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The Peace Powers: How to End a War

The Constitution seems silent about who may end a war and how they may do so.
There is no “declare peace” clause, and scholarship has long neglected this matter. Yet
given two “Forever Wars,” considerable fatigue with both, and numerous demands to
end them, the question of how to end hostilities is exceptionally salient. We conduct an
overdue dissection and reveal that the Constitution charts many paths to peace.

The familiar route consists of the executive negotiating and, with the Senate’s
consent, ratifying a peace treaty. But there are other paths, more obscure and less
comprehensive but nonetheless viable and valuable. First, the president can end
combat via an armistice. Second, Congress can halt war funding, thereby ending
U.S. warfighting. Third, Congress can legislatively terminate the use of military
force. Whether a peace develops via one of these alternative routes depends upon
whether the enemy ends warfare as well and, importantly, whether that mutual
cessation of hostilities endures.