The post-9/11 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUFM) "is now nearly 12 years old," Obama proclaimed, and "this war, like all wars, must end. ... That's what our democracy demands."
He, for one, welcomed this debate: "I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF's mandate."
Actually, the Obama administration hopes to keep "welcoming the debate" until it goes away. Wednesday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the AUMF made that clear — if just about nothing else.
As the U.S. terror war spreads throughout Africa and beyond, plenty of questions remain. Among them:
Does the Obama administration support repealing the AUMF?
"We did not come here this morning equipped to answer that question," admitted Pentagon General Counsel Stephen Preston. Nor did the administration's two witnesses come prepared to answer other fundamental questions, like:
If it isn't repealed, how should the AUMF be "refined"?
That's not clear either, as this exchange between Preston and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., revealed:
Johnson: Is [the president] going to provide a proposal we can review… or are we supposed to come up with it? … What's the process going to be?
Preston: I think, as he said in May of last year, that he envisions the administration's engaging with Congress, with this and other —
Johnson: That was a year ago.
Preston: I understand that.
Before repealing or "refining," it would be helpful to know how Obama interprets the post-9/11 AUMF. As Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., put it:
"What [do] you feel the AUMF gave you that you didn't have otherwise constitutionally?"