Declaration of war by the United States

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United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the declaration of war against Japan on December 8, 1941 Franklin Roosevelt signing declaration of war against Japan.jpg
United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the declaration of war against Japan on December 8, 1941

A declaration of war is a formal declaration issued by a national government indicating that a state of war exists between that nation and another. The document Declarations of War and Authorizations for the Use of Military Force: Historical Background and Legal Implications gives an extensive listing and summary of statutes which are automatically engaged upon the United States declaring war.

Contents

For the United States, Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution says "Congress shall have power to ... declare War." However, that passage provides no specific format for what form legislation must have in order to be considered a "declaration of war" nor does the Constitution itself use this term. In the courts, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, in Doe v. Bush , said: "[T]he text of the October Resolution itself spells out justifications for a war and frames itself as an 'authorization' of such a war." [1] in effect saying an authorization suffices for declaration and what some may view as a formal Congressional "Declaration of War" was not required by the Constitution.

The last time the United States formally declared war, using specific terminology, on any nation was in 1942, when war was declared against Axis-allied Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania, because President Franklin Roosevelt thought it was improper to engage in hostilities against a country without a formal declaration of war. Since then, every American president has used military force without a declaration of war. [2]

This article will use the term "formal declaration of war" to mean Congressional legislation that uses the phrase "declaration of war" in the title. Elsewhere, this article will use the terms "authorized by Congress," "funded by Congress" or "undeclared war" to describe other such conflicts.

History

The United States has formally declared war against foreign nations five separate times, each upon prior request by the President of the United States. Four of those five declarations came after hostilities had begun. [3] James Madison reported that in the Federal Convention of 1787, the phrase "make war" was changed to "declare war" in order to leave to the Executive the power to repel sudden attacks but not to commence war without the explicit approval of Congress. [4] Debate continues as to the legal extent of the President's authority in this regard. Public opposition to American involvement in foreign wars, particularly during the 1930s, was expressed as support for a Constitutional Amendment that would require a national referendum on a declaration of war. [5] Several Constitutional Amendments, such as the Ludlow Amendment, have been proposed that would require a national referendum on a declaration of war.

After Congress repealed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in January 1971 and President Richard Nixon continued to wage war in Vietnam, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution (Pub.L.   93–148) over the veto of Nixon in an attempt to rein in some of the president's claimed powers. The War Powers Resolution proscribes the only power of the president to wage war which is recognized by Congress. [6]

Declarations of war

Formal

The table below lists the five wars in which the United States has formally declared war against eleven foreign nations. [7] The only country against which the United States has declared war more than once is Germany, against which the United States has declared war twice (though a case could be made for Hungary as a successor state to Austria-Hungary).

In World War II, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Germany and Italy, led respectively by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, declared war on the United States, and the U.S. Congress responded in kind. [8] [9]

WarDeclarationOpponent(s)Date of declarationVotesPresidentResult
Senate House
War of 1812 Declaration of War upon the U.K. Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom June 18, 181219–1379–49 James Madison Treaty of Ghent (December 24, 1814)
Mexican–American War "An Act providing for the Prosecution of the existing War between the United States and the Republic of Mexico." [10] Flag of Mexico (1823-1864, 1867-1893).svg Mexico May 13, 184640–2173–14 James K. Polk Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (February 2, 1848)
Spanish–American War Declaration of War upon Spain Flag of Spain (1785-1873 and 1875-1931).svg Spain April 25, 189842–35310–6 William McKinley Treaty of Paris (December 10, 1898)
World War I Declaration of War upon Germany Flag of the German Empire.svg  Germany April 6, 191782–6373–50 Woodrow Wilson Treaty of Berlin (August 25, 1921)
Declaration of War upon Austria-Hungary [11] [12] Flag of Austria-Hungary (1869-1918).svg  Austria-Hungary December 7, 191774–0365–1 1921 U.S.–Austrian Peace Treaty (August 24, 1921), 1921 U.S.–Hungarian Peace Treaty (August 29, 1921)
World War II Declaration of War upon Japan Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg  Japan December 8, 194182–0388–1 Franklin D. Roosevelt V-J Day, Japanese Instrument of Surrender (September 2, 1945), Treaty of San Francisco (September 8, 1951)
Declaration of War upon Germany Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany December 11, 194188–0393–0 V-E Day, German Instrument of Surrender (May 8, 1945), Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany (September 12, 1990), Treaty of Vienna with Austria (May 15, 1955)
Declaration of War upon Italy Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg  Italy 90–0399–0 Paris Peace Treaty (February 10, 1947)
Declaration of War upon Bulgaria Flag of Bulgaria.svg  Bulgaria June 5, 194273–0357–0
Declaration of War upon Hungary [11] Pub.L.   77–564 Flag of Hungary (1915-1918, 1919-1946).svg  Hungary 360–0
Declaration of War upon Romania [11] Pub.L.   77–565 Flag of Romania.svg  Romania 361–0

Undeclared wars

Military engagements authorized by Congress

In other instances, the United States has engaged in extended military combat that was authorized by Congress.

