The Legal Power to Launch War: Who Decides?, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Legal Power to Launch War

Who Decides?, 1st Edition

By Michael Head, Kristian Boehringer


328 pages

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Hardback: 9781138292086
pub: 2018-12-05
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The issue of who has the power to declare war or authorise military action in a democracy has become a major legal and political issue, internationally, and is set to become even more pertinent in the immediate future, particularly in the wake of military action in Syria, ongoing wars in the Middle East, and tense discussions between the United States and its allies, and Russia and China.  

This book comparatively examines the executive and prerogative powers to declare war or launch military action, focusing primarily on the United States, Britain and Australia. It explores key legal and constitutional questions, including:

    • who currently has the power/authority to declare war?
    • who currently has the power to launch military action without formally declaring war?
    • how, if at all, can those powers be controlled, legally or politically?
    • what are the domestic legal consequences of going to war?

In addition to probing the extensive domestic legal consequences of going to war, the book also reviews various proposals that have been advanced for interrogating the power to commence armed conflict, and explores the reasons why these propositions have failed to win support within the political establishment.

Table of Contents

1: Preface; 2: Introduction: What is at stake?; 3: Chapter 1: War and democracy; 4: Chapter 2: Vietnam, Iraq and the ‘war on terror’: Deception, war propaganda and legislative approval; 5: Chapter 3: Increasingly unrestrained war powers in the United States: from Truman to Trump; 6: Chapter 4: Britain’s royal war prerogative reasserted and reinforced; 7: Chapter 5: From Whitehall to the White House: The war power in Australia—from legal subordination to political subservience; 8: Chapter 6: The failure of reform proposals: An Australian case study; 9: Chapter 7: War and dissent: sweeping domestic powers; 10: Chapter 8: Contemporary preparations for wartime measures; 11: Chapter 9: Martial law, official lawlessness and judicial complicity; 12: Chapter 10: Can international law stop wars of aggression?; 13: Chapter 11: Would referenda provide any alternative?; 14: Chapter 12: Conclusions; 15: Index

About the Authors

Michael Head is a professor of law at Western Sydney University, Australia.

Kristian Boehringer is a senior lecturer in business law at Torrens University, Australia.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / Comparative
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Government / Legislative Branch