Scholars have long debated the relative influence of domestic and
international factors on the presidential use of force. On one matter,
however, consensus reigns: the U.S. Congress is presumed irrelevant.
This presumption, we demonstrate, does not hold up to empirical
scrutiny. Using a variety of measures and models, we show a clear
connection between the partisan composition of Congress and the
quarterly frequency of major uses of force between 1945 and 2000; we do
not find any congressional influence, however, on minor uses of force.
We recommend that the quantitative use-of-force literature in
international relations begin to take seriously theories of domestic
political institutions, partisanship, and interbranch relations that
have been developed within American politics.We thank the Center for American Political
Studies, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, and the
Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation for financial support; and Doug
Kriner, Matthew Scherbarth, and Kevin Warnke for research assistance.
David Canon, Matt Dickinson, Ben Fordham, David Lewis, and Alastair
Smith provided helpful feedback. We also benefited from seminars at
the University of Iowa, Princeton University, Harvard University, Ohio
State University, and Emory University. Two anonymous reviewers provided
excellent feedback. Standard disclaimers apply.