Ronald Reagan's term in office was punctuated by four significant employments of military force: the deployment of Marines to Lebanon; the intervention in Grenada; the air strikes against Libya; and the deployment of naval forces to the Persian Gulf. In the aftermath of each of these military operations, critics questioned the constitutional basis for such unilateral presidential war-making, arguing that Congress alone is empowered to declare war. Debates over whether the President failed to comply with the statutory requirements of the War Powers Resolution further complicated these constitutional disagreements. In The Reagan Wars, David Hall seeks to overcome a key source of confusion in these heated debates—the failure to distinguish between the wisdom of Reagan's actions and their legality. He demonstrates that the circumstances under which the Constitution permits unilateral presidential war-making were present when President Reagan waged war between 1980 and 1988. Hall first considers the thinking of the Constitution's Framers on the question of war powers and the subsequent two hundred years of judicial interpretation regarding the proper balance between congressional and presidential authority to make war. In light of this historical background, he then closely examines the facts and the legal circumstances of each of the four "Reagan wars." Hall's thought-provoking conclusions deserve the attention of anyone interested in the role of the Constitution in U.S. foreign policy-making.
Preface -- Introduction -- A Clash of Wills: The Constitutional Balance of War Powers -- The Intent of the Framers -- Judicial Interpretation -- Nonjusticiability -- The War Powers Resolution -- The Reagan Wars: 1980–1988 -- Lebanon, 1982–1984 -- Grenada, 1983 -- Libya, 1986 -- Persian Gulf, 1987–1988 -- Conclusion