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The Vietnam "war" has convinced many persons that the president of the United States claims apparently unlimited power to commit this country to war. Not surprisingly, therefore, considerable interest has focused on the powers that inhere in the presidency. And many critics of the war – those who in other times and in other contexts might have been sympathetic to a spacious conception of presidential power – have concluded that the Vietnam conflict is not only a tragic error, but is the direct result of unconstitutional conduct by the president. I cannot accept this view; at bottom, it seems to me yet another example of the American propensity to substitute "for the question of the beneficial use of the powers of government ... the question of their existence." In view of what has already been written, I shall confine myself to the considerations that impress me as controlling. Since my concern is with the constitutional relationship between the president and congress, I shall give no consideration to the consistency of the president's action with American treaty obligations or with international law generally.


International Law | Law | Military, War, and Peace | President/Executive Department