War Powers Act or how to avoid declaring war on another nation!

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The United States had Not filed a Declaration of war against any nation since June 05, 1942.

Congress has not exercised its constitutional right to declare war [That takes some form of courage] since World War II. Instead, Congress has authorized the president to use force by "A Joint Resolution."

A declaration of war by the United States is the statement of purpose traditionally requested by the President of the United States and granted by United States Congress to engage military force against another nation. Since World War II, the decision-making power of Congress to declare war has been voluntarily limited to issuing authorizations of force [Why should they be held accountable when the President can take the heat?]. The War Powers Resolution of 1973 (Public Law 93-148) limits the power of the President of the United States to wage war without the approval of the Congress. (See below.) The United States has formally declared war against foreign nations eleven separate times.

But since World War II, not once has the President gone before congress to request a "Declaration of War" against any nation. We have invaded several countries since then, we have just not bothered to confirm the action before the combat action!

We will be studying the effects of these actions over a series of reports that will improve your awareness of events that relate to all Combat Veterans!

Act - Legislation (a bill or joint resolution, see below) which has passed both chambers of Congress in identical form, been signed into law by the President, or passed over his veto, thus becoming law. Technically, this term also refers to a bill that has been passed by one house and engrossed (prepared as an official copy) Joint Resolution - A legislative measure, designated "S. J. Res." and numbered consecutively upon introduction, which requires the approval of both chambers and, with one exception, is submitted (just as a bill) to the President for possible signature into law. The one exception is that joint resolutions (and not bills) are used to propose constitutional amendments. These resolutions require a two-thirds affirmative vote in each house but are not submitted to the President; they become effective when ratified by three-quarters of the States.

Doesn't make a lot of sense Does it? Read below and see why!

In 1964 the Gulf of Tonkin Incident took place where two US destroyers were supposed to have been attacked. Congress came up with the "Golf of Tonkin Resolution" to authorize military force in Vietnam. Isn't the shits that it never took place? That's right there was one possible NOT TWO attacks which lead us into 10 years of war with no "Just Cause" for it!

The War Powers Act is used so we do not have to declare war before the United States invades another country.




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Formal declarations of war

The table below gives the eleven separate times that the United States has formally declared war against foreign nations. The only country against which the United States has declared war more than once is Germany, against which the United States has declared war twice (though a case could be made for Hungary as a successor state to Austria-Hungary. Each time the declaration was requested by the president either in writing or in person before a Joint Session of Congress.

But then came along Korea and then later Vietnam. It would be the opinion of this writer that a trend was set that the United States did not want to declare war against either of these countries because of mutual aid and/or defence treaty with other countries like China or Russia. Why try to provoke them and draw them in any more then necessary?

So what happened? A means was devised to attack the offending country without declaring was. First there was the War Powers Act but I'm sure this did not appeal to many in our legislative body and in 1973... during the Vietnam Conflict it was changed to "A Joint Resolution of Congress". This makes it nice and tidy; just give the President of the United States the power to invade another country but don't declare it a war. Call it an Incident, Operation "This or That" and we can produce injury, death, loss of limbs and trauma to our military personal!

........War>>>>> Declared On Declaration Date United States Senate Vote United States House of Representatives Vote President Peace Treaty
War of 1812 United Kingdom June 18, 1812 19-13 79-49 James Madison Treaty of Ghent (December 24, 1814)
American War
Mexico May 11, 1846 40-2 174-14 James Polk Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (February 2, 1848)
American War
Spain April 24, 1898 42-35 310-6 William McKinley Treaty of Paris (December 10, 1898)
World War I Germany April 4 & 6 1917 82-6 373-50 Woodrow Wilson Treaty of Berlin (August 25, 1921)
World War I Austria-Hungary December 7, 1917 74-0 365-1 Woodrow Wilson
World War II Japan December 8, 1941 82-0 388-1 Franklin D. Roosevelt San Francisco Peace Treaty (September 8, 1951)
World War II Germany December 11, 1941 88-0 393-0 F. Roosevelt Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany, Treaty of Vienna with Austria
World War II Italy December 11, 1941 90-0 399-0 F. Roosevelt Paris Peace Treaty (February 10, 1947)
World War II Bulgaria June 5, 1942 73-0 357-0 F. Roosevelt Paris Peace Treaty (February 10, 1947)
World War II Hungary June 5, 1942 73-0 360-0 F. Roosevelt Paris Peace Treaty (February 10, 1947)
World War II Romania June 5, 1942 73-0 361-0 F. Roosevelt Paris Peace Treaty (February 10, 1947)

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Military "engagements" authorized by Congress

Many times, the United States has engaged in extended military engagements that, while not formally declared wars, were explicitly authorized by Congress, short of a formal declaration of war.

