A Government Divided:
The War Powers
Resolution in Purpose and Practice
Ohio State University
The history surrounding the pursuits of war and peace for
the United States spans from the Revolutionary War over 200 years
ago to the U.S. soldiers stationed halfway around the world in
commitment to international peace in the new millennium.
It was not until more recently in this history, that the
War Powers of the executive and legislative came into question,
with Congress seeking to restore its role in war making decisions.
The War Powers Resolution, adopted in 1973, is the
manifestation of this inquiry.
To better understand the War Powers Resolution and the
history behind it, one must examine the history of the War Powers,
including constitutional guarantees, and how they have been
carried out through history, the War Powers Resolution itself, and
the implementation of the Resolution by the president since its
From the first battles fought after the ratification of the
Constitution, to modern wars fought halfway around the world, the
war powers granted to legislative and executive branches by the
Constitution have been a topic of debate.
Over the last two centuries, presidents, lawmakers, and
judges have all weighed in with their opinions and views of these
definition of the war powers by these statesmen differs to some
degree with the one common goal of protecting American
sovereignty. In order
to examine those powers granted by the constitution, I will break
this discussion into three parts: the role of the president as
Commander-in-Chief, the debate of inherent vs. granted war powers,
and finally, the declaration of war throughout American history to
the Vietnam War.
The President as Commander-in-Chief
Clause 1 of Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution grants
the president power as Commander-in-Chief over the armed forces of
the United States, upon their entrance into service.
This solitary sentence, like the rest of the U.S.
Constitution, allows for broad interpretation in a number of
situations. It does not clearly define the duties of the
commander-in-chief with respect to the limits of his power during
wartime or peacetime. Despite
its vagueness, it appears that this clause was not hotly debated
but rather strongly favored by the Continental Congress and
subsequent state legislatures during ratification.
It seemed favorable to grant this power to a single person
who was politically dependent on the nation, who would be more
expedient and efficient in decision-making than a group of
as smooth as the naming of the president as commander-in-chief
was, much debate later focused on the actual duties of the man in
this position (FindLaw Annotations, U. S. Constitution, Article II, Section 2, Clause 1, President as
Commander-in-Chief ). These
debates ranged from the chief executive simply issuing orders, to
actually leading troops into battle. The responsibilities given
the president as Commander-in-Chief have been tested time and time
again throughout history. As
we will see later in our analysis, presidents have used their
title to commit troops into hostile action, initiate missions of
national defense, and even dictate domestic economic policy.
The War Powers: Inherent
vs. Constitutionally Granted
over 150 years, the war powers were continuously examined and
redefined according to the opinions and views of a variety of
political actors. Hamilton argued that the war powers were a collective of
responsibilities and duties stemming from Article 1, Section 8 of
the Constitution. Conversely,
some argued that the War Powers were granted to the U.S. as a
sovereign nation, and depended on that sovereignty, not the
constitution. Justice Marshall, however, stated, “the power to wage war
is implied from the power to declare it” (FindLaw Annotations, U.
S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 11, The War Power).
These three differing views boil down to a debate on whether the
war power is inherent, due to national sovereignty, or granted by
The case for the war power as an inherent concept found its
greatest defense in the 1936 case of the United
States v. the Curtiss-Wright Corporation.
Judge Sutherland concluded this case by comparing the
post-revolutionary assemblage of colonies as a single agent.
He stated that this agent adopted the powers of external
sovereignty from the crown as a unified actor, not as each
separate colony. He
cites the actions of this assemblage of colonies, in such matters
as foreign affairs, as an example of the unity of the colonies as
one state. As a
unified force, they are responsible for acting in the common
defense of the nation, and therefore accept the right to wage war
as an inherent power.
contrast, in Lichter v. the United States, the approach of the
court seems to be that the war powers are granted by the
addition to the obvious power granted Congress “to raise and
support an army,” the court also cited the legislative power,
“to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for
carrying into Execution the foregoing powers.”
The History of the War Powers through the Vietnam War
American history has seen a common pattern when presidents
act in defense of the nation.
Presidents have many times throughout history committed
troops to war or hostility without consultation or proper
declaration of war from Congress.
In a way, the actions of the president are a double
standard. On the one
hand, the framers did not want declaration of war to fall solely
on one branch of government, and hence a concurrence of both
Congress and the president to pass such a declaration.
