The passing of the War Power Resolution in 1973 was aimed at limiting the United States presidents' ability to commit the United States' military on foreign expeditions without involving the Congress. It was an instrument of checking possible unilateral actions by the presidents in as far as the use of the military is concerned. Since its passing, the law has been observed in varying situations by successful presidents, and sometimes not observed thus raising controversy as to its application. Some presidents have indeed criticized this law for apparently going against the constitution and for putting too many limitations on their executive powers.
The War Power Resolution of 1973 was meant to check the ability of the president in making unilateral decision in the use of the military. Indeed, the resolution has effectively forced successful presidents into involving Congress before committing the military in expeditions abroad and throughout the period of operations.
The War Power Resolution was enacted upon President Nixon's veto on the 7th of November 1973. The resolution effectively provided the necessary procedures for both the president and the Congress to be involved in the important decisions of sending the United States military into hostilities involving military confrontation (Gerald, 2005). The provisions of this resolution have effectively barred the president from taking unilateral actions in as far as the use of the military in hostilities is concerned. Before dispatching the United States' military into hostilities abroad, whether in progress or impending, the president must first report to the Congress. This effectively forestalls the likelihood of the president acting unilaterally in such a matter. When the president delivers such a report to the Congress, the use of forces must be called to a halt within a period of 60 to 90 days. Otherwise, the Congress must assent to the use of the military and has the power to lengthen the time period. These limitations on the president's powers have reduced his ability and efficiency in responding to actual hostilities and imminent ones. The resolution has also presented another problem. Some presidents have considered this resolution not to be consistent with the American constitution that gives the Commander in Chief broad powers as spelt out in the constitution.
In the practical world of politics, this question is of great significance. Collective consultation between the president and the Congress is important in that it prevents a single authority from unilaterally deploying troops into hostilities without involving major decision making institutions in a matter that is of national concern. The resolution provides a crucial platform on which debate can be enriched regarding the use of the use of United States' forces in hostilities. However, the question also presents a different issue. This regards whether the hands of the president are tied by this resolution as to hinder his responsiveness to situations that may call for the deployment of the United States' military.
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The terms of this resolution has applied to all the presidents since its enactment. Therefore, the question of limiting the president's ability and likelihood of taking unilateral action in sending the military to missions involving hostilities, applies to the presidency as an institution and not to the president as an individual. Thus, the limitations underlying the War Powers resolution has applied universally to all United States' presidents who happen to have taken office since the inception of the resolution.
There are several provisions in the War Power Resolution Act. The various resolutions contained therein effectively limit the powers of the president in as far as the use of the military in hostilities is concerned. Section 2(a) of the act states the primary purpose of this law. The purpose is to ensure that the collective judgment of both the Chief Executive of the United States and the Congress applies in the involvement of the United States' military in hostilities. This provision also applies in circumstances that manifestly indicate impending involvement hostilities and to the persistent use of the military in hostilities.
The law states the policy as to the powers of the Commander in Chief involving the military in actual hostilities or impending ones. According to this law, such powers are exercised pursuant to a national emergency arising from an attack on the United States, its possessions and territories or its military. The powers are also exercised pursuant to a war declaration or pursuant to a specific statutory provision.
The War power Resolution of 1973 has a provision that states consultation requirement. Section 3 of this resolution calls upon the president to confer with Congress before prior to introducing the Armed Forces of the United States into places of hostilities and impending hostilities in any possible instance. The act also requires the President to continue consulting with Congress as long as the military remain in situations of hostilities. The War Power Resolution clearly defines consultation. According to the act, consultation does not merely mean being informed. Instead, consultation in this law means a decision on a problem awaits its making and that Congress' members are being requested by the President to offer their advice and views and, in suitable circumstances, their assent to the action being contemplated. Furthermore, for the purpose of making the consultations meaningful, the Commander in Chief must participate and any information that is pertinent to the situation must be availed. The president must consult with the appropriate House committees (Glennon, 1984).
