There is an escalating need for the United States Congress to rise up and end it’s compliance with the repeated violations against the War Powers Act by the Executive Branch. Ratified in 1973, the War Powers Act was created with the aim of limiting the ability of the president to commit U.S. forces overseas by requiring “the President in every possible instance to consult with Congress before introducing American Armed Forces into hostilities or imminent hostilities unless there has been a declaration of war or other specific congressional authorization.” Since its ratification, Congress has allowed multiple presidents to improperly infringe upon its authority over involving U.S. forces in foreign issues.
The War Powers Act was constructed with the intention of preventing a repeat of the Vietnam War, a lengthy and costly war in which the U.S. had no legitimate motivations behind it’s intervention. If the purpose of the War Powers Act is to prevent such irrational actions from the Executive Office, why has Congress continued to allow such conduct to continue?
If we look back at the past violations of the War Powers Act, each one has resulted in massive losses for U.S. and international forces as well as civilians, often further instigated by the unwarranted, aggressive actions of U.S. presidents. President Truman, who in June of 1950 made the decision to intervene in South Korea, commencing one of the bloodiest wars in US history, is one of the first examples of U.S. Presidents directly infringing upon the authority of Congress. In addition to this violation, the Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy reminds us that President Truman claimed to have acted in response to the UN Security Council’s call for military action, when in fact, no such requests from the UN had been made. Senators and representatives that strongly opposed this decision were quick to point out that the UN Charter has no article or specification that would obligate it’s members to go to war. It became clear that President Truman had made this decision in the interest of playing the self-proclaimed role of the world’s policeman and in doing so, established a pattern of behavior for future presidents.
The Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy summarizes this pattern of unauthorized warmaking: “Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon in Vietnam, Gerald Ford in Cambodia, Ronald Reagan in Lebanon, Grenada, and Libya, George H. W. Bush in Panama, and [Bill] Clinton in Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, and Bosnia.” In most of these cases, U.S. presidents defended their usurpation of power with claims of UN authority that lacked credibility, parroting the defense used by Truman’s Cabinet.
By claiming UN authority, former U.S. presidents have evaded repercussions from Congress regarding their violations. This enforces the need for Congress to put their foot down and begin reasserting their true authority over the involvement of U.S. forces in matters of war. The obvious pattern of direct violations against this authority only reflects the historic self-proclaimed role of the world’s policeman that so many Presidents seek to fulfill. This ideology threatens all future efforts to achieve non-violent, peaceful solutions to international disputes. If Congress cannot control the unauthorized declarations of war coming from the executive branch, then we can only assume that U.S. Presidents will continue to be successful in involving U.S. forces in baseless wars.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the official policy of Citizens for Global Solutions.