However, many presidents feel that a quick response is in
the best interest of the nation. Hence, we see up until the
Vietnam War, presidents acted according to their
administration’s position and hoped for congressional approval
One of the first cases regarding this type of presidential
prerogative was that of Lincoln’s blockade of the south after
the attack on Fort Sumter. In
1861, after the Confederacy’s attack, Lincoln immediately
ordered a naval blockade, without a formal declaration of war from
legislature later ratified his action and the court held, in a
five to four decision, that the act was lawful under the
president’s prescribed powers.
The majority opinion was that the attack on Fort Sumter
automatically threw the U.S. into a state of war, and to wait for
Congress to declare it was unnecessary.
During World War II, President Roosevelt used his duties as
Commander-in-Chief to steer not only troops abroad, but the
economy at home. In
1942, he addressed Congress with the intention of repealing the
Emergency Price Control Act.
He claimed that as president, he had a duty to destroy any
barriers that would hinder American victory in the war.
By repealing the price controls, he hoped to stimulate the
economy, which would in turn benefit the war effort.
In the most poignant statement of the speech, Roosevelt
warned Congress, “In the event that the Congress should fail to
act, and act adequately, I shall accept the responsibility, and I
will act” (FindLaw Annotations, U.
S. Constitution, Article II, Section 2, Clause 1, President as
Perhaps no other armed conflict turned the spotlight on the
War Powers more than the Vietnam War.
President Eisenhower was the first to send troops to
Vietnam in support of the anti-communist regime of South Vietnam.
President Kennedy furthered American participation by
sending 4000 more troops to Saigon in the early 1960’s.
By 1964, 17,000 troops were stationed in South Vietnam to
advise and train the Vietnamese army.
It was not until well into Lyndon Johnson’s first elected
term as president, that Congress was asked for its support of the
mission in Southeast Asia. President
Johnson asked the Congress for a resolution pledging American
support of the anti-communist government.
The legislature responded with the Gulf of Tonkin
Resolution which allowed the president to take “all necessary
measures” to stop further aggression and attacks on U.S. troops.
The number of American troops grew through the 1960’s
until it peaked at 543,000 troops in 1969 (Federation of American
The Vietnam War was a failure for the United States and
their fight against communism.
The U.S. troops were under many restrictions when fighting
the Vietcong, including not being able to invade parts of North
Vietnam, and Vietcong shelters like Laos and Cambodia.
Furthermore, the US troops were unaccustomed to jungle
warfare and lacked an intimate knowledge of the landscape.
It was for these reasons, and many more, that serviceman
after serviceman were either killed or captured.
The outrage of the war began to escalate in the US, and
soon mothers were begging their member of Congress to bring their
boys home. It is at
this point in time that many legislators started to review the
powers granted to the executive, and their own branch, to try and
bring an end to the deaths of Americans abroad.
Unlike the Civil War or either of the World Wars, Vietnam
became the blemish on the record of the American military, and so
too, on the powers of the government.
In response to the Vietnam War, both Houses of Congress
proposed legislation designed to incorporate a congressional role
in war making. Eventually,
Congress proposed the War Powers Resolution that more clearly
defined both the roles of the legislative and executive branches.
After a struggle between the branches, this resolution did
become law, and has been in practice since 1973.
In this section, I will give a brief history of the
creation of the War Powers Resolution, discuss each of its
sections, and summarize what the Resolution entails for each of
The History of the
War Powers Resolution
mentioned above, as the war in Vietnam escalated, so did the
anti-war sentiment in the U.S.
Year after year more troops were sent home in body bags,
with no end or victory in sight.
The number of troops sent to Southeast Asia had increased
dramatically each year since the Eisenhower administration, and
back in the states, young high school seniors dreaded their
graduation into an armed conflict halfway around the world.
The pleas of these young men, their mothers, and the
families of those already waging war did not go unheard by the
response to the staggering statistics from the frontlines, many in
Congress began to formulate a plan to put an end to this hopeless
cause. This plan,
after several drafts, failed bills, and a presidential veto,
eventually manifested itself as the War Powers Resolution.
The War Powers Resolution was a bill that was designed to
restore the powers of war powers of Congress as granted by the
Constitution. The hope was that Congress would become an active
player in the war-making process, whether it was a full-fledged
war, or even a routine military operation to rescue Americans
and Senators alike saw too much power wielded in the hands of one
man, and had seen four presidents continually escalate the Vietnam
conflict with little legislative interaction.
The steps taken towards the creation of the War Powers
Resolution played out as a contest between the House, the Senate,
and of course, the president.
