Opinions

Opinions

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Effect of a Repeal of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution

Because the President’s inherent constitutional authority to employ military force abroad depends to a very considerable extent on the circumstances of the case, and, in particular, the extent to which such use of force is deemed essential for the preservation of American lives and property or the protection of American security interests, it is impossible to state in concrete terms the legal effect of a repeal of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution.

Such a repeal standing alone would not only throw into question the legal basis for certain actions the President might deem it desirable to take in the national interest, but would also demonstrate to foreign powers lack of firm national support for the carrying out of the policies set forth in the joint resolutions.

Presidential Authority to Permit Incursion Into Communist Sanctuaries in the Cambodia-Vietnam Border Area

Congress has clearly affirmed the President’s authority to take all necessary measures to protect U.S. troops in Southeast Asia. Having determined that the incursion into the Cambodia-Vietnam border area is such a necessary measure, the President has clear authority to order it.

The President’s action with respect to the Cambodian border area, limited in time and in geography, is consistent with the purposes which the Executive and the Congress have pursued since 1964. Whatever theoretical arguments might be raised with respect to the authority of the Commander in Chief to act alone had there been no congressional sanction for our involvement in Southeast Asia, there is no doubt as to the constitutionality of the action in light of the prior affirmance of Congress that the Commander in Chief take all necessary measures to protect U.S. forces in Vietnam. Having determined the necessity, the Commander in Chief has the constitutional authority to act.

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

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.

Constitutionality of the McGovern-Hatfield Amendment

Although it is difficult to resolve with confidence the substantial arguments that can be made for and against a proposed amendment seeking to employ Congress’s power of the purse to end hostilities in Vietnam, the Administration should oppose the amendment as a matter of policy, if not as one of constitutional law.

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