Thesis Defense by William G Foster-Nolan, International Relations Master’s Program

William Foster-Nolan picture
Event Date: July 19, 2018 - 10:30 a.m.
Location: Wheatley Hall, 4th Floor, Room 28

War, Public Outrage, and Partisanship: Congressional Responses to Presidential Military Overreach

In 2001 and 2002, the United States Congress passed two Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). Since the passage of these AUMFs, the United States has been engaged in a war in the Middle East and beyond for over fifteen years, with no apparent end in sight. Congress has chosen not to revisit or revise these AUMFs for this lengthy period of time. As a result, the President of the United States has been able to utilize these AUMFs to deploy the American military to various locations and to combat threats that are well beyond the scope of the AUMFs passed in 2001 and 2002. This is not the first time Congress has effectively delegated their war powers to the President. This thesis seeks to explain why The United States Congress has chosen to let that legislation remain law, despite numerous opportunities to repeal or replace these AUMFs. This thesis utilizes multiple case studies of large-scale military conflicts that the United States has been involved in since the Second World War. These wars are The Korean War, The Vietnam War, and the War on Terror in order to understand how Congress reacted to these conflicts and to what types of actions they took in regard to them. By analyzing legislation, hearings, floor statements, public opinion, elections, and presidential decision making, this thesis aims to construct an idea of what circumstances will produce varying types of Congressional action in response to large-scale military conflicts. The ultimate goal being to discern in what environment the Congress can be expected to either rein in or end the War on Terror. Contributing to a greater understanding in how the Congress acts in the face of a President seemingly overstepping their legal authority.


  • Travis Johnston, PhD, University of Massachusetts Boston 
  • Paul Kowert, PhD, University of Massachusetts Boston
  • Paul Watanabe, PhD, University of Massachusetts Boston

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