Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date

2020

Center/Program

Center for Japanese Legal Studies

Abstract

The U.S. Constitution’s allocation of military authority has adapted over time to major shifts in American power and grand strategy. This paper explains, with a focus on U.S. military actions in East Asia and possible scenarios of special joint concern to the United States and Japan, that the president in practice wields tremendous power and discretion in using military force. Although formal, legal checks on the president’s use of force rarely come into play, Congress nevertheless retains some political power to influence presidential decision-making. The president’s powers are also constrained by interagency processes within the executive branch, and alliance relations often feed into those processes.

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