Executive Military Power
Such PRESIDENTIAL POWER is illustrated by President ABRAHAM LINCOLN's actions at the beginning of the Civil War. In the ten weeks between the fall of Fort Sumter and the convening of Congress in July 1861, Lincoln made war preparations based on his authority as commander in chief. He initiated the drafting of men for military service, approved of a Southern naval blockade, and suspended the writ of HABEAS CORPUS. Congress later ratified most of Lincoln's actions.
In the twentieth century several U.S. presidents have committed U.S. armed forces without a declaration of war. In 1903 and 1904, President THEODORE ROOSEVELT took military action in Panama and the Dominican Republic without consulting Congress. President WOODROW WILSON sent troops into Mexico without congressional approval. But, the most serious infractions began in 1951, when President HARRY S. TRUMAN ordered troops to Korea as part of a UNITED NATIONS "police action." This was followed, in the 1960s and 1970s, by the VIETNAM WAR, which Presidents LYNDON B. JOHNSON and RICHARD M. NIXON prosecuted without a congressional declaration.
In response, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution of 1973 (50 U.S.C.A. § 1541 et seq.), which restricts the president's power to mobilize the military during undeclared war. In a national emergency, the act allows the president to dispatch troops without consulting Congress. The president must, however, notify Congress within 48 hours, and the duration of time that troops can be committed in a foreign location is limited. The act also provides a VETO mechanism that allows Congress to force a recall of troops at any time.
The act has not prevented subsequent presidents from taking military action. For example, in 1990, without seeking approval from Congress, President GEORGE H. W. BUSH sent troops to Saudi Arabia in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. In 2002, with war with Iraq imminent, President GEORGE W. BUSH proposed a resolution that would allow him to declare war at a time of his own choosing, without having to first consult with Congress. Congress approved the authorization in 2002, and President Bush declared war on Iraq in March 2003.
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