In light of that understanding, we advised that the President had independent constitutional authority unilaterally to order "(1) deployment abroad at some risk of engagement - for example, the current presence of the fleet in the Persian Gulf region; (2) a military expedition to rescue the hostages or to retaliate against Iran if the hostages are harmed; (3) an attempt to repel an assault that threatens our vital interests in that region." Id. at 185-86. See also Presidential Powers Relating to the Situation in Iran, 4A Op. O.L.C. 115, 121 (1979) ("It is well established that the President has the constitutional power as Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief to protect the lives and property of Americans abroad. This understanding is reflected in judicial decisions
. . . and recurring historic practice which goes back to the time of Jefferson.").
|The historical record demonstrates that the power to initiate military hostilities, particularly in response to the threat of an armed attack, rests exclusively with the President. As the Supreme Court has observed, "[t]he United States frequently employs Armed Forces outside this country - over 200 times in our history - for the protection of American citizens or national security." United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, 494 U.S. 259, 273 (1990). On at least 125 such occasions, the President acted without prior express authorization from Congress. See Bosnia Opinion, 19 Op. O.L.C. at 331. Such deployments, based on the President's constitutional authority alone, have occurred since the Administration of George Washington. See David P. Currie, The Constitution in Congress: Substantive Issues in the First Congress, 1789-1791, 61 U. Chi. L. Rev. 775, 816 (1994) ("[B]oth Secretary [of War] Knox and [President] Washington himself seemed to think that this [Commander in Chief] authority extended to offensive operations taken in retaliation for Indian atrocities.") (quoted in Bosnia Opinion, 19 Op. O.L.C. at 331 n.4. Perhaps the most significant deployment without specific statutory authorization took place at the time of the Korean War, when President Truman, without prior authorization from Congress, deployed United States troops in a war that lasted for over three years and caused over 142,000 American casualties. See Bosnia Opinion, 19 Op. O.L.C. at 331-32 n.5.|