Why are there never declarations of war since WWII?

Discussion in 'Other Conflicts' started by skyblue, Dec 22, 2012.

  1. skyblue

    skyblue Active Member

    This has puzzled me for sometime. How did it come to be that the USA can send troops and resources into harms way without a formal declaration of war? Not only does this muddy the waters and make it hard to understand the conflicts we get involved in, and when they are "won" but I also wonder ... how did it become legal to do so?
  2. vashstampede

    vashstampede Active Member

    The U.S. never sent any troops involved in actual combat until after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor...if I remember correctly.
    Both Japan and Germany already had their hands full before the U.S. got directly involved in combat, and they know fully well that the U.S. had the manpower and resources to overwhelm them in a long term war. Neither wanted a direct confrontation with the United States while they were already fighting a full scale war for years.

    Even Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor was hoping to force the U.S. to negotiate for peace and drop the oil/steel embargo after a quick victory. They never intended to drag it out because they knew they couldn't win in long term.

    So basically, nobody wants a formal declaration of war when the other side is stronger.

    After Pearl Harbor however, it was unavoidable for every party to declare war on each other. So everyone did. The United States declared war on Japan, China declared war on Japan, Germany declared war on the United States, China declared war on Germany, Soviet Union declared war on Japan, UK declared war on Japan...and so on...
  3. aghart

    aghart Former Tank Commander Moderator

    If the United Nations authorise military action (Korea for example) no decleration of war is required as it is the UN taking the action not an individual country.
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  4. skyblue

    skyblue Active Member

    Thank you, Vashstampede, but I meant in all the conflicts such as Korea, Vietnam and all the modern military confilicts the USA has been involved with since WWII. We don't seem to be capable of naming the enemy and declaring war and destroying the enemy and I want to know why? For instance, Iran declared war on the USA in the late '70's. Why don't we accept that we are at war with them and disarm them by any means necessary?
  5. skyblue

    skyblue Active Member

    aghart, yes, that is what I want to know about.

    So, how did it come to be that we would follow the UN's bidding? Do we send troops anywhere they ask us to send them?

    I wish I had asked my dad about it. He was in the Navy during the Korean conflict but did not serve in Korea. His brother died in Korea.

    To me it seems like not declaring war is wrong, even if it is not a requirement, legally. Our troops die in unnamed wars that have few objectives and I don't understand it. Do you guys think we will ever declare war, again?
  6. vashstampede

    vashstampede Active Member

    Oh, my bad. I skipped the word "since".

    So you are talking about after WWII, not during it.

    The way I see it, the U.S. government tries to use the UN as a tool to make the wars look "legit". Declaring war would be a war between two countries, that would shoot the "legit" out of the window...especially when it happened several dozens times in just a few decades with so many different countries. The U.S. involved in all wars either through UN (Korea), or get around UN when UN rejects it (ex: Iraq 2003).

    Have to note that, just the other day someone said "Why are we always doing UN's bidding"... in fact it is quite the opposite, every war the U.S. had involved through the UN was in fact brought up onto the table by the U.S. in an attempt to make the war look legit. In a few cases when China and Russia vetoed it, the U.S. still would go ahead with NATO without UN's approval would be the proof that the U.S. was doing its own bidding.
  7. skyblue

    skyblue Active Member

    I know you are right about the UN being our tool in Lybia, for Obama used the UN as part of his "Lead from behind" strategy. I'm not sure it is always the case, though. The UN often acts against our interests.
  8. Vercingetorix

    Vercingetorix Member

    I think the whole issue about the UN is small potatoes, really. The United States has been involved in many, many undeclared wars since the end of World War II, mostly without reference to the UN. In my opinion, the reason for not declaring wars is that the President doesn't want Congress to have the option of rejecting the declaration of war. Presidents have been gaining power at the expense of Congress for almost a century now, and I think that this phenomenon is an example of this trend.

    If the President does not request for Congress to declare war, then he can send troops wherever he wishes, without fear that his foreign policy objectives will be countermanded by a recalcitrant Congress. Once the troops are already engaged in a conflict, then Congress will HAVE to vote the necessary appropriations, or else an outcry will be raised that Congress "is not supporting the troops." I think Congress is complicit in this arrangement - they don't want to have to make a difficult decision. Rather than having a possibly divisive and politically costly vote on the issue, they just follow the President's lead. I think this is an abdication of responsibility by our Congress-critters, who are constitutionally supposed to keep the President in check.
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  9. skyblue

    skyblue Active Member

    Thank you for your reply, Vercingetorix. I can see your point and it is sad that we have such a leadership problem in Congress. They seem to become more irrelevant each day. To me, the lack of war declarations in the past fifty years can only come down to a some political ploy of the type you have described. I hope better leaders can be found and promoted or I fear that the country is doomed.
  10. aghart

    aghart Former Tank Commander Moderator

    By not declaring war, you can limit the spread of the conflict. Had the UK declared war on Argentina in 1982, how would the fighting have stopped with the recapture of the Islands? We would have had to invade Argentina and force the nation to surrender, rather than just the forces on the Islands. (not possible I know) Because war was not declared on Iraq in 1990, when Iraqi's were forced out of Kuwait by the allies, the allies simply stopped. Had a declaration of war been in place the allies would have had the right to go to Baghdad and finish Saddam there and then.
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  11. skyblue

