Congressional Authorization and the War on Terrorism

Congressional Authorization and the War on Terrorism

The 9/11 terror attacks shook the whole world & forced the U.S. government to implement robust laws for national security & defense. Consequently, this necessitated the U.S. Congress to pass the Authorization for the use of Military Force (AUMF) on September 14, 2001. In a nutshell, AUMF grants an authorization to the President to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those whom he considers “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the September 11th attacks, or who had any ties to terrorists or terror organizations such as Al-Qaeda & the Taliban. Now, after a decade and a half, we find equipped US military personnel deployed in as many as 19 countries which are Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Kenya, Niger, Cameroon, Uganda, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Djibouti, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Cuba, and Kosovo. Looking at the ever-growing presence of the US military in foreign countries, people have started to question the validity of this legislation. However, many people are of the opinion that stepping up the military presence only makes sense as terrorism is a growing threat.

In a general age of paranoia, there’s much debate on the nature of military operations as many Congress members think that over-anticipation & pre-emptive strikes could aggravate the problem. However, there’s a fragile line between preventive & pre-emptive strikes. What’s not clear is how far does the AUMF reach out? Some Congressmen argue that AUMF is also applicable to the fight against ISIS and it can’t be mandatory to seek approval from the Congress, while others say that ISIS is an entirely different organization & should be treated separately from Al-Qaeda, which makes a case for Congressional approval. US military involvement in the Syrian conflict is an example where AUMF’s objectives are being looked at in a different light. The counterstrikes against the Assad regime in Syria for using chemical weapons also made people question the extent of AUMF’s reach. Trump administration suggested that it was instead the President’s constitutional authority as Commander-In-Chief to use military force for defending the national interests of the U.S.

Michael J. Glennon, professor of international law at Tufts University says, “The administration’s interpretation of the AUMF defeats the founder’s purposes. He further explains the founders authorized the executive to administer military force only in a state of emergency when threats to the nation are too imminent. When it’s not an emergency, the President must seek the approval of Congress. The killing of four U.S. soldiers in an ambush in Niger drew the national attention towards the deployment of U.S. soldiers in Niger. Several Congressmen weren’t even aware of U. S’s military presence in Niger. It is quite conspicuous that the Constitution is ambiguous about the role of military forces abroad.

In the past few years, several amendments to AUMF have been proposed. In 2018, a bipartisan coalition of senators led by Bob Corker & Tim Kaine released a draft authorization for military force. The draft aimed at providing “an updated, clear & sustainable statutory basis for counter-terrorism operations. It is up to a lot of speculation if the proposed 2018 AUMF will stand the test of time & deliver what it promises to do. However, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson & Secretary of Defense James Mattis strongly maintains their stand in favor of AUMF. Mattis reportedly said, “The 2001 and 2002 authorizations to use military force, or AUMF remains a sound basis for ongoing U.S. military operations against a mutating threat.” Amidst all this confusion & ambiguity, it’s hard to tell if the AUMF is a considerable advantage of defense tactics or just an unnecessary expansion of military activities in foreign countries.

What do you think? Should the President be able to authorize military force against Al-Qaeda without Congressional approval?

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