War or conflictOpponent(s)Initial authorizationVotesPresidentResult
Senate House
Quasi-War Flag of France.svg France An Act further to protect the commerce of the United States
July 9, 1798
18–4 John Adams Treaty of Mortefontaine
First Barbary War Flag of Morocco (1666-1915).svg Morocco

Flag of Tripoli 18th century.svg Tripolitania

"An Act for the Protection of the Commerce and Seamen of the United States, Against the Tripolitan Cruisers", 2  Stat.   129, February 6, 1802 [13] Thomas Jefferson War ended 1805
Second Barbary War Flag of the Ottoman Empire (1453-1844).svg Algiers "An Act for the protection of the commerce of the United States against the Algerine cruisers", 3  Stat.   230, May 10, 1815 [14] James Madison War ended 1816
Enforcing 1808 slave trade ban; naval squadron sent to African waters to apprehend illegal slave tradersFlag of Edward England.svg Slave traders and pirates"Act in addition to the acts prohibiting the Slave Trade", 3  Stat.   532, 1819 James Monroe 1822 first African-American settlement founded in Liberia, 1823 U.S. Navy stops anti-trafficking patrols
Redress for attack on U.S. Navy's USS Water Witch Flag of Paraguay (1842-1954).svg  Paraguay 1858. [15] James Buchanan
Mexican Revolution Flag of Mexico (1823-1864, 1867-1893).svg  Mexico H.J.R. 251, 38 Stat. 770
April 22, 1914 [16]
337–37 Woodrow Wilson Force withdrawn after six months. However, the Joint Resolution was likely used to authorize the Pancho Villa Expedition. In the Senate, "when word reached the Senate that the invasion had gone forward before the use-of-force resolution had been approved, Republicans reacted angrily" saying it was a violation of the Constitution, but eventually after the action had already started, a resolution was passed after the action to "justify" it since Senators did not think it was a declaration of war. [17] [18]
Russian Civil War

Flag of the Commune of the Working People of Estonia.svg Commune of Estonia
Flag of Far Eastern republic.svg Far Eastern Republic
Flag of Latvian SSR 1919.svg Latvia
Flag of the People's Republic of Mongolia (1921-1924).svg Mongolian People's Party
Flag RSFSR 1918.svg Russia
Flag of the Ukrainian SSR (1919-1929).svg Ukraine

1918 [19] Woodrow Wilson
Lebanon crisis of 1958 Flag of Lebanon.svg Lebanese Opposition H.J. Res. 117, Public Law 85-7, Joint Resolution "To promote peace and stability in the Middle East", March 9, 1957 [20] 72–19355–61 Dwight D. Eisenhower U.S. forces withdrawn, October 25, 1958
Vietnam War

Laotian Civil War


Cambodian Civil War

Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg Mainland China
National United Front of Kampuchea

Flag of North Korea.svg  North Korea
Flag of North Vietnam (1945-1955).svg North Vietnam
Flag of Laos.svg Pathet Lao
FNL Flag.svg South Vietnam

Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, August 7, 196488–2416–0 Lyndon B. Johnson U.S. forces withdrawn under terms of the Paris Peace Accords signed January 27, 1973
Multinational Force in Lebanon Shia and Druze militias; Syria S.J.Res. 159
Pub.L.   98–119
September 29, 1983
54–46253–156 Ronald W. Reagan Forces withdrawn in 1984
Persian Gulf War Flag of Iraq (1991-2004).svg Iraq H.J.Res. 77
January 12, 1991.
52–47250–183 George H.W. Bush The United Nations Security Council drew up terms for the cease-fire, April 3, 1991
War on Terror Flag of Taliban.svg Afghanistan

Flag of Jihad.svg al-Qaeda

Flag of Ahrar ash-Sham.svg Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya
Flag of Hezbi Islami Gulbuddin.svg Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin
Flag of Jihad.svg Islamic Jihad Union
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar
Jundallah
Lashkar-e-Islam
Flag of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.svg Lashkar-e-Jhangvi
Tnsm-flag.svg Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi
Flag of Turkistan Islamic Party.svg Turkistan Islamic Party
Flag of Tehrik-i-Taliban.svg Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan


Flag of Taliban.svg High Council of the Islamic Emirate
Flag of Jihad.svg Fidai Mahaz


Flag of Jihad.svg al-Itihaad al-Islamiya
Flag of the Islamic Courts Union.svg Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia
AQMI Flag asymmetric.svg Harakat al-Shabaab Mujahedeen
Flag of Jihad.svg Hizbul Islam
Flag of the Islamic Courts Union.svg Islamic Courts Union
Flag of Jihad.svg Jabhatul Islamiya
Flag of Jihad.svg Mu'askar Anole
Flag of Jihad.svg Ras Kamboni Brigades


