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Congress offers few limits on US military action

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


The US cruise missile strike in response to the Syrian government’s nerve agent attack and hawkish rhetoric coming out of the White House about North Korea have highlighted the legal leeway for the president to order pre-emptive military action under executive authority without securing congressional approval in advance. The Trump administration ordering unilateral operations could set the presidency against Congress over the making of foreign policy and shape the political calculus of the White House when mulling military action.


  • The Syria strike may revive the AUMF debate in Congress about updating legal authority for anti-IS military operations.
  • Making threats to international adversaries could lock the White House into unintended escalations to avoid losing face.
  • Repeated military operations without congressional buy-in could see greater contestation of Trump’s international agenda by Congress.

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