An American supertanker is hijacked off the coast of Indonesia. The crew is slaughtered, the
captain held hostage. The hijackers demand the US naval presence leave Indonesian waters.
President of the United States Edward Manchester holds out for a peaceful settlement,
refusing the use of force against the hijackers. The hawkish Speaker of the House. a Republican,
John Stanbridge, demands military action.
Jim Dillon, an assistant to the Speaker, finds a provision, Letters of Marque and Reprisal, in
the Constitution which would enable the Congress to bypass the President and declare war.
Stanbridge sends Dillon to the naval ships stationed near Jakarta with letters authorizing the
admiral to initiate action against the hijackers.
In the meantime in Washington, Stanbridge calls for the impeachment of the President, citing
his failure as Commander-In-Chief to promote action. This forces the Supreme Court to decide
whether the Letters are a valid instrument.
Balance of Power is not only a terrific account of military action, it also
provides a description of the workings of the various functions of the government,along with a
discussion of the constitutional issues involved. Huston is a former naval officer and a lawyer.
He has done a masterful job of combining the military and the political aspects of the story.