Daily Archives: December 12, 2009

Why Has Congress Never Officially Declared War Since 1941? by Gregory Hilton

The libertarians claim “only Congress can declare war,” and the President has “no legal authority to direct the troops”. They quote the Powers of Congress as outlined in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution which says: “The Congress shall have the Power. . . To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water”. The libertarians and isolationists have consistently misinterpreted Article II, Section 2: “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.”
They believe the President’s legal authority begins when troops are “called into the actual service of the United States”. In their view, “called into the actual service” is a declaration of war. The Congress and the courts do not support their interpretation. The United States has been involved in over 260 major military actions since 1776, but only five of them are because of a declaration of war (half of them involving fighting for less than 30 days). They are the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II. There was no declaration of war for Civil War or Korea.
The President clearly has the power to deploy troops without a declaration of war. Committing an “Act of War” is not the same as going to war. Intervention can take many forms, most of which could be called “Acts of War” but that does not mean we are, in fact, “At War” and does not require a Congressional Declaration of War.
Practically all of the founders were still alive when Thomas Jefferson deployed Naval forces against the Barbary pirates without a declaration of war. John Adams did the same thing in an undeclared war against France.
The libertarians ignore the fact that the founders commissioned the “Revenue Cutter Service” to commit “Acts of War” on the high seas against citizens of foreign nations in their actions against the Barbary pirates. This was an enforcement action in defense of international commerce. It continues today with the US Coast Guard firing on vessels carrying contraband. The libertarians claim these actions are unconstitutional because they are not specifically mentioned in the Constitution. It is not mentioned, but the authority clearly is.
The last time a declaration of war happened was in December of 1941 after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The Korean War and Desert Storm in Kuwait in 1991 were military actions pursued with a U.N. mandate.
A declaration of war only requires a 51% vote in Congress. Only two Senators voted against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964, and only one lawmaker in the entire Congress opposed Bush’s Afghan resolution.
Any of our post war presidents could have easily obtained a declaration of war. There was very little Congressional opposition at the outset of the post WW II conflicts. Instead, the Congress has used authorizations of forces rather than war declarations. The presidents would prefer war declarations which significantly expand their power. The Congress wants this to be an authorization to increase the stature of the legislative branch.
Because of the War Powers Act a president can not conduct a war without Congressional approval. The Gulf War was authorized by the U.S. Congress. If George H.W. Bush had wanted a declaration of war he would have received it. Republicans wanted this but the Democrats did not want to give Bush additional power.
The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964 was passed after the attack on the Maddox and the C. Turner Joy. Everyone could see the damage on the Maddox. It was later discovered that a radar mistake was responsible for the C. Turner Joy’s response. Nevertheless, the attack on the Mattox took place.
If Congress wishes to oppose the President, it can do so in several ways. It can revoke any resolutions supporting the President (as Congress did in 1970 when it revoked the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution). Congress can cut off appropriations for Presidential war making. During the Vietnam War, it barred troops from engaging in operations in Thailand and Laos (1969) and from using ground forces in Cambodia (1970) and bombing Cambodia (1973).
The “Declare War” clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 8) does not spell out the exact powers it entails and encompasses. Presidents have taken a broad mandate after the passage of a war resolution. The presidents war powers were recognized by the Supreme Court in the Hamdi v. Rumsfeld decision of 2004.
Since WW II the Congress has preferred to use an Authorization for the Use of Military Force [AUMF]. This serves a very different role from a formal declaration of war, and by passing an AUMF in place of declaration, Congress has made a critical decision about the scope of power to be given to a president. Our legislative history under a declaration of war gives the president broad inherent constitutional powers to deploy U.S. armed forces into combat abroad without specific authorization from Congress.
The AUMFs passed by Congress signal support for the military actions but they do not go so far as to cede lawmaking power to the president. A declaration of war has been viewed by the Supreme Court as ceding legislative power by Congress.

