Making War: The 200-Year-Old Battle Between President And Congress Over The Way America Goes To War

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Making War: The 200-Year-Old Battle Between President And Congress Over The Way America Goes To War

By John Lehman
Scribner's, 1992
320 pp. $22.95
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This engaging essay, part memoir, begins with Desert Storm and ends with Panama, with constitutional theory and history in between. Lehman has served the last three Republican presidents; he was Reagan's secretary of the navy. He is wise enough to recognize that the Constitution hardly settled the tussle over war powers-it was, in Edwin Corwin's phrase, "an invitation to struggle for the privilege of directing American foreign policy." He is also honest enough to admit that while he favors a strong president in principle, he tends, like most of us, to look more favorably on Congress. Lehman emphasizes the leverage of congressional investigation ("inquisition," through his executive branch spectacles), and he concludes that Congress' power of the purse has been roughly the check on executive discretion that the Founding Fathers had in mind.