Presidential War Powers: From Lincoln to Bush

Thursday, November 3, 2005
Presidential War Powers: From Lincoln to Bush

Presidential War

Part I: Common Hour DEBATE: Resolved: The War in Iraq is Just
David Perry, professor of ethics at the U.S. Army War College
Russ Bova, professor of political Science at Dickinson College.
Weiss Center, Rubendall Recital Hall, 12:00 p.m.

Part II: Teach-In. When Does a War End?: War Powers and the Lessons of Reconstruction after the American Civil War
Michael Vorenberg, author of Final Freedom and professor of history at Brown University
Stern Center, Great Room, 2:00 p.m.

Part III Roundtable: Presidential War Powers: Historical Perspectives from Lincoln to Bush
John Yoo, former deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice and professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley
Louis Fisher, Senior Specialist in Separation of Powers for the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress; and Michael Vorenberg, author of Final Freedom and professor of history at Brown University
Stern Center, Great Room, 7:00 p.m.

Issue in Context- Debate
There is much political debate in America today over whether the most recent war in Iraq meets the criteria necessary for a war to be considered just. The Bush administration made the case for war by emphasizing Saddam Hussein’s acquisition of weapons of mass destruction in violation of UN regulations, and the danger that Iraq posed to the United States and the international community. Arguing that the threat was imminent, the administration deemed Operation Iraqi Freedom a war of preemption. However, after the conflict began, it became clear Saddam Hussein’s regime did not posses the stockpiles of weapons alleged by the Bush administration.

The cost of the war on both a monetary and humanitarian scale has been immense. Over two billion dollars have been spent on the war, and the death toll for U.S. troops hit 2,000 on October 25th. A recent poll conducted by The Washington Post found that only 38% of Americans approve of Bush’s handling of the war, and there is question as to whether engagement in Iraq is within the scope of the United States’ national interest.

According to just-war theory, a war is considered just only when the cause is significant enough to merit force, the war is fought by a legitimate authority with good intention, there is a high probability of success, the destruction caused by the war outweighs its benefits, and force is used only as a last resort. Many facets of the Iraq war lead critics to question whether this conflict truly meets these criteria.

Issue in Context- Roundtable
Americans’ constitutional rights are not superseded by a declaration of war, but to what level can a president use his power to wage war effectively while still preserving the liberty of all? The current “war on terror” and the war in Iraq have sparked debate not only over executive authority, but also the ethics of going to war and treatment of enemy combatants.

Historically, presidents have enjoyed increased authority in times of war. President Lincoln suspended habeas corpus eight times over the course of the Civil War. The Sedition Act of 1918, signed by President Wilson, made it a crime to use “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the U.S. government or American involvement in World War I. During World War II, numerous enemy combatants were detained and tried by military tribunals. Wartime detentions and limitations on civil liberties are extremely controversial and inspire debate both from a historical perspective and in applications to contemporary politics.

Today, most view President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans and other persons of “Foreign Enemy Ancestry,” as a clear civil liberties violation. However, in wartime, Presidents are often forced to make quick decisions, and civil liberties are at times superseded by national security concerns. It is often only in hindsight that the true impact of presidential action on civil liberties can be evaluated.

About the Debate Participants
David Perry
David Perry is a professor of ethics at the U.S. Army War College. He formerly served as director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. Perry received his Ph.D. in Ethics and Society from the University of Chicago Divinity School in 1993. Perry is the author of numerous publications dealing with ethics in warfare and just-war theory.

Russell Bova
Russell Bova is a professor of political science at Dickinson College. Bova received his Ph.D. in 1985 from Indiana University, and his research primarily focuses on comparative politics and international relations. In addition, Bova currently teaches a course on ethics and world politics which he created.

Douglas Stuart
Douglas Stuart is the J. William Stuart and Helen D. Stuart Chair in International Studies, Business and Management, and a professor of political science and international studies at Dickinson College. In addition, Stuart serves as an adjunct professor at the U.S. Army War College. Stuart received his Ph.D. in 1979 from the University of Southern California. During his time at Dickinson, Stuart has received both the Ganoe Award for Inspirational Teaching, and the Dickinson Award for Distinguished Teaching.

About the Roundtable Participants
John Yoo
John Yoo currently serves as a professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law. From 2001-2003, he worked as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice. Yoo graduated from Yale Law School in 1992, and clerked for Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia Circuit, and later Justice Clarence Thomas of the U.S. Supreme Court. From 2003 to the present, Yoo has served as a visiting scholar at The American Enterprise Institute. Yoo has received several fellowships for his constitutional law scholarship, and was awarded the Bator Award for excellence in legal scholarship and teaching by the Federalist Society. In addition, he has published numerous journal articles. Yoo’s most recent book, The Powers of War and Peace: Foreign Affairs and the Constitution after 9/11, was published in 2005.

Louis Fisher
Louis Fisher is a senior specialist in separation of powers with the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress, and formerly served as the research director of the House Iran-Contra Committee. He is the author of over a dozen books and three hundred articles and has twice been awarded the Louis Brownlow Book Award among many others. He received his doctorate in Political Science in 1967 from the New School for Social Research, and has taught at Queens College, Georgetown University, American University, Catholic University, Indiana University, Johns Hopkins University, the College of William and Mary law school, and the Catholic University Law School. Fisher’s most recent books include: Military Tribunals And Presidential Power: American Revolution To The War On Terrorism, and American Constitutional Law: Constitutional Structures: Separated Powers and Federalism – both published in 2005.

Michael Vorenberg
Michael Vorenberg is an associate professor of history at Brown University . He received his Ph.D. in history at Harvard University, and previously taught at Harvard and SUNY Buffalo. His work focuses on the American Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the period of reconstruction. While on sabbatical during the 2003-2004 academic year, Vorenberg conducted research for his upcoming books: Reconstructing the People: The Impact of the Civil War on American Citizenship, and The Emancipation Proclamation: A Brief History with Documents (due in 2006). Vorenberg is the author of several books, his most recent being: Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment, published in 2001.

Related Links
• Iraq War Debate- University of Michigan Documents Center
• Just War Theory
• White House Iraq Page