    skyblue Active Member

    I don't know much about the Falkland Islands but aren't things heating up again down there? I mean, wouldn't it have been better to end the conflict decisively rather than leaving the dispute with Argentina open ended? Same with Iraq. Wouldn't it have been better to end Saddam's rule for good at that time? How many Iraqis and Kurds died because the West refused to wage a real, official war to a decisive end? What I'm saying is, if something is worth going to war over then the fighting should not stop until there is a completely defeated enemy and an obvious victor. Uncommitted battles just prolong the hostilities to a later date, it seems to me.
  12. vashstampede

    vashstampede Active Member

    There were plenty of other examples. Korean War for example, was probably the first "legit" intervene through UN.

    The way UN work can ensure the one super powerful country to control it. Because all the little countries can be "lobbied" to change their mind on the vote...or more likely change their vote under pressure.

    Even the current UN votes can be manipulated easily when the U.S./UK/France use pressure/bribe/lobbying whatever means necessary to get China and Russia to vote for them. Because even though China and Russia have veto power on the security council and they have certain self-interest, they are still the weaker of the two sides and they depend on the west more than the west depend on them.

    I am not saying the U.S. government always get what it want through UN, but it has always attempting to use UN as a tool for legit intervening around the world for self-interest. Yes, there are times the "resolution" didn't pass, but that doesn't stop the objective (ex: Invasion of Iraq in 2003) from taking place. It works like that... if it's going to happen anyway, why not at least try to make it look "legit"...but if we can't make it "legit", we don't give a damn about it and we will still go for it if it is too important of an objective to pass.
  13. Vercingetorix

    Vercingetorix Member

    I don't think this is necessarily true. There have been countless examples of declared wars which ended before one of the participants was utterly defeated. In fact, most wars before WWI followed this pattern. Look at the War of 1812 - it was declared, in accordance with the law, resulted basically in a stalemate, and was ended with a peace treaty, leaving the participants basically in the same position as they were at the start of the war. For a more recent example, Iraq declared war on Iran on September 22, 1980. The conflict lasted 8 years, with over 1 million casualties, yet neither side "surrendered" to the other.

    So declaring war does not necessarily entail a fight to the end with one side being utterly defeated. On the other hand, there have been numerous undeclared wars which were not really "limited" in scope. Look at the Vietnam War, which had massive casualties on both sides and lasted a couple of decades.
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  14. MannyGr

    MannyGr New Member

    Yes, what he said.

    Also, in other situations where the U.N. does not authorize, I think that declarations are avoided so if you are not at war, you do not have to adhere to the laws of war.
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  15. skyblue

    skyblue Active Member

    Yes, it seems that way to me and that is why it bothers me so much. I think we ought to declare war with clear objectives, otherwise it deteriorates into a political nightmare that lasts far too long.
  16. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    Thank you for asking such a provocative question. Where to begin. During the LBJ-Nixon administrations this very point was discussed and debated with some regularity in the national forum. Congress even so far as to pass the "Presidential Powers Act" in an attempt to reign in the Executive Branch more blatant circumvention of what was, after all, Constitution-ally spelled out as a duty of Congress. But it has been demonstrated time and again lawyers know there are many ways to "skin a cat."

    For example, Junior Bush (or someone representing him) manipulated Congress to pass a poorly written bill authorizing the US invasion into the sovereign state of Iraq. It was supposed to be only a 'bargaining chip' in the international poker game of diplomacy with Sadam Huessein. In reality it was the authorization to do that which the Neo-Cons had been wanting to do since at least 1998.

    But the POTUS need not overtly send Department of Defence troops into harms way. He has a whole black bag of options. Read "In Search of Enemies", for example, where John Stockwell writes of how he was sent by his CIA superiors to then-hot Angola civil war.
  17. aghart

    aghart Former Tank Commander Moderator

    If you declare war, you have to fight until someone loses and surrenders. If you don't declare war you can stop the conflict and declare mission accomplished. If Britain had declared war on Argentina in 1982, it would have been impossible for both sides to stop fighting once Britain had regained the islands. No declaration of war meant the confrontation could be limited to the recapture of the islands.
  18. jrj1701

    jrj1701 Member

    For the U.S. getting congress to make a declaration of war is a political nightmare, one of the reasons that it has been avoided.
  19. Turo Nieminen

    Turo Nieminen Member

    Do not know about legality but Winter-war Finland vs. Soviet Union started with sneak attack no war was declared on the basis that Stalin gathered bunch of traitors to form a new "legal" goverment. It was classic kick-out your own puppet for the scene. To circumvent declaration of war all you need is couple of traitors that you "declare" as legitimate goverment, who cares if the goverment was actually elected by the people.
  20. Rockhem

    Rockhem Member

    The main reason as far as I know, is Mutual Assured Destruction, or MAD. What country would declare war on a country, when they know that they will both both be utterly destroyed in the war, in WWII there was a chance you could just steamroll the other country with little losses, but with the introduction of nukes, even if you win quickly, millions of civilians will end up dying anyway.
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