As Congress takes up the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), I will insist it vote on my amendment to sunset the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force.
Because these authorizations to use military force are inappropriately being used to justify American warfare in 7 different countries. Sunsetting both AUMFs will force a debate on whether we continue the Afghanistan war, the Libya war, the Yemen war, the Syria war, and other interventions.
Our military trains our soldiers to be focused and disciplined, yet the politicians who send them to fight have for years ignored those traits when developing our foreign policy.
The result? Trillions spent in seemingly endless conflicts in every corner of the globe, while we find ourselves 16 years into the war in Afghanistan wondering what our purpose there even is any more, or if we’ll ever bring our troops home.
If we don’t get this rudderless foreign policy under control now, we’ll still be asking the same questions another 16 years down the road.
It’s time to demand the policymakers take their own jobs as seriously as the men and women we ask to risk it all for our nation.
Doing so means restoring constitutional checks and balances. Congress has no greater responsibility than defending our country, and the Founders entrusted it with the power of declaring war because they wanted such a weighty decision to be thoroughly debated by the legislature instead of unilaterally made by the Executive branch.
Yet Congress has largely abdicated its role anyways, and its sidekick status was plainly evident when former President Obama proposed a new AUMF for the fight against ISIS while insisting he really had all the authority he needed – it being more of a “wouldn’t it be nice” afterthought than an acknowledgement of any required step.
Repealing the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs would restore respect for the balance of power and reassert Congress’ voice by forcing legislators to specifically approve or disapprove the direction of our foreign policy. If my provision passes, the authorizations would sunset six months later, allowing Congress time for a thorough debate about how we will move forward.
I say this fully aware Congress could propose a blanket authorization I could never vote for, but that vote needs to at least happen.
Let’s hear from those who want that blanket authorization and wish to keep the policy of perpetual war going. Let’s give the American people a chance to see that case laid out and to make their voices known. Their representatives cannot continue to hide behind steps taken 16 years ago to avoid accountability and debating the tough issues now.
Americans were unified in bringing the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks to justice, and the 2001 AUMF reflected that in approving action against those that planned, aided, or carried out the attacks, or protected those who did. I would have voted for it because it was the right thing to do.
It said nothing, however, about launching airstrikes against ISIS in Libya. Or Syria. Or intervening in Yemen.
Although ISIS is a threat we must confront and defeat, we cannot continue to throw our Constitution out the window to do so, or our enemies will have won a crucial victory no matter how many of them we destroy.
Believing in that document – having the confidence that the Founders were students of government’s mistakes throughout history and got it right – strengthens us more than opening yet another front with billions of dollars we have to borrow from another country.
Instead of pursuing a whack-a-mole foreign policy that consistently keeps us on the defensive and endangers our nation by spreading us thin, let’s utilize the same focus and discipline we expect of our military to give them specific authorization as each unique situation warrants.
My amendment would give the U.S. Senate that chance.