Tonkin Gulf Resolution Essay Research Paper President — страница 2

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President had no further options but to order air strikes against North Vietnam. They painted the second attack to be a certainty, convincing the Congress, press, and public, while substantial firsthand accounts left themselves short of certain. His administration also declared that North Vietnam’s aggressive intent was evident through these two unprovoked attacks and, therefore, a congressional resolution that authorized the president to take all necessary measures in protecting American interests in Southeast Asia was required. (3) Obvious discrepancies exist between the Johnson administration’s account and the modern-day accepted version of the Gulf of Tonkin incidents, which should be viewed with knowledge of the administration’s desire for a resolution. As Johnson’s

staff advocated the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution’s passage through Congress based on the certainty of the incidents, legitimate doubts about their occurrence cast questions to the executive’s actions. In reference to the second incident, Commodore John J. Herrick, in charge of the Maddox’s reconnaissance mission in the gulf told the Pentagon, “Review of action makes many recorded contacts and torpedoes fired appear doubtful. Freak weather effects and overeager sonar men may have accounted for many reports. No actual visual sightings by Maddox. Suggest complete evaluation before any further action.”(4) In spite of having this firsthand opinion, Johnson and his staff went ahead with air strikes and their misrepresentation of the Gulf of Tonkin incidents, which influenced the

Congress as they passed the resolution nearly unanimously. Convinced by Johnson’s swift and stern actions, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution having no idea it would be used by presidents to legitimize American involvement in the Vietnam War for years to come. On August 7, 1964, a unanimous House of Representatives and a Senate with only two dissenters passed a resolution that gave President Johnson the authority to use “all necessary force, including the use of the armed forces” in Vietnam. (5) The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, William Fullbright was a major proponent of the resolution, and he conceded that the resolution could be used as an authorization for the country to go to war, but he was not concerned because all he had heard

indicated that Johnson did not intend to use it in such a manner.(6) One of the dissenters, Democrat Wayne Morse of Oregon, accurately predicted that Johnson would use the resolution as a “functional declaration of war.”(7) Ironically, Morse’s ignored prediction rang true and many members of Congress regretted voting for a resolution that effectively brought the United States to war. The Gulf of Tonkin affair brought to attention the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches in the area of foreign affairs. The Congress felt their constitutional power to declare war was weakened by presidents’ ability to send troops wherever he so chooses without its’ consent, as was done even before the Gulf of Tonkin affair. Furthermore, they argue that one

individual is not equipped to make such far-ranging decisions such as sending a war. As historian Joseph C. Goulden puts it, “The Senate claims that there is no monopoly on foreign policy expertise, and derides those who claim to possess it.”(8) Seen as a body of elites, the Senate feels it should weigh in on such pressing issues as going to war. The Constitution prioritizes the passage of a declaration of war by requiring a two-third’s majority of both houses, therefore President Johnson’s usage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution to authorize prolonged United States military involvement in Vietnam is condemned by senators and congressmen alike. Congress argues that the passage of a resolution that was sold to them as an approval for temporary involvement to prevent further

escalation was by no means a declaration of war.(9) Seeing the ability of one man to supercede the approval of Congress by not obtaining a declaration of war made members of Congress wary of what future possibilities might entail. Learning their lesson from Johnson, Congress eventually reclaimed some of its’ foreign policy powers when the War Powers Act was passed in 1973. The president, acting as head of state, is the nation’s crisis manager and President Johnson was force to manage the crisis of the Gulf of Tonkin incidents. As Goulden correctly points out, “The Congress and the public, entirely reliant upon the Executive for information in a crisis, must put their total trust in him.”(10) Such was the case when Johnson told Congress and the American people about these