What is the War Powers Act and why have U.S. Presidents ignored it?
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The War Powers Act, also known as the War Powers Resolution, was a law passed by Congress after the Vietnam War, over Presidential veto. The Act intended to encourage the Commander-in-Chief to consult Congress before deploying military forces into combat. Additionally, Congress wanted to increase control over the executive branch when a foreign policy crisis arose. However, the President still has the authority to deploy military forces into combat for up to sixty days. Upon the sixty days into a combat theater, the President must re-deploy the military forces, unless Congress votes on approval to continue the military campaign.
Since the inception of the War Powers Act, the former Presidents have not paid much attention to the Act, but have always complied with Act. However, most Presidents have ignored the War Powers Act due to the potential that the Congressional branch can tip the scale of power of the Executive branch. The War Powers Act in turn could potentially cause an unbalanced separation of power. Therefore, most former Presidents would feel that the War Powers Act is unconstitutional. There have been a few cases since 1973 where Congress has accused the President of invalidating the War Powers Act. This has caused a magnitude of contention between the Executive and Legislative branches. One of the rare cases of using expedited procedures under the Resolution was the year 1999 when the President sent military forces to Yugoslavia without meeting all the requirements. “Rep. Tom Campbell … later sought, unsuccessfully, through a federal court suit to enforce Presidential compliance with the terms of the War Powers Resolution”1.
Analyzing the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution, it can be stated that the main challenge rests upon the differing interpretations of its meaning by the President and the Congress. By the early 1970s, Congress had obtained the decision making power of declaring war and committing the armed forces to the conflict, while it was the responsibility of the President as the Commander-in-Chief to lead the armed forces after the decision has already been made. The War Powers Resolution broadened the President’s authority for using forces, indicating the emergency cases which do not allow procrastination and require imposing immediate actions. It is stated in section 2(c) of the War Powers Resolution that “the President has much broader authority to use forces, including for such purposes as to rescue American citizens abroad, rescue foreign nationals where such action facilitates the rescue of U.S. citizens”.2
The issue of the automatic withdrawal of the provision and the time limit of 60-90 days can be defined as the most controversial points of the War Powers Resolution. The violation of the time limit requirement has become the major factor resulting in the Presidents’ conflicts with Congress. Nevertheless, in particular cases, the US Presidents ignored the War Powers Act while making decisions concerning the use of the armed forces. The instances which were not formally reported by the War Powers Act, including those of evacuating the US government workers and families from Sierra Leone in 1992, bombing campaigns against Iraqi military targets in 1998, and others, can be explained with diplomatic considerations. Accordingly, it can be stated that the reluctance of the US Presidents to meet the requirements of the War Powers Act and formally report their actions to Congress can be explained by their unwillingness to escalate the international situation by recognizing that the country was in the war.
Who won the war in Vietnam? Explain.
Analyzing the losses and aftermath of the Vietnam Conflict, it can be stated that either side or nation, did not win the war in Vietnam. The U.S. had two agendas with the Vietnam War. One of the agendas was to attempt to free the oppressed in Vietnam, and the other was to attempt to stop the spread of Communism. North Vietnam wanted to bring South Vietnam into their Communism rule and wanted no foreign democratic influence present in that region. The Soviet Union and China supported the North Vietnamese with weapons, equipment, and sometimes manpower to fight against Western nations in Vietnam. Thus, disregarding the fact that Vietnam Conflict is regarded as America’s war, the aftermath of the struggle had a significant impact upon the state of affairs in other areas of the world, including those of noncombatants.3 In that regard, Vietnam Conflict can be viewed in the framework of the Cold War as one of the US attempts to prevent Communist expansion in the world. Taking into account the historical context of the war and the difficulties with determining all the participants who had been involved in the affair, it can be stated that defining the winners is almost impossible.
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In November of 1955, the U.S. initially entered Vietnam intending to advise the South Vietnamese. The U.S. participation could be viewed as the ongoing containment strategy that was being employed against The Cold War. Because the U.S. entered Vietnam as an advisory role, there was no need for Congressional approval to declare war. In 1961, U.S. troop levels in Vietnam began to drastically increase, with increasing engagements against the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong. In turn, American deaths and casualties increased.
