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The Constitution vs:
Understanding the Amendments:
What They REALLY Mean

How does the Constitution allocate the powers of the military and war?



The Legislature and Executive branches have battled over the power to initiate a military action, or conduct a war, for decades. Since the last declared war on December 11, 1941, four days after Pearl Harbor, the U.S. has engaged in numerous military actions, occupations, and, well, "wars". U.S. "conflicts" with Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, among many others, were never declared wars

The Constitution separates the powers to declare war, fund the military machinery, and command the Armed Forces. Article 1, Section 8 grants the power to declare war to the Congress as one of its (18) enumerated powers:

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water

The declaration of war grants the President the power to utilize the military to that end. Article 2, Section 2 defines this power:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.

When is the military called into actual service? This happens only when Congress declares war. As a separation of powers and a check and balance, the Founders left the power to call up the military to the Congress; they then entrusted the President to act as commander-in-chief of the military in service of that declaration.

In their own words:  Federalist #69 - Alexander Hamilton

Laws that seek to alter this balance of power are unconstitutional. Even the War Powers acts, seeking to restrain the President from utilizing the military for undeclared wars for longer than 60 or 90 days, are not constitutional in that they grant the President access to the military without a formal declaration of war by the Congress.

Which war last complied with the Constitution?
World War II, declared December 11, 1941, represents the last official "war" undertaken by the U.S. that was appropriately declared and complied with the Constitution.