Published April 3, 2023

Topic:   Abuse of Congressional War Powers and Responsibilities


Over the past two decades, the U.S has entered three 20-year wars (the Global War on Terror, Afghanistan, and Iraq) and two armed conflicts (Syria/ISIS and Africa/ISIS) and spent over $3,000,000,000 without any demonstrable success.  In none of these cases has the U.S. formally declared war, articulated legally the reasons for going to war, or specified the end results to satisfy the U.S.’s war aims.  As a result, our war aims constantly drifted and failed to accomplish any favorable outcomes.  Now, the U.S. is increasing involved in the Russia-Ukraine War.  We are likely headed for the same outcome.


  1.  The choice to go to war is the least desirable, most awful, hardest decision that a democracy must make.  Our Founding Fathers made declaring war particularly hard for the U.S., which ensured that the US did not get into wars frivolously.  However, for the past 21 years, the Congress and the Executive have short-circuited that Constitutional process by passing “Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMF)”, essentially giving the Executive a blank check for going to war and then funding the wars every year with minimal oversight.

  2.  Avoiding the Constitutional requirement for the President to appear before Congress and make a persuasive case for going to war has allowed the Executive branch to indulge in faulty strategic thinking, prevented the Congress of conducting robust oversight, and deprived the public of the opportunity to express support for – or reject – the case for going to war.  This happened in the Viet Nam war, the Global War on Terror (GWOT), Iraq, and Afghanistan and is happening now with respect to Ukraine.

Quick facts

  1.  The Founding Fathers made the President the Commander-in-Chief, but vested the power to declare war in the Congress in order to prevent the Executive (in their experience, the King of England) from indulging in endless, meaningless armed conflicts.

  2.  The Congress has declared war 11 times since 1812.

  3.  Since 2001, Congress has passed two Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMF’s) rather than voting to declare war.

    A.  The 2001 AUMF authorized the President to use military force to destroy those who attacked the U.S. on September 11th, 2001, with Congress specially ceding its war powers to the President to decide when and where to strike the subject terrorists.

    B.  The 2002 AUMF authorized the President to use the Armed Forces to prosecute a war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

  4.  Since 2001, the Executive has used the 2001 anti-al Qaida AUMF and 2002 Iraq AUMF to engage in military conflicts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Djibouti, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Cameroon, Kosovo, Jordan, Niger, Nigeria, the Philippines, Turkey and Libya at a cost of circa $3 trillion dollars.  In none of these cases did the U.S. obtain Congressional consent for the wars nor solicit specific public support for war.

  5.  The U.S is increasingly involved in Ukraine’s war with Russia.  Yet, the Executive has never articulated our strategic goals, our desired end state to terminate the war, or sought Congressional support for the strategy.

  6.  The impact of the Russia-Ukraine war goes far beyond the immediate battlefields on the Russo-Ukraine border, yet the U.S. leadership has never formally considered the issue writ large.

    A.  The war is causing a tectonic shift in the post-WWII security alliances in Europe.

    B.  U.S. economic sanctions on Russia are dismantling the worldwide trade finance architecture.  Are we ready to sacrifice the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency?

    C.  The war is disrupting the world’s food and energy markets, which are leading to famine and instability in Africa and the Near East.

    D.  U.S. financial sanctions on Russia are causing the teardown of digital payment systems of the Western banking system.

    E.  Russia is directly challenging the credibility of the West’s security agreements, such as NATO’s Article V, which other totalitarian states around the world are watching with intense interest.

Policy Proposals

  1.  Immediately convene Congressional hearings on U.S. war aims in Ukraine and require the Executive to articulate what the U.S. wants to accomplish, its plan to do so, and the resources required, and then vote on the proposed strategy.

  2.  Hold Congressional hearings on the changes that the Russo-Ukraine war is causing in our defense and security environment.  It has caused NATO to expand territorially, but has NATO’s mission changed?  Should food and energy security be a component of defense?  How might China take advantage of the situation?  Can the West prevent escalation in Europe?  What is the risk of a nuclear strike?  To what degree are despotic leaders around the world emboldened by the war?  How should the U.S. mitigate these risks?

  3.  Hold Congressional hearings on the impact of the war on our economic security and the world’s trade finance system.

    A.  Convene a second Bretton Woods Conference to re-build a world finance structure that fosters stability and punishes aggression.

    B.  Ensure that the U.S Dollar remains the preferred medium of international exchange.

    C.  Revive multilateral trade agreements among the world’s free market economies in order to reassert a fair, rules-based international trade system and prevent totalitarian governments from instituting mercantilist trade patterns undercutting democratic countries.

    D.  Establish rules and structure for digital banking which mirrors the reliability, transparency, and regulatory control of the current western banking system.

    E.  Consider the impact of the transition that is underway from highly efficient but highly vulnerable “just-in-time” world supply chains to less efficient but more survivable “just-in-case” supply chains.

AVV, Inc POC: Michael H. Schoelwer