Tomorrow is an ignominious anniversary. On that date in 1961, about 1,400 American-trained Cuban exiles launched a secret invasion of Cuba in an effort to overthrow the Fidel Castro regime. After landing on the island’s southern coast at the Bay of Pigs, the invading guerrillas were routed by government forces. The humiliating disaster gave rise to a rare, publicly available Justice Department analysis of presidential power to wage covert war.
Matthew Waxman is a law professor at Columbia Law School, where he co-chairs the Program on Law and National Security. He is also co-chair of the Cybersecurity Center at Columbia University’s Data Science Institute, as well as Adjunct Senior Fellow for Law and Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. He previously served in senior policy positions at the State Department, Defense Department, and National Security Council. After graduating from Yale Law School, he clerked for Judge Joel M. Flaum of the U.S. Court of Appeals and Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter
Subscribe to this Lawfare contributor via RSS.
On this date in 1957, President Eisenhower signed into law perhaps the most open-ended force resolution in American history. It was never directly invoked, and it remains formally on the books to this day.
Eisenhower’s Request, Congress’s Response
On this date in 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower signed a congressional joint resolution authorizing military force to protect Formosa, as Taiwan was then called by the U.S. government, and surrounding islands. It’s one of the most interesting force authorizations in American history: It reflected Eisenhower’s complicated ambivalence toward constitutional powers, it was open-ended, it contemplated the possible use of nuclear weapons, and it was never actually invoked.
Few people today have ever heard of the Ludlow Amendment—a radical proposal that would have required a popular referendum before Congress could declare war and which lost a critical House vote on this date in 1938. The proposal was the closest the United States ever came to formally amending the Constitution’s allocation of war powers, and it would have revised them in exactly the opposite direction in which their interpretation has evolved in practice since the amendment’s defeat.
Today is the 195th birthday of the Monroe Doctrine. On December 2, 1823, President James Monroe proclaimed in his Seventh Annual Message to Congress that the United States would oppose any European efforts to colonize or reassert control in the Western Hemisphere:
A review of Michael Beschloss, “Presidents of War” (Crown Books, 2018).