Thomas Greven

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Lawrence Ziring

Second Advisor

Dr. Kenneth A. Dahlberg

Third Advisor

Dr. Alan C. Isaak

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Employing Alexander George's method of structured, focused comparison of cases, this study identifies patterns of Congressional action when the use of American armed forces was at stake. Common explanations for the reluctance of Congress in assuming its constitutional role in the initiation of armed conflicts stress concerns over political costs of a Congressional involvement, namely the so called rally-effect, and existing policy consensuses.

Operating with a set of variables: the military operation, party control, the President's behavior toward Congress, and public opinion, which are applied to three case studies: the Dien Bien Phu crisis in 1954, the airstrikes against Libya in 1986, and the Persian Gulf War in 1990 and 1991, the study finds that the President's behavior towards Congress determined the impact of other factors. Cooperative behavior of the President enabled Congresspersons to become active, to make themselves heard in the decision making process. Non-cooperative behavior magnified the rally-effect and the effects of policy consensuses.

The findings are used to show deficiencies of theories of Congressional action and of the liberal approach to international relations.