military action against any country with which the United States has not
formally declared war. It states that, based on the law, the US has been technically neutral in the Korean War, the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba (1961), and the Vietnam War. Presumably the same holds for our "preemptive" attack on Iraq. The Encyclopedia points out that enforcement of the law (it is the citizens who participate in the fighting who are breaking this law, not the President) has been "selective."
International law defines neutrality as maintaining an impartial attitude toward the belligerents. It is then the duty of the neutral power to be impartial in its dealings with the warring parties. The belligerent powers are then supposed to respect neutral territory and conduct their fighting elsewhere. Criteria for neutrality in international law were defined in the Declaration of Paris (1856), the general neutrality convention of the Second Hague Conference (1907), the convention on neutrality in naval war (also at the Second Hague Conference), and the Declaration of London (1909).
Congress passed other neutrality laws at different times in our history, most recently in the years between World Wars I and II when our citizens were disillusioned by our participation in the "Great War." Neutrality Acts passed between August 1935 and May 1937 empowered the president, on finding a state of war between two nations or a civil war within one nation, to declare an embargo on arms shipments and strategic materials to the belligerents. They also prohibited extending loans or credits to belligerents. Of course we know that America supplied Great Britain and China with weapons prior to the Declarations of War that Congress passed after Pearl Harbor. How was President Roosevelt able to get around the Neutrality Acts? In the case of the Sino-Japanese War, he merely refused to declare that a state of war existed between China and Japan. Thus we could sell P-40 fighter aircraft to China and allow US aviators to resign from our Army and Navy and to join the famed Flying Tigers. At the same time, the US decided that we could maintain neutrality in the European War if Great Britain used its own vessels to import weapons from the US. The Lend-Lease Act of March 11, 1941 gave the president an ok to send weapons, for which Congress appropriated money, to "the government of
any country whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of
the United States." But getting around our own Neutrality Acts had no bearing on our compliance with international neutrality law. To remain neutral, the US would also have had to sell arms to Germany and Japan.
In contrast to what we were taught in our history classes, arming China and Britain by the US appear to have been deliberate on the part of President Roosevelt to goad the Axis Powers into attacking us, although it could have just been that he felt the US could not tolerate victory by the fascist powers in Europe and Asia. As for Japan, President Roosevelt went even further in demonstrating hostility towards Japan by embargoing all American shipments to Japan..