The provisions contained in the War Power Resolution also outline the reporting requirement. Section 4 of the act requires the commander in Chief to report to the Congress any time he introduces the United States armed forces into hostilities abroad in certain circumstances. The provision requires reporting to take place within 48 hours when there is neither a declaration of war nor Congress' authorization. The reporting relates to the introduction of United States armed forces into continuing hostilities or introduction into situations where impending engagement in hostilities is manifestly portrayed by the circumstances rife in the area o interest.
The provision that defines the automatic withdrawal is very potent in limiting the president's powers of acting unilaterally. Section 5 (b) of the War Power Resolution call on the President to withdraw United States armed forces from armed conflicts within 60 to 90 days after the submission or requirement for the submission of a report. The imposition of this time limit has contributed a lot to the reluctance of the presidents to report. This time limit is also explains Congress' insistence on reporting.
The time limit that is included in the War Power Resolution effectively prevents the President from acting unilaterally. The time limit is designed in a way that gives Congress some teeth in regulating the President's powers of acting unilaterally. This time limit is the heart of the bill and it provides, according to the Senate report, some constitutional balance which had been disfigured by practice in the history of the United States.
Congressional concern about the use of the United States armed forces without its authorization increased soon after the Korean Conflict. Therefore, during the war in Vietnam congress sought to have a way of asserting its authority in determining when the armed forces of the United States would be used in circumstances of hostilities. Therefore, the War power Resolution came to be passed in 1973. The main objective of the resolution was to put in place procedures that would allow the two branches to consult before making decisions that might lead to United State's involvement in war. The resolution was designed to circumscribe the authority of the President in utilizing the armed forces in hostilities abroad or in imminent hostilities without declaring war or any form of Congressional approval. At the same time, the Resolution had to provide sufficient flexibility in order to allow the President to promptly respond to any attacks and emergencies. Thus, we are going to see how the Resolution has limited the president's ability to act unilaterally when making decision to utilize the armed forces in armed conflicts. This will be assessed by using various practical cases (Glennon, 1984).
As the war in Vietnam came to an end, on three occasions, in the year 1975, Ford, the United States' President utilized the armed forces in evacuating American Citizens as well as foreign nationals. Later in May, the President ordered the rescue of a United States merchant ship that had been captured by the Cambodian navy. All the actions were accounted to Congress in citation of the war Powers Resolution. The report on the retaking of the seized vessel specifically cited section 4(a)(1) (Glennon, 1984). The question of time limit did not apply since the action was over before the time of filing the report. Here, the president observed the consultation requirement because he directed the notification of the congressional leaders before the before the actual introduction of the armed forces took place.
After the botched attempt, in 1980, to free American hostages held up in Iran, President Carter had to submit a report to Congress in order to attain the requirements as postulated by the War Powers resolution. Though the president had not consulted in advance, the administration contended that the expedition was an attempt at rescuing hostages and was not a mission aimed at attacking Iran. The mission came as a surprise and consultation was not possible prior to the mission. This also shows that the President's power to act unilaterally has been curtailed by the provisions of War Powers resolution.
The War Powers Resolution is an effective tool of limiting the president's ability to make unilateral war decisions. Even where the president has ignored some provisions of the Resolution, Congress can evoke War Powers Resolution. This is best portrayed in the case where Marines, in 1982, were deployed in Lebanon to support a Multinational Force. Here, the War Powers Resolution was put under test when the Marines became targets in August of 1983. During this time, the President submitted three reports as required by the War Powers Resolution. However, President Reagan failed to report, as required by section 4(a)(1), that the military were being initiated into hostilities or impending hostilities, hence invoking the 60 to 90 day limit.
Congress, on the 29th of September 1983, enacted Multinational Force in Lebanon Resolution. It determined that the provision of section 4(a)(1) went into operation on august 29, 1983. Under the same resolution, Congress approved the continued participation of the soldiers for 18 months. The resolution was reached at as a compromise between the two branches. Congress obtained the assent of the President on the legislation that invoked the War Powers Resolution. On the other hand, Congress authorized the United States armed forces to stay in Lebanon for one and half years.
