whether Congress has effectively limited the president's power to do so has generally met with a resounding "no." In While Dangers Gather, William Howell and Jon Pevehouse reach a very different conclusion.

The authors--one an American politics scholar, the other an international relations scholar--provide the most comprehensive and compelling evidence to date on Congress's influence on presidential war powers. Their findings have profound implications for contemporary debates about war, presidential power, and Congress's constitutional obligations.


While devoting special attention to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, this book systematically analyzes the last half-century of U.S. military policy. Among its conclusions: Presidents are systematically less likely to exercise military force when their partisan opponents retain control of Congress. The partisan composition of Congress, however, matters most for proposed deployments that are larger in size and directed at less strategically important locales. Moreover, congressional influence is often achieved not through bold legislative action but through public posturing--engaging the media, raising public concerns, and stirring domestic and international doubt about the United States' resolve to see a fight through to the end.

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About the author

William G. Howell and Jon C. Pevehouse are associate professors at the University of Chicago's Irving B. Harris School of Public Policy. Howell is the author of Power without Persuasion: The Politics of Direct Presidential Action (Princeton). Pevehouse is the author of, most recently, Democracy from Above
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jun 27, 2011
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Pages
384
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ISBN
9781400840830
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / American Government / National
Political Science / General
Political Science / International Relations / General
Political Science / Political Process / General
Political Science / Security (National & International)
Technology & Engineering / Military Science
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The protection of the homeland is the top priority for U.S. national security strategy. Strategic defense, however, has been an overlooked dimension in the vast literature on the U.S. strategic posture, with even less attention given to the necessity and dynamics of security collaboration within North America. Drawing on the expertise of scholars from the U.S., Canada and Mexico, the book offers a wide range of perspectives on recent trends in, and future prospects for, the military and political evolution of North American strategic defense.

North American strategic defense is a topic too often taken for granted: as this excellent book shows, that is a mistake. In the 21st century, perhaps even more than the 20th, it will be an issue of cardinal importance to both the United States and Canada.
Eliot A. Cohen
Robert E. Osgood Professor of Strategic Studies, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

NORAD’s binational command is unique, and this timely and ambitious book examines its continued relevance to North American defense against a host of new global threats. It broadens the focus of what we mean by North American defense, contemplates how we might include Mexico in various regional security arrangements, and considers the dynamics of expanded North American interdependence in the Trump era.
Laura Dawson
Director of the Canada Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

North American Strategic Defense in the 21st Century is an important book. This edited volume brings together a galaxy of stars, both rising and established, with outstanding credentials regarding NORAD and associated matter in the study of security. This original and well-written volume is the first of its kind since the Cold War – long overdue and impressive in contents. The chapters cover both panoramic issues and more specific matters, and the collection is essential reading for academics, policy-makers and the general public.
Patrick James
Dornsife Dean’s Professor, School of International Relations, University of Southern California

Since the early 1960s, scholarly thinking on the power of U.S. presidents has rested on these words: "Presidential power is the power to persuade." Power, in this formulation, is strictly about bargaining and convincing other political actors to do things the president cannot accomplish alone. Power without Persuasion argues otherwise. Focusing on presidents' ability to act unilaterally, William Howell provides the most theoretically substantial and far-reaching reevaluation of presidential power in many years. He argues that presidents regularly set public policies over vocal objections by Congress, interest groups, and the bureaucracy.

Throughout U.S. history, going back to the Louisiana Purchase and the Emancipation Proclamation, presidents have set landmark policies on their own. More recently, Roosevelt interned Japanese Americans during World War II, Kennedy established the Peace Corps, Johnson got affirmative action underway, Reagan greatly expanded the president's powers of regulatory review, and Clinton extended protections to millions of acres of public lands. Since September 11, Bush has created a new cabinet post and constructed a parallel judicial system to try suspected terrorists.


