Guest Author - Linda Sue Grimes
Much is made by the opposition that President Bush took the country to war without a declaration? Since its founding, the United States has been involved in approximately 200 conflicts/wars, yet a formal declaration has been issued only five times.
If, in fact, President Bush had actually unprecedentedly violated the Constitution by going to war in Iraq and Afghanistan with only a congressional resolution and not a full declaration, his opposition would not have hesitated in proceeding with his impeachment.
Major John L. Bacon, USMC, examines the issue of “to declare or not to declare” and has thoroughly explained it. The following is an outline of his treatise, and the entire document may be read at The Declaration of War: One for the History Books?
TITLE: THE DECLARATION OF WAR: ONE FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS?
AUTHOR Major John L. Bacon, USMC
I. THEME: To discuss the background of the declaration of war and to determine its relevance in light of current war powers legislation and trends in modern warfare.
II. THESIS : The declaration of war, while originally thought of as the preferred option in justifying the use of U.S. forces, is, in reality, a seldom-used concept that will become increasingly difficult to enact with the passage of the War Powers Resolution (WPR) and our recent success in Southwest Asia.
III. DISCUSSION: While orginally conceived as a desired method of manifesting public support for American entry into war, the declaration of war has seldom been enacted prior to U.S. involvement in hostilities. The five declared wars, while different in terms of their causes and effects, have all been "popular" wars that enjoyed the support of the people and were preceded by a strong incident that rallied the public desire for armed intervention. The majority of the declared wars resulted from Congress blindly following Presidential leadership in an attempt to echo their constituent's desire for war. The passage of the War Powers Resolution (WPR) in 1973 formalized the dialogue between the President and Congress on how to commit troops without a
declaration of war. The declaration of war may be reserved for the type of war represented by its history -- long, protracted, global affairs -- and may not be aligned with current models of warfare. The modern concept of rapid, limited wars leans heavily toward the WPR as the preferred method of quickly committing forces to action, whereas the debate on a formal declaration of war would tie up necessary manpower and equipment for an extended period. Our recent success in the Persian Gulf bears out the reality of the "come as you are" war and how the President can achieve public backing without a declaration of war ever being raised as an issue.
IV. SUMMARY: The declaration of war is a troubled concept that faces an uncertain future.
V. CONCLUSION: There are signs that we may be approaching a period in our history when the changing nature of warfare, the existence of the WPR, and our lack of resolve to approve a declaration of war may limit the future usage of this concept.
THE DECLARATION OF WAR: ONE FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS?
THESIS STATEMENT: The declaration of war, while originally thought of as the preferred option in justifying the use of U.S. forces, is, in reality, a seldom-used concept that will become increasingly difficult to enact with the passage of the War Powers Resolution (WPR) and our recent success in Southwest Asia.
I. Declaration of War Rarely Used in American History
A. Disparity between declared and undeclared wars
B. War of 1812
C. The Mexican War
D. The Spanish-American War
E. World War I
F. World War 11
II. Similarities of All Five Declared Wars
A. All declared wars were "popular" wars
B. All involved a strong incident to declare war
C. 80% involved blind Congressional support
III. The War Powers Resolution (WPR) of 1973
A. Basis for debate on war powers
B. Key elements of the WPR
C. Opinions on the WPR
IV. Role of Declaration of War in Modern Warfare
A. Declaration supports rare, unlikely type of war
B. Description of the modern war
C. Need for public support
The Declaration of War: One for the History Books?