i.Have students use the Constitution and the War Powers Act to determine what the powers of government are in times of conflict (see related links below and be sure to bookmark this page for convenience).
Facts they should arrive at are:
Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress
the right to declare war and raise and support military forces.
Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states that the
president shall be commander in chief of U.S. military forces.
The War Powers Act of 1973 limits the president’s ability to
use military forces by requiring him to report the use of troops
to Congress within 48 hours and allowing him to continue their
use for only 60 days without congressional authorization.
ii.Have students discuss and cite historic examples for the following customary factors surrounding the committal of military troops:
Few members of Congress will challenge a successful military
The United States often sends troops into hostile situations as
part of UN operations.
The views of foreign policy elites and military leaders are very
important in shaping policy in times of conflict, as are national
Popular opinion is an important influence on the president and
Congress in times of conflict, although the government does
not always do what the public wants (example: Congress
continued to appropriate funds for the conflict in Vietnam even
after it became unpopular).
iii.Ask students to select one of the following conflicts to investigate further. You may wish to have them work individually or you might break the students into groups that will research each of the conflicts together. To hear the audio files, you need the RealPlayer plug-in.Downloadit now.
The Declaration of War on Japan
Franklin D. Roosevelt
(running time: 7:44)
The Cuban Missile Crisis
John F. Kennedy
(running time: 7:31)
Operation Desert Storm
(running time: 6:33)
Other conflict choices include the Korean War, the Vietnam War, President Reagan’s invasion of Grenada, President Bush’s invasion of Panama, and President Clinton’s use of NATO forces in Kosovo.
iv.Students should focus their research on the following questions.
- Why and how did the conflict begin?
- What was the role of the United States in the conflict?
- Did the president and Congress act in accordance with the Constitution and the War Powers Act? Was a formal declaration of war made? Did the president report to Congress?
- What was the president’s view of and role in the conflict?
- How did Congress view and support the use of troops in the conflict?
- Were U.S. troops part of UN or NATO forces?
- Who were the key policy makers in Washington? Who were the key military leaders involved? How did they influence U.S. policies?
- Were there any U.S. interests or national security concerns that determined U.S. actions?
- What was popular opinion of the conflict and U.S. involvement in it?
- How was the conflict covered in the media?