Howell not only presents numerous new empirical findings but goes well beyond the theoretical scope of previous studies. Drawing richly on game theory and the new institutionalism, he examines the political conditions under which presidents can change policy without congressional or judicial consent. Clearly written, Power without Persuasion asserts a compelling new formulation of presidential power, one whose implications will resound.

From six-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, FOX News star, and radio host Mark R. Levin comes a groundbreaking and enlightening book that shows how the great tradition of the American free press has degenerated into a standardless profession that has squandered the faith and trust of the American public, not through actions of government officials, but through its own abandonment of reportorial integrity and objective journalism.

Unfreedom of the Press is not just another book about the press. Levin shows how those entrusted with news reporting today are destroying freedom of the press from within: “not government oppression or suppression,” he writes, but self-censorship, group-think, bias by omission, and passing off opinion, propaganda, pseudo-events, and outright lies as news.

With the depth of historical background for which his books are renowned, Levin takes the reader on a journey through the early American patriot press, which proudly promoted the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, followed by the early decades of the Republic during which newspapers around the young country were open and transparent about their fierce allegiance to one political party or the other.

It was only at the start of the Progressive Era and the twentieth century that the supposed “objectivity of the press” first surfaced, leaving us where we are today: with a partisan party-press overwhelmingly aligned with a political ideology but hypocritically engaged in a massive untruth as to its real nature.
All American presidents, past and present, have cared deeply about power--acquiring, protecting, and expanding it. While individual presidents obviously have other concerns, such as shaping policy or building a legacy, the primacy of power considerations--exacerbated by expectations of the presidency and the inadequacy of explicit powers in the Constitution--sets presidents apart from other political actors. Thinking about the Presidency explores presidents' preoccupation with power. Distinguished presidential scholar William Howell looks at the key aspects of executive power--political and constitutional origins, philosophical underpinnings, manifestations in contemporary political life, implications for political reform, and looming influences over the standards to which we hold those individuals elected to America's highest office.

Howell shows that an appetite for power may not inform the original motivations of those who seek to become president. Rather, this need is built into the office of the presidency itself--and quickly takes hold of whoever bears the title of Chief Executive. In order to understand the modern presidency, and the degrees to which a president succeeds or fails, the acquisition, protection, and expansion of power in a president's political life must be recognized--in policy tools and legislative strategies, the posture taken before the American public, and the disregard shown to those who would counsel modesty and deference within the White House.



Thinking about the Presidency assesses how the search for and defense of presidential powers informs nearly every decision made by the leader of the nation. In a new preface, Howell reflects on presidential power during the presidency of Barack Obama.

What are the consequences if the people given control over our government have no idea how it works?

"The election happened," remembers Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, then deputy secretary of the Department of Energy. "And then there was radio silence." Across all departments, similar stories were playing out: Trump appointees were few and far between; those that did show up were shockingly uninformed about the functions of their new workplace. Some even threw away the briefing books that had been prepared for them.

Michael Lewis’s brilliant narrative takes us into the engine rooms of a government under attack by its own leaders. In Agriculture the funding of vital programs like food stamps and school lunches is being slashed. The Commerce Department may not have enough staff to conduct the 2020 Census properly. Over at Energy, where international nuclear risk is managed, it’s not clear there will be enough inspectors to track and locate black market uranium before terrorists do.

Willful ignorance plays a role in these looming disasters. If your ambition is to maximize short-term gains without regard to the long-term cost, you are better off not knowing those costs. If you want to preserve your personal immunity to the hard problems, it’s better never to really understand those problems. There is upside to ignorance, and downside to knowledge. Knowledge makes life messier. It makes it a bit more difficult for a person who wishes to shrink the world to a worldview.

If there are dangerous fools in this book, there are also heroes, unsung, of course. They are the linchpins of the system—those public servants whose knowledge, dedication, and proactivity keep the machinery running. Michael Lewis finds them, and he asks them what keeps them up at night.

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