By Daniel DePetris
This week, three Republicans and three Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee introduced a new authorization for the use of U.S. military force in what has become a never-ending war on terrorism. It aims to provide lawmakers with the ability to rein in the president's power to deploy troops in what has become our forever war.
The current statutory authority, the Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF, has been flexible to the point of absurdity. Passed a week after the 9/11 attacks, it authorized a conflict originally designed as a legitimate retaliatory campaign against Al Qaeda. Four presidencies later, we are fighting in multiple countries and across two continents against groups not even in existence when the 2001 resolution was written.
While congressional action on a new authorization is certainly warranted and welcome, the authorization released last week will do very little to address the problem of potential executive overreach. The draft AUMF, in fact, again provides the White House with a blank check, under a cloak of transparency and accountability.
If there is one lesson Congress should have learned in nearly two decades since the 2001 AUMF, it is that a sunset, or cut-off date, is an essential component in dealing with asymmetrical warfare and enemies. In its absence, the president is granted the ability to fight the war as long as he or she chooses. Indeed, the only way Congress can terminate a war in such a situation is by rescinding the authority altogether or cutting off appropriations — two possibilities that are fantastical in today's political environment.
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