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War and Responsibility Paperback – March 26, 1995

ISBN-13: 978-0691025520 ISBN-10: 0691025525 Edition: New Ed
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Editorial Reviews


"[T]he most signal quality of this book is its shining integrity. Ely's patient, careful, but never tedious examination of Congress's role in the authorization of the Vietnam War is an inspiring antidote to the indulgent amnesia of so many who ought to know better."--Philip Bobbitt, Michigan Law Review

"John Hart Ely has done a remarkable job in taking a series of elegant and sophisticated legal arguments and presenting them in an unusually concise and readable form. More important, he has breathed new life into the War Powers Resolution with a handful of suggestions that could bring the war power back to where it was intended, the representatives of the people."--Melvin Small, History: Reviews of New Books

"This is scholarship with a difference. . . . Now that this book exists, no one should engage in discussions about war and U.S. responsibility or the War Powers Act without having first consulted it."--James Finn, Commonweal

"In this short but compellingly reasoned book, John Hart Ely argues that the congressional effort to regain its constitutional power has essentially failed. . . . With clarity and sophistication, [he] walks us through a mine field of legal and political nuances. . . . Ely's fine book should be seen as part of a revival of scholarly commitment to the separation of powers and to the theory of governing that undergirds it."--The Annals of the Academy of Political and Social Science

"In this splendid volume Ely gives us the mature, ripened intellectual fruit of at least a quarter century's thought and the reflection by a leading constitutional law scholar on [a] most divisive public issue."--Daniel J. Kornstein, New York Law Journal

From the Back Cover

"In what is destined to become a classic, one of America's finest legal thinkers has brought much-needed new clarity to a perennial problem."--Laurence H. Tribe, Harvard Law School

"[T]he most signal quality of this book is its shining integrity. Ely's patient, careful, but never tedious examination of Congress's role in the authorization of the Vietnam War is an inspiring antidote to the indulgent amnesia of so many who ought to know better."--Philip Bobbitt, Michigan Law Review

"John Hart Ely ... is something of a marvel among law scholars: he writes readable, influential books about crucial issues of public policy.... [Ely] is convinced that the country would be more likely to avoid disastrous experiences of the Vietnam sort if the Constitution were made to work. "--Richard Falk, Princeton University

"There is no more detailed or tightly analyzed summary of recent uses of the war power. [War and Responsibility belongs on the bookshelf of anyone teaching about the presidency or concerned at the clash that sometimes exists between the power of the modern presidency and the tenets of American democracy."--Philippa Strum, Presidential Studies Quarterly

"Professor Ely has written a book of timely and tremendous importance. It makes a significant contribution to the hoped-for restoration of the historic constitutional balance between the legislative and executive branches."--Representative Ronald V. Dellums, Chairman, House Committee on Armed Services


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; New Ed edition (March 6, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691025525
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691025520
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,909,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 12, 1998
Dean Ely has done a good job with this book. It contains, for the most part, a realistic analysis of who has power in foreign affairs, and why. Unfortunately, he overemphasizes the importance of text and cases in what is really a political process. For example, he claims on p. 5 that the president cannot start a war. Well, with a blinkered, textual analysis he's absolutely right. The problem is that presidents have started wars (the Mexican-American War being the first of a not-so-illustrious line of them). So Dean Ely's analysis is smacked in the face by real life.
Other specific problems in Dean Ely's book include: (1) on p. 9 he states "from childhood we Americans are programmed to fall in when the bugle sounds." What? What country is he living in? The country has not been militaristic since 1945, if then. The man has no idea what true militarism is. His comment obviously flows from an anti-military world view. (2) The U.S. was not in a "naval war" with Iran in 1987-1998, as Dean Ely claims on p. 49. Shelling an oil platform and shooting up a couple of speedboats hardly qualifies as a "war." Once again, the reader is left with the sense that Dean Ely's analysis is subject to a preconceived world view. (3) enlisted personnel do not have the "skepticism aboout superiors' orders" drilled out of them during basic training, as Dean Ely claims on p. 57. Having been an officer in the military myself, I can assure the potential reader that's not the case.
The problems noted above all stem from Dean Ely's own prejudices. I would give 5:1 odds that Dean Ely is a liberal democrat, who attended an East-Coast school sometime in the 1960s. His analysis fits that mold perfectly. So read this book, but remember that the author has not risen above his own particular biases.
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