Each institution was adamant on maintaining its vision of
the War Powers, the House and Senate through new legislation, and
the president through veto of such legislation. The first move in the direction of a war powers resolution
took place in 1969, with the War Powers Resolution itself not
taking effect until 1973. For
four years, each house tossed bill after bill into committee, with
a presidential veto looming overhead.
However, after much deliberation and a final compromise,
Congress was able to pass legislation that overturned the
The first push in this direction was in 1969 when the
Senate adopted a resolution stating, “that a national commitment
could result only from affirmative action taken by the executive
and legislative branches of the United States government by means
of a treaty, statute or concurrent resolution of both Houses of
Congress specifically providing for such commitment’” (Franck,
611). This resolution
did not pass the House and therefore did not carry the weight of
law, but it did spark debates for future action.
Not to be outdone, the House of Representatives began to
devise their own resolution in the early 1970’s.
Their legislation, H.J.Res 1355 in 1970 and H.J.Res.1 in
1971, was much less restrictive than the Senate’s.
The House resolutions would have required the president to
report to Congress after troops were committed into combat.
Furthermore, the resolutions did not require congressional
authority to initiate or terminate a commitment.
The Senate did not pass either bill, instead creating a
stricter legislation, S. 2956 in 1972.
This bill set limits on the role of the president as
Commander-in-Chief and enumerated situations in which he was able
to introduce armed forces into hostilities.
These were: 1) repelling an attack against the United
States, 2) responding to an attack against the United States, 3)
protecting U.S. citizens while evacuating them from abroad, and 4)
acting pursuant to specific statutory authorization.
Furthermore, the Senate put a 30-day limit on any action
taken, and reserved the right to bring troops back ahead of
schedule by an act or resolution of Congress.
Like the House bills, this Senate attempt died in
conference in 1972.
In 1973, each House introduced new bills and seemed to be
drawing closer to a compromise.
The Senate passed S.440, which was virtually the same as
S.2956, while the House passed H.J.Res.542, which although
considerably different than the Senate’s, was much stronger than
the House’s first attempt.
It did not enumerate circumstances, as the Senate’s did,
but this resolution did set up two important time limits. It said that 48 hours after committing troops, the president
must make a report to Congress and it also put a 120-day time
limit on the commitment of troops.
The most controversial part of the resolution was the
“congressional veto,” which allowed the Congress, by
concurrent resolution, to terminate any operation abroad, before
the end of the 120-day period.
July of 1973, with a presidential veto promised, both resolutions
passed their respective houses and were sent to conference.
In October, a final compromise was reached, and a new
resolution was created that was similar to the House resolution. The Senate’s enumeration of circumstances was gone as was
their 30-day cutoff. The
House’s 120-day time limit was reduced to 60 days in which the
president could commit troops without a declaration of war.
It also allowed for a 30-day extension to be granted by
Congress. The congressional veto by concurrent resolution remained as
This resolution passed both Houses, but not with the 2/3
majority in the House of Representatives that would be needed to
override the president’s veto.
The veto came on October 24, 1973, and sent many
congressmen lobbying for votes to overturn it.
On November 7, after what seemed like a hopeless cause,
both Houses found the 2/3 they needed, and successfully passed the
War Powers Resolution into law
The Provisions of the War Powers Resolution
War Powers Resolution contains 10 sections, only 8 of which I will
cover, as the 1st and 10th simply add a name
and date to the Resolution.
Purpose and Policy, acts as Congress’s justification for
creating the Resolution. This
section states that the creation of the document was to fulfill
the desires of the Framers of the Constitution to “insure that
the collective judgment of both the Congress and the president
will apply to the introduction of United States Armed forces into
hostilities…” (Public Law 93-148, 372).
In subsections (a), Article 1, Sec. 8 of the Constitution
is used to legitimate congressional authority, as it gives
Congress the ability to make laws that govern all offices and
departments of the U.S. government.
Subsection (b) qualifies the –role of the president as
Commander-in-Chief, as it specifies that the commitment of troops
must be pursuant to “1) a declaration of war, 2) specific
statutory authority, or 3) a national emergency created by an
attack upon the United States…” (Public Law 93-148, 372). This
last section, instead of enumerating circumstances like previous
Senate bills, allows for the commitment of troops under any
circumstance, as long as it is “pursuant to” one of the above
on Consultation is one of the most vague and therefore most
controversial issues of the War Powers Resolution.
It requires that the president “in every possible
instance” (Public Law 93-148, 372) to consult Congress before
troops are introduced into hostilities, and continually consult
until the operation is complete. This may be one of the most ignored sections of the
Resolution for a variety of reasons.