The events in focus commenced on July 6, 1982. On this date, the President announced that he would deploy a small contingent of United States armed forces for a short peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. The chair of the Foreign affairs Committee informed the President that deployment of such a force would mean their introduction into impending hostilities and that a report, as stated under section 4(a)(1), would be needed. However, when the forces were dispatched and landed in Lebanon on the 25th of August, the President reported it but failed to cite section 4(a)(1) saying that the agreement had ruled out combat duties. After managing the exit of Palestine Liberation Organization troops, the soldiers left Lebanon on the 10th of September 1982 (Grimmet, 2004).
The second deployment of troops to Lebanon commenced on the 20th of September 1982. On the 29th of September 1982, the president delivered the report that twelve hundred Marines had started arriving in Beirut. Again, he failed to cite section 4(a)(1) asserting that the Marines would not be involved in combat. As a result of some incidents that saw a significant number of Marines being killed and others wounded, controversy in Congress arose as to whether the President ought to have filed a report under section 4(a)(1). At the middle of 1983, congress enacted Lebanon Emergency Assistance Act with the requirement there should be statutory authorization of any considerable expansion in the size of United States' troops in Lebanon (Grimmet, 2004).
For the third time, the President reported to Congress about the situation in Lebanon on the 30th of August 1983. Again, he failed to cite section 4(a)(1) after two Marines were killed in fighting that involved different factions in Lebanon.
As the fighting escalated and more Marines died and the action expanded, calls to invoke War Power Resolutions were made in Congress. Several Congress members observed that there was a marked transformation in the Lebanon's situation since the first report by President Reagan. Therefore, legislation that took different approaches was made. Charles Matthias, a senator, introduced S.J.Res. 159. It stated that the limit of time defined in the War Powers resolution commenced on the 31st of August 1983, and permitting the Marines to stay in Lebanon for a duration of one hundred and twenty days after expiration of the 60-day duration. Thomas Downey- a representative- brought into place H.J.Res. 348. It directed President Reagan to report as required by section 4(a)(1) as stated in War Powers resolution. On the other side, Senator Robert Byrd brought into place S.J.Res. 163 pronouncing that section 4(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution was applicable to the current circumstances in Lebanon. The Appropriations Committee assented to an amendment pertaining to the ongoing resolution for the fiscal year 1984 (Westerfield, 1996). This amendment was introduced by Representative Clarence Long. It provided that no more funds would be obligated or used for the purpose of keeping peace in Lebanon by the United States Marines. Obligation of funds would only happen if the President delivered a report as stated by section 4(a)(1) of the War Power Resolution. A related amendment was later discarded by the full body, but it made the Administration aware of potential Congressional actions.
On the 20th of September, leaders in Congress agreed with President Reagan on a compromise resolution that invoked section 4(a)(1) and permitting the Marines to remain in Lebanon for eighteen months. The resolution was the first of its kind to be dealt with under the speeded up procedures of the War Powers Resolution. H.J.Res. 364 was passed by the House on the 28th of September. It was passé by a vote of 270 to 161. The Senate enacted S.J.Res. after three days of intense debate, on the 29th of September. 253 votes prevailed over opposition's 156 to pass the bill. As enacted, the resolution consisted of four occurrences that would halt the authorization before the lapse of 18 months. Firstly, the withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanon unless President Reagan proved that continued United States' operations were required to achieve specified purposes (Westerfield, 1996), secondly the takeover of the roles of the Multinational Force, by either the Lebanon Government or by the United Nations, thirdly, execution of other suitable security arrangements and lastly the pulling out of all the other countries from participation in the activities of the Multinational Force.
Some critics have argued that the War powers bill does not limit the ability of the president to act unilaterally in as far as the involvement of the United States' armed forces in armed confrontations is concerned. Indeed, a series of successful presidents have criticized this legislation. This begun with President Reagan and has continued with every president since the enactment of the law. The argument by the presidents is that War Powers Resolution violates President's powers as provided in the constitution.
