Document Type


Publication Date

October 2004


Unlike many previous presidential elections, in 2004 foreign policy issues are at the forefront of the American policy and electoral agenda. Not since the Vietnam era has the United States entered an election year with the United States at such a heightened state of war, with ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as covert operations deployed around the world to wage the war on terrorism. After nearly one full term with George W. Bush as commander in chief, his views on constitutional war powers have been expressed on numerous occasions. Bush, like his post World War II predecessors, has exercised and claimed wide military authority as commander in chief. The American Democratic party’s nominee for president, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) has similarly amassed a long record on war powers during his years in the United States Congress. This paper provides a broad examination of Kerry’s positions on war powers, beginning with his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971 through his current views on the constitutionality of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The findings suggest that his rhetorical support for Congress’s constitutional war powers has often not matched his backing of unilateral military actions by the president. If elected president, it is unlikely that Kerry’s relationship with Congress would be markedly different from President Bush’s. It seems probable that Kerry will continue the practice of a “strong” [if not omnipotent] commander in chief in his relations with the United States Congress when the president seeks to use military force abroad.


This article was originally published in the Journal of Military and Strategic Studies and is available here: