Wednesday, February 11, 2015


The only good thing about this is that it would repeal the 2002 authorization for use of military force in Iraq. Not that it matters too much. The current bombing campaign against ISIS has been conducted without explicit congressional authorization for months even though it doesn't really fit into the language of the still-on-the-books 2001 or 2002 authorizations. The bottom line is that if a president wants to kill foreign people, the president gets to kill foreign people, whether or not Congress has ever bothers to authorize it.

And yet these AUMF are not totally meaningless. They mean enough for people to sometimes bring them up in political discussions, and for the President to bother asking for a new one to retroactively legalize his ongoing military operation right now.  They also are cited in some court cases. So assuming that a new AUMF matters and putting aside my belief that the campaign against ISIS is ultimately counter-productive, on top of those concerns there are three major problems with this new AUMF:

1. It doesn't repeal the 2001 AUMF.

2. It includes authorization to use force against "associated forces." (Those words don't appear in the 2001 AUMF. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have pretended those words were in the resolution and then used the imagined words "associated forces" to claim the authorization authorizes all kinds of things that would otherwise be well beyond the scope of what the AUMF actually says.)

3. It doesn't have a sunset clause. These things are hard to repeal, especially once the military surveillance complex starts using them to justify everything it does. The only way to stop authorization of endless war without a clear goal is to at least require that Congress re-authorize the operation periodically.