War or conflict Enemy or enemies Initial authorization Senate vote House vote Conclusion
Quasi-War France 1798
First Barbary War Barbary States 1801
Second Barbary War Barbary States 1815
Raid of slave traffic Africa 1820
Redress for attack on U.S. Navy vessel Paraguay 1859
Intervention during the Russian Civil War Bolshevist Russia 1918
Protection of Lebanon Rebels 1958
Vietnam War National Liberation Front, later Democratic Republic of Vietnam Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, August 7, 1964 88-2 416-0 Peace agreement signed in Paris, January 1973
Restoration of Lebanese government 1982
Operation Just Cause Panama Defense Force December 20, 1989 Manuel Noriega deposed
Persian Gulf War Iraq January 12, 1991 52-47 250-183 The United Nations Security Council drew up terms for the cease-fire, April 3, 1991
War on Terrorism Taliban government of Afghanistan,
al-Qaida and other alleged terrorist groups
September 18, 2001 98-0 420-1 ongoing
2003 invasion of Iraq Iraq Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq H.J. Res. 114,
October 16, 2002
77-23 296-133 ongoing

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United Nations resolutions

The Korean War was not a war authorized by the U.S. Congress. President Harry S. Truman cited authority under United Nations resolutions. Major US Military involvement began with Task Force Smith on July 5th, 1950. A cease fire agreement was signed on July 27, 1953, however no formal treaty has been signed to this date.

(Three 3 years of conflict)

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The War Powers Resolution

In 1973, following the withdrawal of most American troops from the Vietnam War, debate raged in the United States between those who supported declarations of war, and those who opposed them. A compromise was reached with the War Powers Resolution. This act clearly defined how many soldiers could be deployed by the president of the United States and for how long. It also required formal reports by the president to Congress regarding the status of such deployments, and limited the total amount of time that American forces could be employed without a formal declaration of war.

Although the constitutionality of the act has never been tested, for the most part it has been followed, most notably during the Grenada Conflict, the Panamanian Conflict, the Somalia Conflict, the First Gulf War, and the Second Gulf War. In each case, the President asserted the constitutional authority to commit troops without the necessity of Congressional approval, but in each case the President received Congressional authorization that satisfied the provisions of the War Powers Act.

Controversy regarding U.S. declarations of war

Those who oppose waging war without declaration point to Article I of the Constitution, which reads The Congress shall have the power to declare war.

In the case of smaller conflicts not requiring large commitments of manpower and money, many Americans believe that precedents have already been set for acting without the need for declarations of war. In the case of major conflicts, however, debate is centered around the aforesaid words of the United States Constitution.

Those who believe that formal declarations of war are not necessary say that an absence of a formal declaration does not necessary mean that a military conflict will be chaotic and unlawful; in many cases the rules of war are now well enough accepted to make formal declarations unnecessary. There are also diplomatic reasons for a dislike of "declaring war" on a country, as it can often be perceived as holding an entire nation responsible for the actions of a few of its citizens. In the case of the most recent public opposition, those who support such actions have noted that, in the case of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there was no 'target' for a legal declaration of war, rather political groups or individuals.

However, the historical record disagrees somewhat on this point. The Barbary Coast War was clearly waged against a political entity not regarded as the legitimate government of its nation of operation; the Border War, quietly declared as it was, was waged against a single person, Pancho Villa.

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Current status of the U.S. debate

Extremely heated debate developed in the United States beginning on or around September 11, 2001. A significant percentage of Americans were found by polls to favor formal declarations of war against the Taliban regime of Afghanistan and the Al Qaeda terror network; their requests were largely pushed aside as "uninformed" by the White House. They since began to argue that the recent Second Gulf War was unconstitutional, because it lacked a clear declaration of war, and was waged over the objection of a significantly sized demographic in the United States.

Instead of formal war declarations, the United States Congress has begun issuing authorizations of force. Such authorizations have included the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that initiated American participation in the Vietnam War, and the recent "Use-of-force" resolution that started the 2003 Gulf War. However, there is some question as to the legality of these authorization of force in some circles. Many who support declarations of war argue that such declarations keep administrations honest by forcing them to lay out their case to the American people, while at the same time honoring the constitutional role of the United States Congress.

Those who oppose this measure say that it only takes more time, and that more lives will be lost for the sake of a political formality. Americans should, they argue, support their presidents and question military actions only after the fact. Notably, those who oppose such activities without formal declaration include among them widows and veterans of most undeclared American wars. However, the courts have consistently refused to intervene in this matter, and in practice Presidents have the power to commit forces with Congressional approval but without a declaration of war.

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Related topics

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External links

  • Declarations of war and votes
  • Text of Declaration of War on Japan
  • Text of Declaration of War of Germany
  • House Joint Resolution Authorizing Use of Force Against Iraq - signed October 16, 2002

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