Why don't we declare war anymore?

While mulling over the “War on Terrorism” the other day, it occurred to me that we haven’t declared war on anyone since the Big One, WWII. Since then we’ve had Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf, and Afghanistan … several significant events that we label “war” but without the Official Sanction of Congress. Seeing as how the Constitution declares that Congress is the only branch that declares war, how can we get sucked into these multi-year conflicts without declaring? And why doesn’t Congress go ahead and declare it anyway? Hell, if 9/11 wasn’t a good enough reason to declare war, what is? Is Congress just a bunch of wussies that don’t want to be committed? Or is there some real legal/moral difference between war and what happened in Vietnam?

War was declared after 9/11, just not on a particular country- rather, a group. Whether or not Congress “sanctioned” it, we as a nation declared war on terrorism. No- I’m not some jaded and disillusioned American psuedo-patriotic ignoramus- merely a human being who was deeply moved and affected by thay day’s atrocities. Personally, I really don’t think declaring war is the brightest of ideas anyway. The difference between Vietnam and the present is the fact that our ideas about war as a nation have changed. Before Vietnam, there was never a “war resistance”. That same generation who protested the war are now our Congressman, many of whom lost friends and relatives in the senseless bloodshed of Vietnam, so you can certainly believe that they’re not going to declare war unless forced to, regardless of who our president is.

If you searched the archives, you could find several threads on this topic.

Basically, nobody declares war on anybody anymore. Nations just start firing away without the formality of a declaration of war.

Has anyone formally declared war on another nation since the Soviet Union did to Japan back in 1945?

Man oh man, have you got a lot to learn about domestic opposition to the Civil War, World War I, and World War II.

The New York City draft riots of 1863:
The Civil War Copperheads:

Civil War draft dodgers:"Civil+War"&hl=en&ie=UTF-8

Jeanette Keith, on the draft in World War I:


You don’t have to declare war when you are attacked - you can but it’s not needed.


Plain and simple, it’s politics.

If you vote on a declaration of war, you will loose votes, whichever way you vote. In the United States, nothing is ever so important that you would risk loosing votes, and certainly nothing so insubstantial as the separation of powers, or the defense of the nation. Maybe for a lot of money, but nothing as silly as honesty, honor, or fulfilling your oath of office. So, you pass a resolution allowing the President to do whatever he wants, and later, you get to bitch about it during the next election. That way, he looses votes, and if he doesn’t, you can get up on the platform with him, claiming your resolution was “support.”

By the way, gruvetheory, just who did we declare war upon, after 9/11? Declarations of war are made against countries, not criminals. And there is no active declaration of war, GWB’s rhetoric not withstanding.

The death falling out of the sky part of war remains essentially similar, even without a declaration.


“We have met the enemy and it is us.” ~ Walt Kelly, Pogo ~

Please correct me if I am wrong, but we actually declared war on Iraq during the Gulf War. It was officially sanctioned by congress.

It was not an official declaration of war. In early 1991, Congress passed Public Law 102-1, authorizing the president to use the “United States Armed Forces” to enforce the United Nations Security Council resolutions aginst Iraq, both to drive it from Kuwait and “to restore international peace and security in the area.”

That law is still in effect, as are the U.N. resolutions against Iraq.

USA’s actions in Guantanamo Bay – and even more importantly, their explanations and justifications for those actions, have amply demonstrated (IMHO) that the reason we don’t declare war is because then we’d have to follow the rules of war, and we don’t want to have to do that, so we just follow the precedent set in Korea, and just have “police actions” everywhere.

But no one seems to declare war. Britian did NOT declare war against Argentina. Iran and Iraq never declared war on each other.

The Arabs didn’t recognize Israel, so no war there.

9-11? Who would we declare war against. Afghanistan? The government in power wasn’t the one we recognized. Besides our beef was with Osama not Afghanistan. (If they had turned him over the Taliban still would be in power)

Teddy Roosevelt was one (not the first but one) of the first to take power into his hands. He wanted funds to send his muscle (the new naval fleet) around the world. Congress said no. He sent them anyway. Then Congress was left with the embarassing situation of approving funds, he wanted or leaving the fleet stuck half way 'round the world.

Basically as Keeve pointed out there are rules in war. We can be more vauge. Congress can lay blame directly on the President.

