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The War Powers Resolution of 1973 put lots of restrictions of U.S. presidents for war declaring:

From Wikipedia:

The War Powers Resolution (also known as the War Powers Resolution of 1973 or the War Powers Act) (50 U.S.C. ch. 33) is a federal law intended to check the U.S. president's power to commit the United States to an armed conflict without the consent of the U.S. Congress. The resolution was adopted in the form of a United States congressional joint resolution. It provides that the president can send the U.S. Armed Forces into action abroad only by declaration of war by Congress, "statutory authorization", or in case of "a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces".

However, as mentioned in this answer, the president can violate the War Powers Resolution of 1973. Recently President Biden said in an interview that U.S. will send troops to Taiwan if "there was an unprecedented attack". It may have given people an impression that POTUS has such a power by himself.

So my question is (noticing that POTUS is the commander in chief of U.S. arm forces):

In practice, can (and how does) the president of U.S. order troops to defend Taiwan under a Chinese invasion without Congress' approval?

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  • I think you may need to clarify. For example, would something like this be what you had in mind? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_invasion_of_Grenada There are other examples.
    – BillOnne
    Sep 21 at 0:21
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    I'm not sure what this Q is ultimately/really asking with "technically". Are you asking if it's practically plausible or if it's legal? Abd what is in the linked question's answers that discuss such precedents and possibility in general that you find would not apply in the case of Taiwan? I.e. what kind of answer do you see here that would not just repeat what was said in answers to the general question?
    – Fizz
    Sep 21 at 2:39
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    Will the US assist Taiwan? Yes. Will the US declare war on China over Taiwan? No.
    – r13
    Sep 21 at 3:32
  • I removed the "technically" in an edit. It seems not to make a difference. Either POTUS has that power or hasn't. In principle answers could be yes/no with explanations.
    – Trilarion
    Sep 21 at 16:47
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    The answer is "yes" due to the fact that the last declared war for the US was WWII, yet how many troops have been sent to combat actions between then and now? It is interesting to note that this article claims that "** no Administration of either political party has agreed that the War Powers Act is constitutional.**". aclj.org/national-security/…
    – r13
    Sep 21 at 19:14

4 Answers 4

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Technically the president of USA is also the chief military commander so can give an order to the military to defend a foreign country and the army would do.

It may be later questioned if the president had the right to give such an order without approval of somebody, or maybe was not a good idea, and there are procedures like impeachment. But normally a soldier follows the order from the commander and can only complain after fulfilling it.

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  • Can the president also order the military to attack another country not just defend? Or could the military refuse to carry out such orders. I think even soldiers can also complain before carrying out orders if they think they are clearly unlawful.
    – Trilarion
    Sep 21 at 16:38
  • There's no specific right to complain after carrying out an illegal order. "An order requiring the performance of a military duty or act may be inferred to be lawful, and it is disobeyed at the subordinate’s peril. This inference does not apply to a patently illegal order, such as one that directs the commission of a crime."
    – Fizz
    Sep 21 at 17:37
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The Taiwan Relations Act is the key to understand the military assistance that the US may or may not provide in the future.

While it doesn't guarantee direct US military involvement in case Taiwan is attacked, it requires the US military to maintain the capability to successfully intervene and it requires the US to provide military assistance to Taiwan sufficient for its defense.

The actual decision to intervene, or not, is left to a future President and Congress. This may be procedurally different from how a specific declaration of war is made or how a use of force is authorized.

However, as far as the current question is concerned, that is whether the separation of power still exists with regards to the decision to go to war, the answer is yes.

Because the act demands that a President and Congress determine the nature of defense assistance to Taiwan together, Congress has the room to assert that it withholds such an authorization, just as Congress does have such room in cases of other uses of the US armed forces by the President.

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  • So if POTUS becomes a communist, Taiwan becomes China? Sep 21 at 11:37
  • Outside of any act, does the president have the right to intervene in any conflict? For example could the president by himself decide to send troops to a foreign country if that country is willing to accommodate them? Would the president need to order the troops to retreat if the hosting country is attacked?
    – Trilarion
    Sep 21 at 16:40
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    @Trilarion in a non-conflict scenario? Almost certainly. In fact, POTUS can even order an engagement for 48 hours before he has to even notify Congress. The military can remain engaged for 60 days before a Congressional approval is required (with additional 30 allowed for disengagement). See War Powers Act.
    – wrod
    Sep 21 at 20:57
  • @wrod "in a non-conflict scenario?" I thought more like pre-emptively. Like if intelligence reports troop buildups or other preparations, POTUS could send troops in that region as deterrent. So less no-conflict and more up and coming conflict.
    – Trilarion
    Sep 21 at 21:02
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    @Trilarion well, Congress approves the budget, so if this is a long-term engagement, the framework for paying for it has to be approved by Congress.
    – wrod
    Sep 21 at 21:04
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I think it would depend on the speed and ferocity of an attack by China on Taiwan.

If quick and hard which would require a prompt response then there is unlikely to enough time for the President to obtain formal ratification from Congress for a declaration of war but there will likely be informal ratification as they do speak amongst themselves.

If there is a slow build up, as say we saw with Russia with the Ukraine, then there will likely be time for a series of legislative measures and warnings to be put in place, as well as a formal declaration of war.

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There a few US military personnel already in Taiwan. Some are attached to embassy or appear to be there conducting training. So it could be said that an attach by China is an attack on US military personnel allowing the president to act. An actual declaration of war or even a prolonged other than war action would require Congress.

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  • 1
    Hmm, just because there are British tourists in Taiwan does not mean a Chinese attack on Taiwan is an attack on Britain ... Sep 21 at 20:51

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