Defense27 January 2016

Notes from Norm: An AUMF That Matters

In the world of government, it is likely few Americans are familiar with the acronym AUMF.  Yet, in our nation’s defense against the lethal strength of ISIS and other terror groups it may be the most important, and controversial, formation of four letters of the alphabet.

AUMF – or Authorization for Use of Military Force – has been used to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces to take the fight to those that attacked America on 9/11 and for military action in Iraq.

Those existing authorizations have been the basis for President Obama to conduct military operations around the world, while at the same time he has suggested that existing AUMFs should be refined or repealed.

Much has been made of President Obama’s timid response to wiping out ISIS and other terror groups that have grown stronger and more dangerous to the United States and our allies – as well as those we might not readily consider to be on our side like Russia and China.

To defend his lackluster efforts, he has demanded that Congress vote on an AUMF to permit him to more fully bring the fight to ISIS.

Yet, the AUMF proposed by the Obama Administration is, at best, a weak document intended to address the political optics of intending to do something while actually doing very little to actually change the course of the battle against ISIS.

The Obama Administration’s AUMF, according to ABC would “…authorize military operations against ISIS for three years, allow for the limited use of ground troops by not authorizing “enduring offensive ground combat operations.” It would also repeal the 2002 AUMF that authorized the ground invasion in Iraq, and provide reports every six months on the pace of operations.”

As has become more and more the case with foreign policy on capitol hill the reaction to the Administration’s AUMF has split, largely, across partisan lines.

Democrats fear it is too expansive and open-ended.

Republicans fear it is too weak and too limiting.

Ironically, it isn’t Republicans working to limit or tie the hands of the President to take the fight to ISIS and other terror groups throughout the world.

It is, in fact Democrats who are seeking to make it more difficult for the President and our military to do what must be done to defeat ISIS and groups like ISIS throughout the world.

Thankfully, there appears to be some movement in the United States Senate to put forward a AUMF that gives President Obama – and the next President, Democrat or Republican – the unrestricted authority to take the battle to ISIS anywhere in the world – and for as long as it takes to rid the world of this terroristic scourge.

Taking the lead in this effort is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Lindsey Graham.

Graham, who promised to get an AUMF that had teeth months ago, had this to say when he made it clear that he believed such a vote was needed in the Senate.

“I’m going to introduce an authorization to use military force against ISIL that is not limited by time, geography or means. We only have two choices regarding ISIL—fight them in their backyard or fight them in ours. I choose to fight them in their backyard.”

And, of course, Senator Graham is right.

Thanks to Leader McConnell the Senate is going to call President Obama’s bluff and get an AUMF passed that allows President Obama and other Presidents to go after ISIS in a way that can be successful.

Reacting to Leader McConnell’s efforts to move his proposal through a process inside the Senate, Senator Graham had this to say.

“The president is calling on the Congress to stand up, be counted…If our Democratic friends don’t want to give this president and other presidents the ability to go after ISIS without limitation to geography, time and means, be on the record. … If you don’t understand that these guys are moving all around the world and they’re hitting us here at home, then you’re making a mistake.”

Again, Senator Graham is right.

His proposal isn’t a “blank check” for military action. And, it is disingenuous for the Obama Administration and others who have supported this President’s use of military force throughout the world to claim it is.

Ironically, the “blank check” argument is one that the Administration has pushed back against to legitimize its own military action by citing existing AUMFs as justification for its actions.

If anyone has been acting as though they have been given a blank check to use the armed forces of the United States, it is this Administration.

It would be best if a bipartisan compromise on an AUMF could be found.  However, if Democrats insist that limitations be placed on where ISIS can be targeted and attacked or for how long then Senate Republicans need to act and call the question.

The President claims he wants the broadest authority to wage the most effective war against ISIS throughout the world.

It’s time Congress gives it to him and stop giving him cover and excuses not to do what any other President would have done long ago.