AQMI Flag asymmetric.svg Abu Sayyaf
AQMI Flag asymmetric.svg Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters
AQMI Flag asymmetric.svg Islamic State
AQMI Flag asymmetric.svg Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan
AQMI Flag asymmetric.svg Maute group
AQMI Flag asymmetric.svg Khalifa Islamiyah Mindanao

S.J. Res. 23
September 14, 2001
98–0420–1 George W. Bush
Iraq War [21] Flag of Iraq (1991-2004).svg Iraq H.J. Res. 114,
March 3, 2003
77–23296–132 George W. Bush Ba'athist Iraqi government abolished April 2003, Saddam Hussein executed.

War ended December 15, 2011. Destabilization of Iraq and emergence of ISIL (ISIS) in Iraq region 2014–2017. [22]

Military engagements authorized by United Nations Security Council Resolutions and funded by Congress

In many instances, the United States has engaged in extended military engagements that were authorized by United Nations Security Council Resolutions and funded by appropriations from Congress. [23]

Military engagementOpponent(s)Initial authorizationPresidentResult
Korean War Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg  China

Flag of North Korea.svg  North Korea
Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union

UNSCR 84, 1950 Harry S. Truman Korean Armistice Agreement, [24] 1953
Multinational Force in Lebanon Shia militias, Druze militias, Syria UNSCR 425, 1978

UNSCR 426, 1978

Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan U.S. forces withdrew in 1984
Persian Gulf War Flag of Iraq (1991-2004).svg Iraq UNSCR 678, 1990 George H. W. Bush UNSCR 689, 1991
Bosnian War Flag of Republika Srpska.svg Republika Srpska UNSCR 770, 1992
UNSCR 776, 1992
UNSCR 836, 1993
Bill Clinton Reflagged as IFOR in 1995, Reflagged as SFOR in 1996, Completed in 2004
Second Liberian Civil War Peacekeeping UNSCR 1497, 2003 George W. Bush U.S. forces are withdrawn in 2003 after the UNMIL is established.
Haitian coup d'état UNSCR 1529, 2004

UNSCR 1542, 2004

2004
First Libyan Civil War Flag of Libya (1977-2011).svg Libya UNSCR 1973, 2011 Barack Obama Debellation of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, October 31, 2011

Other undeclared wars

On at least 125 occasions, the President has acted without prior express military authorization from Congress. [25] These include instances in which the United States fought in the Philippine–American War from 1898–1903, in Nicaragua in 1927, as well as the NATO bombing campaign of Yugoslavia in 1999, and the 2017 missile strikes on Syria.

The United States' longest war, against the Taliban in Afghanistan, began in 2001 and is still ongoing as of 2020.

The Indian Wars comprise at least 28 conflicts and engagements. These localized conflicts, with Native Americans, began with European colonists coming to North America, long before the establishment of the United States. For the purpose of this discussion, the Indian Wars are defined as conflicts with the United States of America. They begin as one front in the American Revolutionary War in 1775 and had concluded by 1918. The United States Army still maintains a campaign streamer for Pine Ridge 1890–1891 despite opposition from certain Native American groups. [26]

The American Civil War was not an international conflict under the laws of war, because the Confederate States of America (CSA) was not a government that had been granted full diplomatic recognition as a sovereign nation by other sovereign states [27] [28] or by the government of the United States. [29]

The War Powers Resolution

In 1973, following the withdrawal of most American troops from the Vietnam War, a debate emerged about the extent of presidential power in deploying troops without a declaration of war. A compromise in the debate was reached with the War Powers Resolution. This act clearly defined how many soldiers could be deployed by the President of the United States and for how long. It also required formal reports by the President to Congress regarding the status of such deployments, and limited the total amount of time that American forces could be deployed without a formal declaration of war.

Although the constitutionality of the act has never been tested, it is usually followed, most notably during the Grenada Conflict, the Panamanian Conflict, the Somalia Conflict, the Persian Gulf War, and the Iraq War [ clarification needed ]. The only exception was President Clinton's use of U.S. troops in the 78-day NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War.[ citation needed ] In all other cases, the President asserted the constitutional authority to commit troops without the necessity of Congressional approval, but in each case the President received Congressional authorization that satisfied the provisions of the War Powers Act.

On March 21, 2011, a number of lawmakers expressed concern that the decision of President Barack Obama to order the U.S. military to join in attacks of Libyan air defenses and government forces exceeded his constitutional authority because the decision to authorize the attack was made without Congressional permission. [30] Obama explained his rationale in a two-page letter, stating that as commander in chief, he had constitutional authority to authorize the strikes, which would be limited in scope and duration, and necessary to prevent a humanitarian disaster in Libya.

See also

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Further reading