Tonkin Gulf Resolution
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In 1964, in response to the alleged attack on the United States destroyer called the Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin, Congress passed what is today known as the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, giving our nation unfettered allowance to use military force in Southeast Asia. It is important to note that this specific attack was never conclusively proven; a retired Vietnamese general would repeatedly deny that the attack ever took place, even as late as 1995, and in 2001 a recording was discovered of President Lyndon B. Johnson vocally doubting that the attack ever took place. Nevertheless, the immediate impact of the Tonkin Gulf Incident was that President Johnson ordered military strikes on North Vietnam in retaliation; he also asked Congress for permission to use further military force in the region, resulting in the passage of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution.
Impact of the Tonkin Gulf Incident
This Congressional measure essentially authorized the following:
- The president has the authority to use all means necessary, including military force, to prevent any future attacks on American military forces located in the region.
- The Tonkin Gulf Resolution gave our nation the ability to use any means necessary to defend our strategic alliances in the region, including those in South Vietnam.
While there was considerable debate as to what the Tonkin Gulf Resolution actually amounted to in practice, both President Johnson and President Nixon used it to justify their involvement of American forces in what would come to be known as the Vietnam War. The measure was ultimately repealed by Congress in 1970.
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