Almon Leroy Way, Jr.
Official declarations of war having been rendered obsolete by the technology and charactersitics of modern warfare, it should come as no great surprise to a person when he or she realizes that, during the fifty-three and one-half years following the close of World War II in 1945, the U.S.A. has been involved in numerous military conflicts abroad, including four major wars as well as many smaller-scale military interventions--not any of which (whether a major war or a smaller-scale military action) was associated with a congressional declaration of war.
The four major wars in which the U.S.A. has been directly involved during the past half century are listed below, the name of each war followed by the years of direct American military engagement.
As regards the Persian Gulf War and the Kosovo-Yugoslav War, American military action in each of these conflicts lasted less than a year. The wars in Korea and Vietnam, however, entailed much longer periods of U.S. military action, much greater costs to the American taxpayers, and many more casualties among American military personnel than did the wars in the Persian Gulf and Kosovo-Yugoslavia regions. The U.S. military action in Korea lasted three years and the one in Vietnam lasted fourteen years, making it America's longest and most drawn-out war--the longest and most drawn out war in the entire history of the U.S.A. as an independent, sovereign nation-state. Despite the length of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, neither President Harry S. Truman in 1950 nor President John F. Kennedy in 1961 bothered to request a congressional declaration of war, either before or after sending American troops into foreign hostilities. Likewise, President Lyndon B. Johnson, in 1964, did not recommend a declaration of war, before or after he ordered a substantial escalation of direct U.S. military involvement in the Vietnam War.
While Operation Desert Storm and U.S. military action in Kosovo and Serbia constituted much shorter periods of U.S. involvement in armed combat with foreign foes, both President George W. Bush in 1991 and President William J. Clinton in 1999 had ample time and opportunity, after war had begun, to recommend declarations of war--President Bush during the 42-day military campaign against the regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and President Clinton during the 78-day aerial bombardment of Serbia and Serb military forces in Kosovo. However, such recommendations from the President were not forthcoming. (Qualification: In early May, 1999, during the aerial war in Yugoslavia, members of the U.S. House of Representatives, independently of presidential initiative or instigation, introduced into the House a resolution which, if it had been passed by both chambers of Congress and signed by the President, would officially declare that a state of war existed between the U.S.A. and Yugoslavia. The House, however, refused to pass the proposed declaration of war.)
Ergo, the port-World War II era has, thus far, been an era of wars without official declarations of war. Since 1945, the history of U.S.A. activity in the arena of international politics has been, among other things, the history of presidential war-making and U.S. actions abroad without congressional declarations of war. But what about the presence or absence of such phenomena during the entire history of the U.S.A. under the U.S. Constitution, from 1789 to 1999?
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