But it can back fire. If war wasn’t declared then perhaps others can argue our soldiers aren’t entitled to the treatment afforded them by the Geneva Convention.

You SHOULD declare war even when attacked. The US and Japan declared war on each other AFTER Pearl Harbor. Britian griped Germany attacked Poland first without a declaration. They later declared war.

The Brits declared war on the Finns in support of the Soviets. (The US did not do this perfering to see the Russo-Finnish war as a seperate conflict from WWII). So like it was suggested it can be politically motovated.

Again by laying on the President it makes it easier to justify. We don’t hate IRAQIS we hate SADDAM. We don’t hate GERMANS we hate HITLER.

A legal, up front declaration of war, as specified in the US Constitution, carries with it considerable collateral baggage which this country does not want to get involved with anymore.

A simple explanation is to look at your insurance policies under exclusions. Insurance companies don’t pay out in a “declared” war. Yeah, of course, it’s a legal splitting hairs but that’s the business of it.

If Congress had “declared” war as a result of the acts of 9/11, insurance companies would be within their legal rights to not pay out. Can you imagine what would happen then?

In addition, a “declared” war statement places the entire country in a total war footing. If insurance companies are no longer required to pay out claims with a declaration, you can be sure the President, Congress and the rest of America will want their pound of flesh in some other form of compensation. For me, this would mean business, industry and labor retools and gears up for a major conflict and all the usual apatheic living Americans only know about today goes out the window. It doesn’t make any difference if some actions have no direct benefits to the war effort; they are part of the national psyche to develop a war attitude. Even The Master addresses the issue here with WWII scrap drives.
I’m no hawk by any means, but IMHO America has grown too weak, self-centered and fractured to have a declared war. While I will concede some “coming together” as a result of 9/11, it’s not so much out of genuine strength in numbers with a common ground as America is a bunch apatheic whimps, bug-eyed with fear, unable to stand up for what’s right even in the best of times. After all, how else has Bush and co managed to run roughshod over constitutional rights while survey after survey shows Americans nodding in blind agreement?

Anyone who has taken an oath to defend the Constitution should be remember that that oath applies to defending the Constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic. I have very strong opinions disagreeing with what my government did/did not do under my name via the Constitution from both of the major parties over the years.

However, this time, with this president with his political ideology, I am finding he is no different in too many respects with the ideologies of the terrorists. The true enemies of my country and my Constitution are not the enemies without; they are the enemies within.

We may not be in a “declared” war. However, Bush and co are moving us in that direction with their own political agenda and we may “lose” more than we “win.”

Insurance policies don’t exclude just “declared” wars. They exclude acts of war. A representative of the Insurance Institute was interviewed on National Public Radio about this issue recently. She said that almost any military attack would be come under that broad term, intentionally so.

Correction to my previous post: She was a spokesperson for the American Insurance Association. You can hear the interview here:


ummm… small Q:

under what circumstances can the “new, improved”, “we’d never actually use it…” military draft be activated?

also, political baggage of voting ‘for’ war is heavy - make sure every last one of your constituants is behind it FIRST! (the enduring legacy of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution (it wouldn’ve hurt to find out that the incident cited for that mistake never actually occurred, but that’s another issue)

Duckster, guess what you’ve won!

“What Happens in a Draft”


Duckster, keep that political crap out of GQ.

Perhapst more importantly, keep demonstrably incorrect facts out fo GQ.

Thank you.

And in return, I’ll try to keep stupid typos out of my posts.

Perhapst fo? WTF?

Manhatten, my apologies.

Manhattan - since you’ve weighed in here, I think this whole thread, as permitted, is essentially a question of opinion. The OP doesn’t appear to be requesting law, facts, citations, etc., but rather some reasons that war hasn’t been declared since 1941. The respondents have offered opinion, which, as I read it, is what Duckster is doing. Maybe the whole thing belongs in Great Debates, but since it’s here, then I don’t think he can be faulted for adding his opinion, odious as it seems to you. I have read it a few times and see little in the way of “demonstrably incorrect facts.” Furthermore, I think that YOUR post was a flame that is most unbecoming a doper, and PARTICULARLY a moderator. And, I think you should be able to put your two cents in to the discussion, itself, but not under the guise of moderator. Maybe you should be given the privilege of having a second screen name.