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Putting an end to America’s endless wars

By in Press Enterprise on November 10, 2017

By The Editorial Board

Last week, Trump administration officials pushed back against bipartisan interest in Congress to finally rein in America’s perpetual wars abroad.

At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Oct. 30, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis downplayed the need for a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force, with Mattis claiming a new AUMF “is not legally required to address the continuing threat posed by al-Qaida, the Taliban, and ISIS.”

Arguing instead that AUMFs passed by Congress in 2001 and 2002 are legally sufficient to justify American military efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, Tillerson and Mattis expressed concerns with the prospect of a new or updated AUMF which might impose limits on America’s wars.

While claiming a new AUMF is unnecessary, Tillerson suggested any new AUMF should be free of time constraints or geographic restrictions. In other words, Tillerson wants the Congress to continue ceding limitless war-making authority to the executive branch.

That is not the sort of power the nation’s founders intended to grant the president. As James Madison wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson: “The Constitution supposes, what the history of all governments demonstrates, that the executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war in the legislature.”

And as the past 16 years have shown, American military action abroad that isn’t tethered to any comprehensive strategy or even a basic set of limitations can lead to an array of unintended consequences while bogging down the United States in costly foreign conflicts of little benefit to American national security.

The 2001 AUMF, along with the 2002 AUMF passed in support of war with Iraq, are at the very least in need of updating.

In the days following the September 11 attacks, […]    

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