War Powers: The President, the Congress, and the Question of War

By Donald L. Westerfield | Go to book overview

Chapter I
Introduction

Resolved, That the Committee initiate an inquiry into the division of constitutional authority between the Congress and the President respecting military operations amounting to an exercise of the power of the United States to make war. 1

This resolution was adopted by the Committee on Foreign Relations of the U.S. Senate on May 11, 1970, and reflects the major thrust of this book; that is, this book is concerned with an in-depth inquiry into the division of constitutional authority between Congress and the president and the impact on congressional and presidential action when the United States is called upon for armed forces assistance through treaties, mutual defense agreements, executive agreements, and the like.


VIETNAM: UNREPRESENTATIVE PERIOD

Recent works have discussed the war powers issue primarily in the context of the Vietnam conflict and issues surrounding that period through the drafting of the War Powers Resolution. 2 That period, however, was an anomaly by any standard of history. No previous war or foreign conflict had been so universally rejected by both the civilians and military as the Vietnam conflict. There also had never been such a flagrant disregard for the constitutional division of powers and such a misuse of executive power as the extension of the war into Laos and the bombing in Cambodia. 3

The Korean conflict was a different matter with regard to the war powers controversy. Beginning, during, and after the Korean conflict, the public, the Congress, and the military, with few exceptions, supported President Truman's actions to defend South Korea, especially in the light of the

-1-

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