Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Obama at War

Obama at War: Congress and the Imperial Presidency

Ryan C. Hendrickson
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 192
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Obama at War
    Book Description:

    During President Barack Obama's first term in office, the United States expanded its military presence in Afghanistan and increased drone missile strikes across Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The administration also deployed the military to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean, engaged in a sustained bombing operation in Libya, and deployed U.S. Special Forces in Central Africa to capture or kill Joseph Kony. In these cases, President Obama decided to use force without congressional approval. Yet, this increased executive power has not been achieved simply by the presidential assertion of such powers. It has also been supported by a group of senators and representatives who, for political reasons that stem from constant campaigning, seek to avoid responsibility for military action abroad.

    In this revealing book, Ryan C. Hendrickson examines President Obama's use of force in his first term with four major case studies. He demonstrates that, much like his predecessors, Obama has protected the executive branch's right not only to command, but also to determine when and where American forces are deployed. He also considers the voting records of Democrat John Kerry and Republican John McCain in the Senate, detailing how both men have played leading roles in empowering the commander-in-chief while limiting Congress's influence on military decision-making.Obama at Warestablishes that the imperial presidency poses significant foreign policy risks, and concludes with possible solutions to restore a more meaningful balance of power. The first book on the constitutional and political relationship between President Obama and the U.S. Congress and the use of military force, this timely reassessment of war powers provides a lucid examination of executive privilege and legislative deference in the modern American republic.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6096-2
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction: Red Lines for War
    (pp. 1-6)

    President Barack Obama faced a major foreign-policy challenge and humanitarian crisis in 2012 as civil war raged in Syria. As Syrian president Bashar al-Assad continued his slaughter of governmental insurgents, Obama attempted to show the world that his military strength and diplomatic resolve vis-à-vis Syria was genuine. As many commanders in chief have done since the Second World War, on August 20, 2012, Obama created his own “red line” for Assad’s behavior that would potentially result in U.S. military intervention. His message to the Syrian leader was clear: “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to...

  4. 1 The War Powers Framework for the Obama Presidency
    (pp. 7-24)

    President Barack Obama’s military actions abroad have produced bipartisan concern. Such voices were especially loud when Obama engaged in military action in Libya in 2011; he maintained that the Constitution permitted him to use force under his authority without specific congressional approval. Many members of Congress, constitutional experts, and some journalists argued that Obama had abused his authority as commander in chief.¹ When bipartisan challenges were raised, including by those who argued that the WPR had been violated, Obama dismissively referred to his critics as making “noise about the process” and that “a lot of this fuss is politics.”²


  5. 2 Afghanistan, Drone Warfare, and the Kill List
    (pp. 25-38)

    It was clear from early in his administration that President Obama would approach Afghanistan differently from his predecessor. Bush’s war in Afghanistan, which had commenced on October 7, 2001, after the terrorist strikes on September 11, produced considerable debate during the 2008 presidential campaign. Presidential candidate Obama frequently made the case that Bush had been distracted by the war in Iraq and consequently had not done enough to fight terrorism at its core, which Obama argued was in Afghanistan. Obama promised that as president he would more directly confront the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the region, an approach that became...

  6. 3 Fighting Pirates on the Indian Ocean
    (pp. 39-54)

    Global security threats and challenges continue to evolve well beyond the imaginations of what many thought possible only a decade ago. The rapid increase in piracy off the coast of Somalia and deep into the Indian Ocean during the Obama administration’s first term is one of these formerly unfathomable threats. In 2009, Somali pirates attacked 214 vessels and successfully hijacked 46. The numbers of attacks increased to 237 in 2011, though there was a slight decrease in successful hijackings. The number of attacks and successful hijackings decreased substantially in 2012 and 2013. The gravity of this newly arrived threat during...

  7. 4 Obama’s Military Strikes on Libya
    (pp. 55-70)

    The U.S. and NATO use of force in Libya in 2011 was the first new war for President Obama. Although Obama significantly enlarged the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and dramatically increased the use of predator drone strikes against Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives, these military operations still fell under the broad umbrella of the George W. Bush administration’s foreign policy and the previous authorization of the use of force against terrorists in 2001. The strikes in Libya were different, however, and produced a more assertive response from some members of Congress. In his effort to justify presidential insulation from congressional...

  8. 5 The Hunt for Joseph Kony
    (pp. 71-88)

    On October 14, 2011, President Barack Obama informed congressional leaders that approximately one hundred American military personnel would be deployed to four African states—the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, and Uganda—in an effort to eliminate the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA ), led by Joseph Kony. The LRA was formed in 1987 when after a government coup in Uganda led by Yoweri Museveni another government opposition movement led by Kony’s alleged relative, Alice Lakwena, was defeated by Musevini’s forces. Kony’s forces are known for their brutality in slaughtering villagers and kidnapping children. The...

  9. 6 Senators Kerry and McCain: Empowering the Commanders in Chief
    (pp. 89-112)

    Across each of the four cases examined so far, albeit in different degrees, senior members of Congress, including party leaders and committee chairpersons, worked to empower the commander in chief while generally insulating rank-and-file members of Congress from legislative and constitutional responsibility for the president’s military actions abroad. As demonstrated in chapter 4 especially, John Kerry (D–Mass.) and John McCain (R–Ariz.) played leading roles in the Senate in protecting President Obama from legislative efforts to limit the commander in chief’s bombings in Libya. In coming to the president’s defense, Kerry criticized those who sought to invoke the WPR,...

  10. 7 Syria and Beyond
    (pp. 113-128)

    During his first term as president, Barack Obama demonstrated that as commander in chief, one executive office practice remained firmly entrenched. Like his predecessors since the Second World War, Obama maintained that a president may use military force without congressional approval. Whether it be with respect to two major troop surges in Afghanistan involving thousands of American forces or to hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia or to military and naval operations aimed at fighting pirates on the ocean and on land or to the firing of hundreds of missiles against Libya’s military forces and leaders, he...

  11. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 129-130)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 131-158)
  13. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 159-166)
  14. Index
    (pp. 167-172)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 173-176)