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The President and the War Power: South Vietnam and the Cambodian Sanctuaries

Date of Issuance:

Recognizing congressional sanction for the Vietnam conflict by the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, even though it was not in name or by its terms a formal declaration of war, the President’s determination to authorize incursion into the Cambodian border area by United States forces in order to destroy sanctuaries utilized by the enemy is the sort of tactical decision traditionally confided to the Com-mander in Chief in the conduct of armed conflict.

Only if the constitutional designation of the President as Commander in Chief conferred no substantive authority whatever could it be said that prior congressional authorization for such a tactical decision was required. Since even those authorities least inclined to a broad construction of the executive power concede that the Commander in Chief provision does confer substantive authority over the manner in which hostilities are conducted, the President’s decision to invade and destroy the border sanctuaries in Cambodia was authorized under even a narrow reading of his power as Commander in Chief.

Updated July 9, 2014