The Separation of Powers in the US Government in Today's World

Categories: Government

The U.S. Constitution was written by the Founding Fathers in 1789 as a document that would succeed the then-defunct Articles of Confederation, for the purpose of listing & protecting the rights afforded to U.S. citizens in order to prevent another tyranny from rising from the ashes of the former thirteen British colonies. In order to ensure that anything other than a democracy wouldn’t come about post-American Revolution, the Founding Fathers believed that the spirit of the Constitution would imply a Seperation of Powers between the three branches of the federal government.

The Separation of Powers, an act of vesting the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of government in separate bodies, is a constitutional principle implied, but not directly stated, in the U.S. Constitution, and has contributed to our sustaining democracy for well over 200 years. Although in modern times, the Seperation of Powers has become more complicated, with the federal govt., particularly the President, assuming powers he generally shouldn’t have.

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Congress, not the President, should have the power to declare peace terms, since it’s the branch comprised of the people’s elected representatives and can best determine how the country ends its role in a war, not a single individual who, whether he likes it or not, has the lives of millions of Americans in the palm of his hands.

The United States is a nation founded on democracy, coming from the Greek meaning “people rule”, and that’s exactly what it should be. A major decision, particularly one that affects the continuing relationships between countries, should be deferred to Congress, which can best decide on the proper course of action from then on, which is more reasonable then giving one man the power to voice his opinion as the opinion of the people.

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On many separate occasions, the United States has been embroiled in global, long-lasting conflicts that arose out of various countries’ developing power complexes, a sense of national pride & superiority, & most importantly, the concept of territorial expansion & imperialism had become widespread as nations waged war over land disputes, boundary lines and whatever else they can use to extend their reaches elsewhere. The last time Congress formally declared war was December 11th, 1941, against Germany during World War II. Ever since then, present-day conflicts, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan occurring under the Bush administration, have only been illegally declared by president’s who hadn’t sought the permission of Congress prior to their decisions. These serve as examples of the dangers of bequething too much power to an individual.

World War II was declared by President FDR soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces allied with Nazi Germany. This is one example where the federal govt., on all levels, agreed that action had to be taken against enemy forces, and that meant declaring war. However, back then, the presidency consulted with Congress before making any rash decisions, such as making war with Japan, and later on Germany: “I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire” [ CITATION Fra \l 1033 ].

Congress unanimously approved of the declaration of war, which dragged the U.S. into one of the most brutal conflicts in the history of the human race. The U.S. ended up winning the war, with both the Executive & Legislative Branches aggreing to end the war and begin fixing post-war Europe in the aftermath. The wars in Iraq & Afghanistan, having no legal justification, was put into place by Pres. George W. Bush, following the attack on the World Trade Center during 9/11. Manipulating the situation to suit his own personal agenda, Pres. Bush directed the U.S. armed forces to invade these two countries under the impression they were hunting terrorists: “And tonight, the United States of America makes the following demands on the Taliban… The Taliban must act and act immediately. They will hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate.” [ CITATION Pie01 | 1033 ]

Today, Iraq & Afghanistan are two of the most war-torn nations in the world, infamous for being breeding grounds for various terrorist activities. Congress then was forced to convince the public that they had nothing to do with the decision (although they backed Bush), and began cleaning up the mess they let one man make. Although Congress should retain the power to end a war on its own terms, there have been cases, where the President has declared war without approval from Congress, yet hasn’t been stopped by it either, basically allowing the President to take control of the situation. Currently, Pres. Barack Obama has authorized, without congressional approval, the war on terrorist organization ISIS, which is centralized in Syria but spread out elsewhere in the Middle East. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a member of the House of Representatives, stated that he would review the authorization for use of military force (AUMF) but has “two serious concerns” about the draft.

“First, it provides overly broad, fresh authority for the deployment of U.S. ground forces in combat operations in Iraq, Syria, and any other countries in which ISIL or its affiliates may be operating… Second, it leaves in place indefinitely the blank check authority granted to the Executive in the 2001 AUMF” [ CITATION Jus15 \l 1033 ]. However, the situation is ongoing and ever-changing and althoug the public agrees to what Pres. Obama is doing, doesn’t mean its going to have a storybook “happily-ever-after” ending. Congress’ ability to determine peace terms following their choice to end a war is more equalized than allowing the President, one individual already holding the most powerful office in the country, to bargain on behalf of a nation of more 300 million people.

Prior to the War Powers Resolution, the President and Congress worked hand-in-hand, hoping to play their parts in entering a state of amity between their country and that of a foreign one. Unfortunately that kind of cooperation no longer seems to exist, with president’s being forced to find constitutional loopholes and use trickery into getting their way. Then Congress has to either force him into cleaning up his mess, or have to do it themselves. In any case, Congress is left to do the dirty work if the president does something that has a longterm repercussion.


  1. Roosevelt, Franklin D. Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation. n.d. <>.
  2. Tristam, Pierre. President Bush Declares War on Terror. 20 September 2001. <>
  3. Veto of the War Powers Resolution. 24 October 1973. <>.
  4. Wong, Justin Sink and Kristina. Obama asks Congress to Approve ISIS War. 11 February 2015. <>.

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The Separation of Powers in the US Government in Today's World. (2021, Sep 24). Retrieved from

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