The Legislative branch, as well as the American people, could not understand why the U.S. military was so actively engaged with the Vietnam War when the U.S. was supposed to have a minimal footprint advisory role. Therefore, Congress or the American people did not support the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War was painted as a loss to America. However, if one is to look at the attempted containment of Communism, the Vietnam War can be seen as contributing success against The Cold War. On the one hand, the Communist government took power in Vietnam and can be seen as the aftermath of the War. On the other hand, the domino effect was not implied, and communism did not spread to other countries. Accordingly, the objective of containing the communist ideology and preventing its spread was accomplished. The level of the US economy and financial impact can be seen as an influential factor in determining the overall consequences of the Vietnam Conflict in its historical context. “The postwar years not only saw economic reconstruction but also an unprecedented expansion of US political and military commitments related to the containment of communism”.4 Thus, the decision of withdrawing the US armed forces from the Vietnam territory cannot be seen as an absolute defeat of the United States and their allies, taking into account the fact that it was followed by the expansion of the US political commitments.
Although Vietnam is still a Communist country, a dictator does not run the nation and Vietnam does not encourage the spread of Communism outside of their country. Therefore, the Vietnam War can be viewed as a success for Vietnam in that aspect. As for the U.S. agenda, The Cold War is over and the spread of Communism is non-existent. The outcome of who won the Vietnam War can be debated as to whose and what agenda was fulfilled. The results need to be viewed in the historical context of the Cold War and the postwar aftermath should be taken into consideration for providing a comprehensive analysis of the affair.
Has U.S. policy toward Cuba been successful? Explain.
The U.S. policy has had some goals come to fruition, and some not. Cuba is still a Communist nation with a dictator leadership. The Cuban government is not respectful of its people and does not promote a democratic government. Cuba does not trade internationally, keeps a closed economy, and discriminates against Cuban workers. The above-mentioned facts can be seen as examples of the U.S. policy towards Cuba being unsuccessful. Though Obama’s Administration has outlined particular changes in US policy toward Cuba, these changes concerned mostly the relations of the separated Cuban families. It is stated that “President Obama will direct the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Commerce to support the Cuban people’s desire for freedom and self-determination by lifting all restrictions on family visits and remittances”.5
There are some other goals that the U.S. has set forth with the U.S. policy toward Cuba and have been successful. The policy of containment with Cuba has been a huge success. However, according to the State Department, Cuba is a supporter of terrorism, which puts Cuba on the list for state-sponsored terrorism. According to the State Department, Cuba remains on the list because it opposes the global war on terrorism; supports members of two Colombian insurgent groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), and the National Liberation Army (ELN); and provides a haven to several Basque ETA members from Spain”.6 The top security concern for the U.S. right now is the Global War on Terror. If it is true that Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism, the U.S. policy towards Cuba is surely a failure. Thus, at present, the likelihood of improvement of the US-Cuban diplomatic relations is minimal. The instances of violating the human rights of Cuban citizens and involvement of the state in the terrorist organizations can be seen as influential factors that irritate the US-Cuban relations and present their improvement. “Cuba is a designated state sponsor of terrorism, and it’s a well-earned designation given their long-standing support for radical groups in the region”.7
On the one hand, the change of the Cuban regime is required for overcoming the incompatibility between the political views of the US and Cuban leaders. On the other hand, the present Cuban government does everything possible for remaining in power. Even the measures imposed by Raul Castro, a new Cuban political leader, are mostly aimed at reforming the bureaucracy system and will not introduce any significant economic changes in the country. The current status of the US-Cuban relations represents the gap between the states and the ineffectiveness of the US policies towards Cuba which did not bring any significant results. Criticizing Obama’s administration, both Fidel and Raul Castro are reluctant to establish positive US-Cuban relations. In his recent speech, Raul accused the United States of subversion against Cuba.8 Although there have been some positive gains with the U.S. policy, ultimately it could be viewed as a failure because not all the goals have been accomplished, and the current status of the US-Cuban relations, as well as the Cuban regime and domestic policies, clearly demonstrate it.
America: Engaging the World. “US Administration Announcement on US policy toward Cuba”. Web.
Counsel on Foreign Relations. “Why is Cuba on the State Sponsors of Terrorism List?” Web.
Daum, Andreas W. and Gardner, Lloyd C. 2003. America, the Vietnam War,and the world: Comparative and international perspectives. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Grimmett, Richard F. 2004. CRS report for Congress. RL32267—The War Powers Resolution: After Thirty Years. Web.
- Richard Grimmet, “RL32267—The War Powers Resolution: After Thirty Years”. Web.
- Andreas Daum and Lloyd Gardner, America, the Vietnam War, and the World: Comparative and International Perspectives. (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2003).
- Daum and Gardner, 371.
- America: Engaging the World. “US Administration Announcement on US policy toward Cuba”. Web.
- Counsel on Foreign Relations, “Why is Cuba on the State Sponsors of Terrorism List?” Web.