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Who was involved in the Korean War, the U.S. Congress or the United Nations?

In the Korean War (1950–1953), Communist North Korea—with Stalin’s knowledge and support, we now know—invaded the non-Communist South. Despite a public statement by Secretary of State Dean Acheson in January 1950 that had placed Korea outside the U.S. defense perimeter, Truman decided to send American troops to defend South Korea and repel the aggressor. Significantly, Truman denied that he needed a declaration of war from Congress to authorize him to send troops to fight what he called a “police action” that had been authorized by the United Nations.


Who was involved in the Korean War?

Here, then, was exactly what Woodrow Wilson’s opponents had feared over three decades earlier: a president who took his country into war without fulfilling his constitutional obligation of consulting Congress, all on the pretext that his obligations to the League of Nations (or, in this case, the United Nations) rendered congressional consultation superfluous. (And since Truman said that he would send the troops even without United Nations authorization, he was going so far as to claim the right to send troops anywhere in the world without any authorization whatever from anyone or anything but himself.)

Mr. Republican, Senator Taft, objected to the president’s unilateral decision. The president, Taft said, “has brought that war about without consulting Congress and without Congressional approval. . . . So far as I can see . . . I would say that there is no authority to use armed forces in support of the United Nations in the absence of some previous action by Congress.”

In fact, from the Korean War onward, Congress would never again officially declare war. It was one way in which the struggle against Communism would change America, perhaps forever.

This article is part of our larger selection of posts about the Korean War. To learn more, click here for our comprehensive guide to the Korean War.

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