Why is the President Called the Commander-in-Chief?

By | September 10, 2013

A commander-in-chief is a person or a body that exercises supreme operational control of nation’s military and/or significant elements of the forces. It is a term that is normally used to refer to presidents and heads of states of countries.

Practically, the term commander-in-chief is used to refer to the military competencies that a nation’s executive head/head of state or head of government has. Normally, for a person to qualify a commander-in-chief he/she needs not become a commissioned officer, neither should he be a veteran military officer.

The roles of a commander-in-chief are derived from the Latin word “imperatores” , a term that refers to commanders-in-chief. The use of this term has come a long way. Its modern day use dates back to 1639 when King Charles of England first used it.

There are several reasons that qualify the president to be a commander in chief. Typically, the following are some of the duties that make a president that commander in chief.

1. 1. He /she issues orders to the military through a chain of command

A President issues orders through the chain of command that runs through secretaries for Defense as well as chiefs of staff in the military. The powers vested in the president as the commander in chief will enable him/her to command troops and assign duties to them. The president also as a duty to move the military to any location that he/she deems fit provided that not courts impose restrictions.

2. 2. The president plays a significant role in defending the state

As a commander in chief, the president exercises the powers vested on the office to ensure that the borders of the country are safe from external attacks. He/she has the powers to declare wars without consulting anyone to protect the nation, its possessions as well as its territories.

Another factor that should be understood is that the president has the power to supervise the establishment of military rules in war, proclaims. He/she can also supervise the establishment of military courts in territories that have been conquered. A country’s head of state will automatically hold the office of the commander –in-chief even if the executive powers of such post is held be a separate leader of the government.

3. 3. The president has powers to seize an enemy’s property

Even though a president is not allowed by the international law to conquer territories, the same laws permit the president as the commander-in-chief to seize and take control of an enemy. In addition, he/she has the power to order the conduction of peace negotiations with enemies. Seizure of property should be on reasonable grounds e.g. if a country has been attacked.

Presidents are referred to as commander-in-chief because they have powers and duties to deliver by making use of the nation’s military. While this term appears general, it is important to understand that is certain countries, the presidents as the supreme commander may have additional powers that are provided by the constitution. However, the president’s powers as a supreme commander should not go contradict the provisions of the international law. For instance, the not president should forcibly acquire a territory or declare war on unreasonable grounds.