The first is defining consultation.
Some argue that this requires and actual exchange of
opinions and ideas between the two branches, which is most likely
what Congress had in mind. However,
some presidents have simply “informed” congressional leaders
of their intentions to employ the Armed forces, and considered
themselves as cooperating with the legislation.
Moreover, there are many operations that are on a
“need-to-know” basis, which for safety and security purposes
should probably remain secretive until troops are introduced.
This issue of consultation remains an interesting factor
when reviewing the actions of former presidents.
on Reporting establishes a general outline for presidential
responsibilities during conflict.
It declares that in absence of a declaration of war, the
president must report to Congress within 48 hours, if he has
committed troops abroad. The
report is to include the reason for commitment of troops, the
authority by which the president committed the troops, and the
duration of time the commitment is expected to last.
Also under this section, the president is required to
report any additional information to that Congress requests, and
he must report periodically to the Congress until the termination
of the operation.
on congressional action outlines the procedures taken by Congress
and the president after a report under section 4 is submitted.
The report is to be transmitted to the Speaker of the House
and president pro tempore of Senate.
They may then decide, if the Congress is adjourned for any
more than three calendar days, to jointly request the president to
reconvene Congress so that they may take appropriate action in
regards to the report. Subsection
(b) requires the president to terminate any operation after 60
days after the report has been submitted, or after the
introduction of troops, whichever is earlier.
This may only be extended if Congress declares war, extends
the 60-day period, or is physically unable to meet.
The last subsection of congressional action is the
introduction of the congressional veto, which states that the
Congress may terminate any operation and call for the return of
forces abroad by concurrent resolution.
6 and 7,
Congressional Priority Procedures for Joint Resolution or Bill,
and for Concurrent Resolution respectively, simply outline the
process for creation and adoption of such resolutions.
Section 6 concerns a joint resolution or bill in response
to a report from the president
whereas Section 7 deals with a concurrent resolution under Section
5c, or the congressional veto.
8, on the Interpretation of the Joint Resolution, is a section
that makes the War Powers Resolution the final word on the
introduction of Armed Forces into hostilities.
Subsection (a) states that the use of Armed forces of the
United States cannot be inferred from any law that has been
enacted before or after the resolution, or any treaty ratified
before or after the resolution, unless such a law or treaty
specifically authorizes such a use.
Subsection (b) declares that members of the United States
Armed Forces are permitted to participate with the militaries of
foreign nations in their “high-level military commands” (Public
Law 93-148, U. S. War Powers Resolution,
AJIL 2 372 (1974) at 376) that were established before the
enactment of the War Powers Resolution (i.e. NATO).
Subsection (c) simply, or rather not so simply defines the
“introduction of United States Armed Forces.”
This definition will be interesting later on when we
examine the Resolution in practice, as the introduction should
trigger the start of the clock in terms of reporting,
Subsection (d) claims that the Resolution does not change the
constitutional authority of the legislative or executive branches,
and reiterates that no further powers have been granted to the
president than those he had before the enactment of the
9, or the Separability Clause, states that if any provision
granted in the Resolution should be deemed invalid, it does not
affect the remaining provisions.
My best guess concerning this clause is that Congress was
worried that the “congressional veto” may not
survive in practice, and they did not want to lose the entire
package because of it.
Does the War Powers Resolution Really Do?
The War Powers Resolution was designed to
give the legislative branch a voice in the commitment of troops
into hostilities. Congress felt that the Framers had
guaranteed them a role in the war-making process, and the War
Powers Resolution works to specify that role. Furthermore,
as Franck describes, the Resolution permits the president to
"engage in short wars." (Franck, After the Fall:
The New Procedural Framework for Congressional Control over the
War Power, 71 AJIL 4 605, at 613). In this respect,
the president is granted autonomy with the military for a 60-day
period in which he may conduct his operations. With the
exception of the congressional veto, which during the 60-day
period is unlikely, there is little that Congress may do during
With Vietnam bringing the issue of war making to a head, the
Congress responded with the creation of the War Powers
Resolution. This Resolution established guidelines for the
behavior of the legislative and executive branches upon
introducing the Armed Forces into hostile situations. On
paper, the act seems competent and insightful in its
provisions. However, the true test of the Resolution is in
its practice, (and it has been in practice on many occasion).
The War Powers Resolution in Practice
President Gerald Ford was the
first to be tested by the War Powers Resolution. During his
short time in office, there were many instances in which the
president found himself bound by the resolution. Each time,
his actions came under criticism by Congress for not fulfilling his
responsibilities under the resolution.
The first three incidences in which Ford
committed troops abroad occurred between late March and early May
in 1975. Each of these missions was an evacuation of
government personnel or U.S. nationals from Southeast Asia.
Because the forces were not introduced into hostilities, Section 3 on
prior consultation did not apply, although Ford stated that
congressional leaders had been informed ahead of time.
However, the second of these evacuations did involve some fighting
during the operation, on which Ford briefed the congressional
leaders the next day. In describing the situations, Franck
says, "If the test of the War Powers Resolution is its effectiveness
in adding congressional voices to the councils in
which war/peace decisions are made, none of these three cases,
marginal as they may seem, give cause for great
The biggest test of the Resolution during
Ford's term came not long after, on May 12, 1975. On this
day, the merchant vessel Mayaguez was seized only 6.5 miles from
the Cambodian and Vietnam Wai Islands. This situation certainly
came under Section 3 of prior consultation and Section 4(a)(1) under
reporting. Ford immediately received calls from congressmen urging
action and speeches to justify such
action. The first act of aggression was taken on the morning
if May 13th, when warning shots were fired off the bow of the
Mayaguez to prevent it from being moved to the mainland.
Then, early on the morning of the 14th, U.S. planes sank three
Cambodian ships, which were moving the crew to the mainland.
At 7:20 p.m., the occupation of Kho Tang Island, where the marines
were being held, had begun. However, as Franck points out,
it was not until 6:40 p.m. that Ford held his first meeting with
the congressional leadership. This failed the requirement of
the consultation and once again fell under a simple
"informing" session. There was no shared
decision-making in the entire process, as was required "in
every possible instance." Furthermore, under the
reporting clause, Ford only succeeds if the 48 hours began upon
the commencement of force, and not the dispatch of troops.
According to Franck, this operation, although operationally
successful, "Legally, it was a failure." (Franck, After
the Fall: The New Procedural Framework for Congressional
Control Over the War Power, 71 AJIL 4 605, at 618).
If the War Powers Resolution had failed
under Ford because of lack of implementation, then it failed under
Reagan because of its lack of clarity. Reagan was
instrumental in exposing the fundamental flaws of the
Resolution. These flaws were disastrous for Congress, as
they were forced to rethink the roles that had been established by
the Resolution. Michael Glennon demonstrates the problems
that occurred in the early 1980's in his article, "The War
Powers Resolution Ten Years Later: More Politics than
Glennon begins by pointing out that
Section 4(a) requires that the president make a report to Congress
no more than 48 hours after committing troops to hostilities.
Furthermore, pursuant to Section 5(b), the commitment must
end 60 days after submission of the report under Section 4(a)(1).
This is one of the fundamental flaws of the War Powers
60-day clock only starts after the “hostilities” report of
Section 4(a)(1) has been submitted or was required to have been
Section 4 allows for two other types of reports to be submitted
instead. They are
Section 4(a)(2), when forces have been introduced “into the
territory, airspace, or waters of a foreign nation, while equipped
for combat” (Public Law 93-148, U.S. War Powers Resolution,
68 AJIL 2 372 (1974) at 373) and Section 4(a)(3), when
forces are introduced “in numbers which substantially enlarge
Unites States Armed Forces equipped for combat already located in
foreign nation” (Public Law 93-148, U.S. War Powers
Resolution, 68 AJIL 2 372 (1974) at 373).
Hence, when Reagan
submitted two reports on the escalation of troops in Lebanon, and
one on the invasion of Grenada, he did not specify under which
subsection the report applied.
Because he had not technically filed a “hostilities”
report under Section 4(a)(1), the 60-day clock did not immediately
trigger. This caused
what Glennon refers to as role-reversal on the part of the two
Congress designed the War Powers to be a document that was
did not need further congressional legislation to initiate many of
the provisions in it. In
the most limited view, Congress saw the provisions of the War
Powers Resolution to be initiated by the actions of the executive.
In other words, once the president began consultation,
committed troops, or filed reports, other areas of the Resolution
would activate. However,
after the Reagan debacle, Congress found itself on the outside,
looking in. They had
to decide when or if the 60-day time limit had began, a problem
they had not anticipated. One
congressman suggested implementing legislation that would enact
the War Powers Resolution, or it would become a dead letter
document. However, as
Glennon expertly points out, “precisely the opposite is true: if
Congress needs to ‘implement’ the resolution, then
it becomes a dead letter, for the whole point was to be that the
resolution was self-activating” (Glennon, 574).
Reagan’s successor, George Bush ignored the War Powers
altogether when he committed troops to the Persian Gulf in 1990. Instead, the Bush Administration lobbied heavily for United
Nations support of their actions.
That support was codified on November 29, 1990 in Security
Council Resolution 678, which in its second paragraph,
“Authorizes Member States co-operating with the Government of
Kuwait, unless Iraq on or before January 15th, 1991
fully implements, as sets forth in paragraph 1 above, the
foregoing resolutions, to use all necessary means to uphold, and
implement Resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent relevant
Resolutions, and to restore international peace and security in
the area” (Franck, 74-75).
For our purposes, there are elements of this case that we
will overlook and instead focus simply on the fact that American
action was taken after the January 15th deadline as
authorized by the Security Council Resolution.
Glennon, in his work, “The Constitution and Chapter VII
of the U.N. Charter” points out many flaws on the part of the
United States in adhering to Resolution 678, or rather not
adhering to the War Powers Resolution.
the Charter of the United Nations, Articles 42 and 43 provide for
the authorization of the use of armed forces by the Security
Council. The important article remains 43, which allows for the
authorization of armed forces only after those countries providing
troops have made special agreements.
Glennon points out that this issue of special agreements is
one of the issues that led the Congress to approve U.S. membership
to the United Nations. It
basically allows for congressional approval of the agreement
before U.S. troops are committed.
In other words, the war-making power of Congress stays in
tact and is not overruled by a war-making power by the Security
The Bush Administration, however, took Resolution 678 as
authorization to intervene militarily, although that was not
specified as the type of action authorized in the resolution but
certainly does fall under all necessary means, without congressional approval.
This type of authorization does not exist under section 8
of the War Powers Resolution.
This section states that no act or resolution in place
before or after the War Powers Resolution may infer the commitment
of U.S. troops to hostilities.
In other words, as I stated before, the War Powers
Resolution remains the final word on the commitment of troops.
Even if the United Nations, NATO, or another multilateral
organization one day required, however unlikely, that U.S. troops
engage in hostilities, Congress must first approve.
The president, in acting on a resolution, which authorized,
not required, military action violated domestic law.
Glennon masterfully summarizes the Bush Administration’s
handling of the situation by stating, “What the president
constitutionally needs from the United States Congress, he cannot
get from the United Nations Security Council” (Glennon, The
Constitution and Chapter VII of the U. N. Charter, 88).
Since the Gulf War, through the end of one Bush
administration, the eight years of Bill Clinton, and now the
beginning of a second Bush administration, Iraq has consistently
been a problem of international concern.
The array of problems with Iraq consist of breaking the
cease-fire agreement by wandering out of no-fly zones, refusing
U.N. weapons inspections, and a variety of other actions.
Both Clinton and now Bush have treated these breakages as
re-activations of Resolution 678, authorizing the use of force.
The inherent problem with this interpretation is now
two-fold. The first
is that the international community overwhelmingly disagrees that
such a re-activation exists, and secondly, the president is once
again running into, or rather through section eight of the War
Powers Resolution. The
re-activation of 678 is a moot point if Congress does not first
approve military action. I believe that Clinton and Bush would both be working within
the Resolution if they would simply consult the congressional
leadership and then order the strikes.
Furthermore, they would have a 60-day leeway in which to
The War Powers Resolution was designed to increase
congressional participation in war making decisions.
Throughout history, presidents, as Commander-in-Chief, have
been willing to wage war and commit troops to hostilities before
receiving congressional consent, and sometimes without receiving
it at all. During the Vietnam War, the ignorance by the executive of the
constitutional right for Congress to declare war became a hotly
debated issue in both the House and Senate.
After reaching a compromise between themselves, and
overriding a presidential veto, the Congress successfully gave
birth to the War Powers Resolution.
This new law would allow the president a 60-day executive
war, and gave Congress the privileges of consultation and
reporting, and reinstated the right to declare war.
Unfortunately, as successful as it was on paper, the
Resolution has thus far been a failure in combating the problems
of war making. Every
president has either found a loophole with which to circumvent his
duties stated in the Resolution, or has simply ignored them
little congressional action has been taken to rectify these
situations in order to set precedent for further mishaps.
The War Powers Resolution remains a key document in the
instance of war making, and if followed, it is a useful guide for
our government to follow. However,
without serious retooling or adjustment, the Resolution will
continue to be worth less than the paper on which it is printed.