Wednesday 17/10/2018 - 08:10 am


Congress"s Duty on Authorizing Force


2015.03.13 03:12

 The Republicans in the Senate seem to have had no trouble inserting themselves into the Iran nuclear negotiations, when they had no business interfering. Yet they have shown little interest in carrying out a job that is squarely within their constitutional mandate — drafting an authorization for war against ISIS that Democrats can support and President Obama will sign.

The Republicans are the leaders in Congress, but their efforts to undermine Mr. Obama in every matter are infecting all governance. Unless something shifts soon, Congress may not be able to come up with any authorization and will fail to put necessary limits on American involvement so that the country does not become embroiled in another prolonged ground conflict as it did in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr. Obama insists he has ample legal authority to continue the war against the Islamic State, called ISIS or ISIL, under previous authorizations for the use of military force (one passed by Congress in 2001 to launch the fight against Al Qaeda, the other in 2002 to invade Iraq). But those authorizations never contemplated a separate military conflict against ISIS, which is already in its eighth month.
Mr. Obama sent a proposed new authorization to Congress in February that has a three-year time limit and restrictions on the use of ground forces. Democrats are correct in their analysis that the measure is not restrictive enough; Republicans want fewer constraints on military force, even though many doubt the effectiveness of the administration’s anti-ISIS strategy.
 
The hearing on Wednesday by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee raised as many questions as it answered. Top administration officials — Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — testified. They were unable to address concerns that the authorization imposed no real limitations on military operations. It prohibits the use of “enduring offensive ground combat operations,” but that term is not firmly defined. Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, asked whether deploying hundreds of thousands of troops for up to seven months would fit that definition, and Mr. Carter said that is “not something that we foresee.”
Another major concern is whether the proposed authorization would allow military operations in places like Libya, since ISIS and affiliates of the group have become active there. Mr. Carter said it could permit that if the affiliates don’t just rebrand themselves as ISIS but “associate with or fight alongside” ISIS and “have the intent of threatening Americans.”
The committee’s chairman, Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, says he knows of no Democrat who supports the administration’s proposal, and he doesn’t seem to see the urgency to act. But his job is to build bridges in the national interest, and it is urgent that Congress fulfill its responsibility.
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