Some of those who argue that the War Powers Resolution Act has not limited the powers of the president in acting unilaterally examine the administration of George W. Bush. For them, Bush's administration rightly represents the use of executive war powers than it has ever been seen before. The argument is that the two major wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq were fought under full authorization by the Congress even before actual deployment of the armed forces. They also observe that the deployment of troops into Haiti in 2004 drew little attention from Congress. In all of these military engagements, they observe, Congress had allowed President Bush to act unilaterally either by actual legislation or by merely remaining silent. Therefore, according to observers, it is apparent that the Bush government introduced in a new dawn of president-congressional interplay whereby Congress allows the President to completely act unilaterally (Bardes, 2008).
In the case of Afghanistan, the Senate- on the 14th of September 2001- assented to Senate Joint Resolution 23. This resolution offered the legal ground for the international war on terror. . S.J. Res. 23 gave President Bush the power to use all necessary and suitable force to against groups, organizations, nations, and individuals he determined managed, authorized, carried out or sponsored the terrorist attacks. All units that harboured terrorists were also included here. According to those who argue that the War Powers Resolution does not prevent the President from acting unilaterally, argue that the broad language utilized above permits the President to personally control and direct all military decisions concerning those who committed the September 9/11 attacks on the United States (Bardes, 2008). They observe that Congress effectively legislated away their authority to declare war. Accordingly, S.J. Resolution 23 manifestly states that, in conformity with the War Powers Resolution, it is the actual approval for war. According to them, this excluded Congress from its role of constitutionally declaring war and handed President Bush a 'blank check'. Consequently, Congress handed to President Bush the responsibility to determine who the enemy is, be it a sovereign state, an institution, or even a person. Yet, it remained with the power and the right to be in command of funding. According to the opposing view, all other decisions were left in the hands of the President under the S.J. Resolution 23.
According to those who argue that the War Powers Resolution does not limit the powers of the president, Operation Iraq Freedom provides a suitable prove. The Public Law 107-243 proffered the legal foundation for the aforementioned operation. According to critics of this law, Congress granted President Bush the authority to use might in Iraq. The document manifestly postulates that it is the exact statutory authorization armed confrontation in Iraq as the War Powers Resolution requires. However, critics concede that, unlike S.J. Res. 23, Public Law 107-243 provides a few limits on the President. This is true because Congress demands for reports after every 60 days pertinent to any suggested operation. Still, the President is required by the Congress to notify it within 48 hours after he uses the armed forces in Iraq. Nonetheless, according to critics, the respective legislation does not restrain the Chief Executive in terms of the range of his military adventures. The aforementioned conditions notwithstanding, President Bush- according to critics of the effectiveness of War Powers Resolution- was able to choose whatever military expedition he wished as a result of the expansive language contained in the act (Bardes, 2008).
In summary, those who hold that the War Powers Resolution of 1973 does not constrain the President from making unilateral decisions and by referring to the examples of S.J. Res. 23 and Pub.L. 107-243, claims that these resolutions proffer the employment of force authorizations needed by the War Powers Resolution. For them and by these two cases, it is apparent that neither constitutional restraints nor the War Powers Resolution have hindered the Presidents' war-making capacities. In the case of Bush, these legislations offered the entire legal foundation that Bush needed in order to execute his wars. Furthermore, the legislations offered Bush broader powers than he yielded under the War Powers Resolution. According to these critics, it seems that Congress forfeited its powers to Bush's government.
The War Power Resolution imposes restrictions on the ability of the Executive to act unilaterally in utilizing the armed forces in hostilities. It compels both the Executive and Congress to act bilaterally in the crucial affair of engaging the United States in war. The application of the War Power Resolution's provisions is of great importance as it must cut a balance between the ability of the President to respond to situations of hostilities and impending ones, and the need to widely consult with the important stakeholders such as Congress.
This investigation, on how the War Powers Resolution of 1973 has limited the president's ability to act unilaterally in the use of the military, has shown that this resolution has indeed limited the President's powers to act Unilaterally and has yielded positive results by the virtue of broad consultation that has helped to generate informed decisions. However, the counterarguments hold some truth but the cases are very narrow and situational. The War Powers resolution has not increased the Executives ability to act unilaterally. Instead, it has curtailed that ability by requiring him to consult broadly.