Wars have played an important role in the development of the United States of America. From its humble beginnings to the great nation that it has become today, the country’s involvement in wars has been diverse over the years. However, going to war is not always a simple affair, and legislative preparations need to be made. There are many powers within Federal offices, as outlined by the Constitution, which allow the country to officially go to war. Since the birth of the United States, it has been involved in numerous wars, each of which played a pivotal role in determining the direction of the country as a whole. To learn more about America and war, check out the infographic below created by the New England College’s Online Masters in Public Policy program.


The Constitutional Powers

The United States Constitution gives the US Congress the right to go to war. Under Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11, the Constitution allows Congress to declare war, grant specific letters of marque and reprisal, and make appropriate rules regarding capture of foreign soldiers on water and land. The first time this Constitutional power was officially used was during the War of 1812. During that war against Great Britain, a presidential proclamation of war was announced under President James Madison. While the Constitution itself plays a vital role in determining whether war will be announced, it also relegates a substantial amount of power to the President during the time.

Imperial Powers of the President

During times of war, the Constitution gives Presidents the power to hold a role known as Commander in Chief, which gives them control over the military branches. This is written under Article 2, Section 2, which states that the President shall be in charge of the country’s Army and Navy, and will also have the power to grant reprieves and pardons according to the country, except when the President is to be impeached. All declarations of war in the 1800s were passed by Congress in the form of a bill, giving the President the aforementioned powers. During this time, all of the measures were adopted by a majority vote, which was then signed into law by the President. The United States has enacted 11 separate formal war declarations against foreign countries in five different wars, each of which was requested by the President.

Powers of Congress

Congress has its own powers and limitations when it comes to war as well. The governing body has the power to declare and end wars and set limits to the number of troops deployed. Since World War II, Congress has adopted several authorizations for the use of military force, abbreviated as AUMF. A large part of the controversy that surrounded the Korean and Vietnam wars was the fact that they were not formally authorized by Congress. Such authorizations were also given in retaliations against the 2001 terrorist attacks, which, in turn, led to the recent conflicts. For such authorizations, there was a tremendous amount of approval from both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Recent Military Threats

With the changing nature of the world, the United States perceives many threats from several countries and fronts. There is a great deal of public debate about whether or not these threats are legitimate, but the nature of some of these conflicts has already resulted in military actions being taken against the countries.

Vladimir Putin and Russia

With recent events being such as they are, there have been several actions taken by the United States and their allies in Europe. Economic and trade sanctions have been initiated in response to the situation in Ukraine and Crimea, and there are reports of Putin testing nuclear weapons in the country.

North Korea

The former and current leaders of North Korea have been making threats against the United States for several years. The most recent threats were issued against the release of a recent dark comedy called The Interview, which portrayed an on screen killing of current North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which the country declared to be an act of war.


This has been a fast growing threat in the past several years. While over 71% of Americans believe that ISIS is a very real threat with active informants in the American military, foreign policy and military experts believe that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria poses little threat.


Currently, Americans believe that the largest threat to national security exists within Iran. The development of a nuclear weapons program in the country is something that over 76% of Americans found to be concerning, with international terrorism just above it at 77%.


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