Founding Father: George Washington and the Importance of Character by Gregory Hilton

America was truly fortunate to have a leader of the caliber of General George Washington. He entered wholeheartedly into the Revolutionary War which certainly did not appear to be winnable at first. He eventually won a great victory against superior force and changed the course of the world.
Washington took a rag-tag army, heavily outnumbered, very ill-equipped, completely under-funded by its own people, enjoying 3% of the country’s support, and was able to defeat the greatest empire on Earth at the time.
Washington was not the first General to be outnumbered. Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Hannibal and Napoleon all come immediately to mind. However, a claim can be made that he was among the greatest Generals of all time. He can be compared to:
* Alexander the Great in his Persian campaign who was out numbered approximately 6-1, but he had superior arms, tactics, discipline and motivation. The supply situation on both sides was about even.
* Julius Caesar of Rome had better arms, tactics and discipline, but the Gauls were greater in number and motivation. However, they were divided among themselves. Supplies were also equal in this case.
* General Hannibal of Carthage was outnumbered at the outset of the Second Punic War, and was so separated from his lines of communication and supply that it took months for the request for his return to reach him. He gained assistance from the many local cities that had been bullied by Rome into the Latin alliance.
* Napoleon Bonaparte was as extraordinary administrator who had huge popular support in France, but that was not the case in the nations he conquered. He had to use conscripted troops. Napoleon had superior tactics and equal arms, but was far better organized in terms of supply.
Alexander the Great was the best of this group as a field tactician, and Caesar as a strategist. Hannibal was the best warrior and guerilla fighter. Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan were also quite capable warriors.
General Washington’s military campaigns should be separated into two sections. In the early period he mistakenly fought in the style in which he had been trained by the British. He had soldiers fighting in straight lines.
In his second period of command Washington relied on the advice of two young men. The Marquis de Lafayette and Alexander Hamilton, who urged Washington to have his troops fight in guerilla, or Indian-style. America’s revolutionary soldiers lost badly when they fought like the British, but they were able to hang on when Washington threw out all of the useless ceremonial tactics of the British.
The American forces held together until the enemy was bled into leaving. Instead of going after a win in many battles, Washington wisely evaluated his resources, and his strategy was based on avoiding defeat. His strategy after 1778 involved the tactics of scout, raid, and then evade. It was mostly guerilla warfare. Washington’s tactics became the model used by Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh and other fighters in guerrilla warfare.
It can be convincingly argued that this would not have been enough. America was fortunate that the Dutch declared war on the British which shamed the French and Spanish into fulfilling their commitments to the new American government.
Washington’s continentals also received formal and informal assistance from Prussia, the Polish resistance and several Italian duchies. It is interesting to note the many people from other lands who joined in the fight for the American dream of democracy.
What is the major difference between Washington and the military leaders named above? He was the only one who had the character and moral standing to walk away from power. He actually never sought power to being with. At the end of the Revolutionary War, the people offered him the crown of America.
They were so used to life under the British crown that they attempted to establish another monarchy. It is difficult to think of another man in history who, when offered the crown of a nation, turned it down.
He said “I did not defeat George the Third to become George the First.” Although not described as a democracy by the founding fathers, they shared a determination to root the new American experiment in the principles of freedom and equality. The United States Constitution, adopted in 1788, provided for an elected government and protected civil rights and liberties (women and blacks unfortunately were not included at first). In his Fifth Annual Address to Congress in 1793, Washington outlined a two-part formula for peace through strength. He said first be ready for war and second let it be known that we are ready.
The real greatness of Washington was not in military or political affairs, but rather as a man of exceptional character. Washington’s outstanding biographer, Douglas Southall Freeman, was once asked what was the most important single thing he had learned from his lifetime of historical study.
He replied, “The influence of personality on history. The greatest among men do not glorify themselves, but are humble enough to be glorified by others.” He gave the American cause what it needed most: “patience and determination, inexhaustible and inextinguishable.”