October 12, 1983
I am pleased to sign into law today S.J. Res. 159, the Multinational Force in Lebanon Resolution. This resolution provides important support for the United States presence and policies in Lebanon and facilitates the pursuit of United States interests in that region on the bipartisan basis that has been the traditional hallmark of American foreign policy. In my view, the participation and support of the Congress are exceedingly important on matters of such fundamental importance to our national security interests, particularly where United States Armed Forces have been deployed in support of our policy objectives abroad. I am grateful to those of both political parties who joined in the expression of resolve reflected by the enactment of this resolution, and especially to the bipartisan leadership of Senate Majority Leader Baker, House Speaker O'Neill, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Zablocki, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Percy.
The text of this resolution states a number of congressional findings, determinations, and assertions on certain matters. It is, of course, entirely appropriate for Congress to express its views on these subjects in this manner. However, I do not necessarily join in or agree with some of these expressions. For example, with regard to the congressional determination that the requirements of section 4(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution became operative on August 29, 1983, I would note that the initiation of isolated or infrequent acts of violence against United States Armed Forces does not necessarily constitute actual or imminent involvement in hostilities, even if casualties to those forces result. I think it reasonable to recognize the inherent risk and imprudence of setting any precise formula for making such determinations.
However, complete accord on such debatable issues is less important than the process that has taken place and the bipartisan policy goals that have been articulated. We must not let disagreements on interpretation or issues of institutional powers prevent us from expressing our mutual goals to the citizens of our nation and the world. I therefore sign this resolution in full support of its policies, but with reservations about some of the specific congressional expressions.
There have been historic differences between the legislative and executive branches of government with respect to the wisdom and constitutionality of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution. That section purports to require termination of the use of United States Armed Forces in actual hostilities or situations in which imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances unless Congress, within 60 days, enacts a specific authorization for that use or otherwise extends the 60-day period. In light of these historic differences, I would like to emphasize my view that the imposition of such arbitrary and inflexible deadlines creates unwise limitations on Presidential authority to deploy United States Forces in the interests of United States national security. For example, such deadlines can undermine foreign policy judgments, adversely affect our ability to deploy United States Armed Forces in support of these judgments, and encourage hostile elements to maximize United States casualties in connection with such deployments.
I believe it is, therefore, important for me to state, in signing this resolution, that I do not and cannot cede any of the authority vested in me under the Constitution as President and as Commander in Chief of United States Armed Forces. Nor should my signing be viewed as any acknowledgment that the President's constitutional authority can be impermissibly infringed by statute, that congressional authorization would be required if and when the period specified in section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution might be deemed to have been triggered and the period had expired, or that section 6 of the Multinational Force in Lebanon Resolution may be interpreted to revise the President's constitutional authority to deploy United States Armed Forces. Let me underscore, however, that any differences we may have over institutional prerogatives will in no way diminish my intention to proceed in the manner outlined in my letter of September 27, 1983, to achieve the important bipartisan goals reflected in this resolution.
Indeed, I am convinced that congressional support for the continued participation of United States Forces alongside those of France, Italy, and the United Kingdom helped bring about the recent cease-fire and the start of the reconciliation process in Lebanon. The security and the stability of the Beirut area and the successful process of national reconciliation are essential to the achievement of United States policy objectives in Lebanon, as stated in the resolution. It is my fervent hope and belief that this reaffirmation of the support of the executive and legislative branches for the Government of Lebanon and for our partners in the multinational force will promote a lasting peace and hasten the return home of our Armed Forces.
Note: As enacted, S.J. Res. 159 is Public Law 98 - 119, approved October 12.