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Who was the last US president who did not start a war?

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Wikipedia is your friend - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… –  Opt Dec 26 '11 at 10:15
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I am not sure, but AFAIK Obama didn't start a war, merely continued the ones his predecessor started. –  apoorv020 Dec 26 '11 at 18:34
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@apoorv020 - depends on what OP counts as starting a war. For instance, they may count the US bombing of Libya (as part of NATO) as starting a war. –  Opt Dec 26 '11 at 21:32
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Indeed. Technically, only Congress can declare war, and that hasn't happened since 1941. –  mmyers Dec 27 '11 at 0:28
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Moral or immoral is irrelevant to the question. I believe any initial deployment of military resources resulting in combat should count, whether the war was declared or not. –  RI Swamp Yankee Apr 2 '13 at 17:11

1 Answer 1

up vote 19 down vote accepted

As noted in the comments, this depends on what you mean by "Starting a war".

  • Technically speaking, a war requires a formal declaration by Congress (though specific forms are subject to debate). As such, the last one started by the USA was in WW2, with declarations in 1941 (Japan/Germany/Italy) and 1942 (Romania and other Axys countries); which makes the answer to be Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the last one to start a war, and every president since then did not.

  • More broadly speaking, if you count congressional authorization for the war, the last (and really only) 3 presidents since FDR who did not start a war were Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. So Ford is the answer to your question.

    Ford also differs from LBJ and Nixon in the fact that he can't be said to have actively prolonged Vietnam War (since his tenure started AFTER Paris peace accords of 1973). In contrast, Nixon continued the war despite Congress rescinding Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.

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What congressionally authorized war did Obama start? He intervened in Libya without congressional authorization, as I remember. Nor do I remember Clinton starting one, but that may just be my memory. Both presidents committed acts of war, but does that count? –  David Thornley Jan 14 '12 at 15:48
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For people, killed by bombs, or their relatives, act of war was the war. It is not the law, but the history site. And the quesion is which president started, not which congress started. –  Gangnus Jan 28 '12 at 23:09
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@Gangnus - you're welcome to provide a better answer and let the community judge its worth by voting –  DVK Jan 29 '12 at 0:10
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@DVK Is that link correct? I'm not aware of the U.S. being involved in UNIFIL (beyond being a member and host of the UN obviously). Norway and France initially was it not? –  lucideer Jan 16 '13 at 23:52
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Carter ordered the Iran Hostage Rescue mission, which was an attack on a country –  Oldcat Mar 6 at 18:08

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