The President’s speech — and new U.S. war policy — goes into the history books September 10, 2014. Should this new war be formally debated? Does the Constitution require a Congressional debate, action and distinct resolution? Isn’t it time to revise the 2001 “Authorization for Use of Military Force”, as the National Security Network urges?
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The classic forum for debating war and peace has been in the press, traditional media, and now ‘New Media’. However, once again, the nation finds itself going to war with limited debate and a go-along Congress.
As various city papers editorially opine and opinion writers assigned to cover the nation’s business weigh in, we at Strategic Demands have picked one representative column from one of the best national affairs journalists at a major paper – Doyle McManus. We present today’s piece from the L.A. Times, as it is with a link to his Times column (Doyle and Times are worth bookmarking), a serious look at what’s arrayed before the President, the opposition party and the Nation.
Our own thoughts, strategically and critically, will follow this evening’s “Speech to the Nation“:
War against IS/ISIL/ISIS
GOP Iraq Quandry
For most of the summer, Republicans had it easy when it came to the Islamic State. All they had to do was complain that President Obama wasn’t tough enough, accuse him of lacking strategic vision and demand that he do more.
Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), both perennial hawks, accused Obama of “dithering” and urged him to launch airstrikes in both Iraq and Syria. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), not one to be outflanked on the right, said the United States should “bomb them back to the Stone Age.” Even Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), known for his wariness of engagements abroad, called for “destroying the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militarily” (in a column pointedly titled “I am not an Isolationist”).
And, until recently, Obama made himself an easy target. He talked mostly about what the United States wouldn’t do rather than what it would. He acknowledged that he didn’t have a strategy for confronting the Islamic State in Syria. He condemned the beheading of an American journalist — and then headed to the golf course.
But now that the president’s summer vacation is over, he’s unveiled a full-fledged strategy for pushing back against the militants, and it includes most of the elements his Republican critics have been asking for.
Want airstrikes? The United States has launched more than 150 of them against Islamic State fighters in northern and western Iraq, and the pace shows no sign of slacking.
Think we should expand the war into Syria? Administration officials say they’re actively considering airstrikes against Islamic State targets there. Meanwhile, they are increasing U.S. aid to moderate Syrian rebels so there will be a friendly force on the ground to work with if the U.S. Air Force attacks.
See a need for U.S. boots on the ground? Over the summer, the administration has quietly increased the number of military personnel in Iraq to more than 1,100, many of them coordinating U.S. air operations with local fighters.
For some on the right, the idea of endorsing anything Obama does is both distasteful and politically risky.
Want to hear a clear goal? Obama is now calling for “destroying” the Islamic State even if it takes as long as three years. He hasn’t proposed bombing anyone back to the Stone Age, but, for Obama, he’s come pretty close, and Vice President Joe Biden has promised to pursue the militants “to the gates of hell.”
So are Republicans applauding? Not yet. Instead, most of them are ducking the issue — and waiting to pounce on anything in Obama’s speech Wednesday they find wanting.
For some on the right, such as Cruz, the idea of endorsing anything Obama does is both distasteful and politically risky. For others, there’s skepticism that Obama will actually deliver on his tough talk.
“I do think the president is prone to half measures,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told me Tuesday. “We are always too little too late.”
And then there’s the fact that Obama apparently intends to pursue his strategy without asking for formal congressional authorization, a use of presidential power that causes many Republicans to bristle, and some Democrats too.
“It would be tremendously lacking in judgment and even preposterous if the president doesn’t ask for specific authorization from Congress,” Corker said.
Corker and others have called on Congress to debate and pass a new authorization of military force to cover the crisis in Iraq and Syria, and to replace the 13-year-old authorization for war against Al Qaeda, passed in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but now well out of date.
But the White House isn’t solely to blame for the absence of formal congressional authorization. Leaders in both parties have decided that a full-scale debate — and a vote that would force members to declare themselves clearly in favor or opposed — isn’t in their political interest right now.
As Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) told the New York Times in a moment of unusual candor: “A lot of people would like to stay on the sideline and say, ‘Just bomb the place and tell us about it later.’ It’s an election year…. We like the path we’re on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.”
But that’s no way to run a foreign policy. Those calling for a debate over this war are right, and if Obama doesn’t go to Congress to request authorization, the leaders of both parties on Capitol Hill should craft resolutions themselves. Next time you hear a member of Congress complain about the president’s overuse of executive power, ask why the legislators haven’t exercised their own rights when it comes to war and peace.
Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) — and need for revision and update
Sept 12, 2014
On the AUMF and new ‘war’
Obama believes he can act under the Authorization for Use of Military Force, despite the fact that he previously called for the AUMF Resolution to be revised, and ultimately repealed. (see below)
The White House now argues that IS/ISIS/ISIL is ‘associated’ with al Qaeda and, as such legally, comes under the 2001 AUMF.
National Constitution Center – Experts Ponder Obama’s War
The White House’s legal rationale for airstrikes in Syria has come under scrutiny since the Sept 10th speech declaring the President’s intent in Iraq and Syria…
NY Times (opinion) – Legal Authority for Fighting ISIS
Roll Call – Here’s Obama’s Legal Justification for ISIS War
The Administration steps back from calling the ‘action’ in Iraq-Syria a ‘war’ – Secretary Kerry defers, says it is not a ‘war.’ Susan Rice tells @wolfblitzer: “I don’t know whether you want to call it a war, or a sustained counter-terrorism campaign.” Different, she says.
Vox – Experts: Obama’s legal justification for the war on ISIS is “a stretch”
Think Progress – May 23, 2013 http://thinkprogress.org/security/2013/05/23/2055331/obama-aumf-repeal/
Obama Lays Out Plan
Obama announced that he intends to work closely with Congress to “refine, and ultimately repeal” the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). Passed in the aftermath of 9/11, the AUMF gave the president broad authority to carry out military action against “those nations, organizations, or persons” who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” the 2001 attack.
“Groups like [Al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula] must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States,” Obama said. “Unless we discipline our thinking and our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states.”
Congress recently began a set of hearings into possible revisions of the AUMF, which is about to enter its twelfth year in force. Currently, there are competing proposals in the Senate and House to either repeal the authorization in its entirety or revise it to allow for the use of force beyond the perpetrators of 9/11. Obama, however, refused to go along with any broadening of the AUMF, saying he “will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further.”
CAP expert Ken Gude hailed Obama’s commitment to repealing the AUMF as the “beginning of the end” of the war against al Qaeda. While remnants of al Qaeda and new groups remain threats, “the extraordinary military response that followed the attacks of 9/11 embodied in the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force can now be wound down, the permanent war footing retired, and we can rebalance our efforts to fight terrorism to rely more on our effective and efficient law enforcement and intelligence agencies,” Gude told ThinkProgress.
In his speech today, Obama continued: “Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.”
The extent of the wars in the Mideast has yet to be historically accounted for and, at this point in the fall of 2014, the U.S. is moving into the 25th year since the first mobilization of forces in Kuwait and Iraq (forces initially deployed, according to the White House statements, to protect Saudi Arabia from Iraq forces that had been shifted to ‘the border between the countries, troops later proven by satellite photos to have not been deployed.)
As the latest phase of this war escalates, a number of public statements are now being made speaking of another 20 to 30 years of war in the region.
The original Authorization to use force does not address the new escalation and Congressional hearings are addressing what remains, in many legal, strategic and tactical regards, open-ended.