Korean and Vietnam Wars: Communism and Containment

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3-25-13
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Constitutional Wars?
The United States was involved in both the Korean (1950-53) and Vietnam (1964-73) wars. Though the wars were fought at different times, both dealt with communism and containment. Questions arose as to why the United States was involved in these wars without having any formal declaration of war. Presidents Truman, Johnson and Nixon were involved with these wars. Many people think that congress neglected its constitutional military responsibilities and handed them, by default, to the presidents in office at the time who then, led the country in unconstitutional wars. This statement cannot be considered valid or invalid before four major categories are analyzed; 1) roles of the legislative and executive branches during war 2) decisions made by the Presidents 3) events that took place leading up to and during the wars 4) congress’s influence on these foreign affairs. Evaluating these four items will help to explain why the Vietnam War is constitutional but the Korean War is not. Because the constitutionality of these wars is being questioned, the first thing that needs to be looked at is the Constitution to understand what roles are possessed by the legislative and executive branches during a time of war.

The legislative branch, called congress, is divided into two parts called the house and the senate; their duties are outlined in article one of the Constitution. Congress is granted it’s authority by article one, section one of the constitution which states that, “All Legislative powers

herein granted shall be vested in a congress of the United States” (Article one Section one of the Constitution). Article one, section eight outlines the powers of congress, these are often called the enumerated powers. It states that congress is responsible for providing the common defense and general welfare of the United States. Some of these responsibilities are, raising and supporting armies, providing and maintaining a Navy, regulation of land and naval forces, and to govern, organize, arm, discipline and call fourth the Militia (Article one Section eight of the Constitution). One of the most important authorities possessed solely by congress is the power to declare war. America has not officially declared war since World War 2. According to the United States war records, there have only been five wars officially declared by the United States and congress. Those wars were; the War of 1812, Mexican War, Spanish-American War, World War 1, and World War 2 (usconstitution.net). The Vietnam War and the Korean War are notably absent from this list of five officially declared wars. Many aspects need to be looked at to understand why these wars were fought having not been declared. One of the most important aspects is the power of the president during wars.

The powers of the executive branch belong to the President, Vice President and cabinet members. As outlined in article two, section one of the constitution, “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America” (Article two Section one of the Constitution). The President is head of state and head of government for the United States. Under the constitution, the President has many duties as the leader of the country, such as approving bills and nominating federal judges, but to better understand how the Korean and Vietnam wars got started; only his war duties will need to be analyzed. Article two; section two of the Constitution states that, “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of

The United States, and of the Militia of the several States”. Even with the power of being Commander in Chief of the armed forces, the President cannot declare war; only congress can. That being said, as Commander in Chief, the President has the authority to direct war after it has been declared. He is also authorized to repel any sudden attacks on America, allowing him to use his military force in order to...
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