Obama's Phony War Limits

After fighting ISIS for six months, the president seeks permission he says he does not need.


After waging war on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) for six months, President Obama is asking Congress for its blessing. But whether or not he gets it, he plans to continue doing whatever he thinks is necessary to "degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group."

Since he will not take no for an answer, Obama's solicitation of the legislative branch's input is a gesture of contempt rather than respect. Congress should assert its constitutional authority by rescinding the 2001 authorization for use of military force (AUMF) that Obama implausibly claims already gives him permission for his war on ISIS.

The 2001 AUMF authorized military action against the perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In a 2013 speech, Obama called upon Congress to "refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF's mandate," because "unless we discipline our thinking, our definitions, our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don't need to fight."

Last year Obama illustrated that danger by citing the 2001 AUMF as a justification for the military campaign against ISIS, which did not exist in 2001 and is no longer part of Al Qaeda. The ISIS-specific AUMF that he proposed last week repeals the 2002 resolution authorizing George W. Bush's war in Iraq but conspicuously leaves in place the 2001 AUMF.

Given Obama's reading of the post-9/11 resolution, the details of the new AUMF ultimately do not matter, but they do illustrate the president's bad faith. The proposed resolution authorizes military action "against ISIL [another name for ISIS] or associated persons or forces" anywhere in the world, a broad mandate that could easily lead to a proliferation of enemies and battlefields.

The "limitations" included in Obama's AUMF have no teeth. One says the AUMF "does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations." It's anybody's guess what "enduring" means.

Obama says the resolution "is not the authorization of another ground war like Afghanistan or Iraq," so maybe anything short of a dozen or so years does not count as "enduring" as far as he is concerned. Remember: This is the same president who claimed that dropping bombs on Libya did not constitute "hostilities."

The proposed AUMF also includes a time limit: It expires after three years "unless reauthorized." If that were a problem, it would be the next president's, not Obama's. But since by Obama's account the resolution does not give him any authority he does not already have under the 2001 AUMF (which has no expiration date), the three-year limit is no limit at all.

"I do not believe America's interests are served by endless war, or by remaining on a perpetual war footing," Obama said last week, explaining the three-year limit and the proposed repeal of the Iraq war resolution. Two years ago, he made the same argument in explaining the need to scrap the 2001 AUMF, saying it was time to "determine how we can continue to fight terrorism without keeping America on a perpetual wartime footing."

Congress should take Obama at his word by repealing the 2001 resolution. If legislators believe ISIS "poses a grave threat" to "the national security interests of the United States," as the president claims, they can approve a new resolution authorizing the war the president is already waging, ideally with a narrower definition of the enemy and a clearer understanding of the goal.

I am not convinced ISIS poses the sort of threat that justifies war. But under the Constitution, Congress is supposed to make that call. By relying on a mandate that he himself says is outdated and dangerously broad, Obama has avoided the need to make the case for war, and Congress has let him, afraid to share responsibility for a military campaign that may end disastrously.

Last week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said "Congress must meet its responsibility to decide whether our military should use force." Better late than never.

© Copyright 2015 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. Last week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said “Congress must meet its responsibility to decide whether our military should use force.”

    And what if Congress were to say no?(Wishful thinking, I know) Would Obama just stop? I don’t know at this point. Executive power has expanded so dangerously over the last decade that I’m not sure what would happen. I’d like to think that Congress could put a halt to it, but I’m not sure that we wouldn’t see some fucked-up 5-4 SCOTUS penaltax-like ruling that says the President can kill whoever the fuck he feels like.

    1. He’d just say that ISIS represents an imminent threat to American interests and use his power as Commander-in-Chief to do it anyway. The guys in Legal The DoJ would take a couple of weeks to cook up a legal justification, and Bob’s your uncle.

      1. a few months ago, ISIS was the JV squad. And we have this silly semantic game with most of the world saying ISIS and Team Obama insisting it’s ISIL.

        1. Semantic difference is that ‘the levant’ includes Israel, while ‘Syria’ does not. I wonder if there is a higher incidence of anti-Israeli sentiment among those who use ISIL to describe them versus those who use ISIS. Of course, it could just be that Obummer is an idiot.

  2. Why say “degrade and destroy”? Just say “destroy”. Degradation is a given if destruction is the goal.

    I can’t stand that kind of puffed-up, redundant phrasing. It’s like all the people who say “military action” instead of “war”. Or cops who insist on saying “individual” instead of “man” or “person” or “guy”.

    They talk that way because they think big words make them sound smart. To me, they sound like little kids trying to impress adults.

    1. Because alliteration is pleasing to the ear.

      1. We aren’t all welsh HM.

      2. Yeah, although I don’t see why presidents pretend to be poets.

      3. Alliteration isn’t always alluring.

        1. You just made an assonance of yourself there.

          1. *tugs forelock to HM, acknowledging mastery*

    2. It’s not a “military action”. It’s a “kinetic overseas contingency operation”.

      1. Kinetic military action- as if there are any actions, military or not, without movement.

        If I had my way, I would force the clowns who coin these phrases to eat a thesaurus at gunpoint.

        1. I volunteer to hold them down while you force feed them.

          1. Wordboarding!

          2. Mmmmmmmm, Bureaucratic Foie Gras…

  3. The ISIS would solve itself if they just had jerbs.

    1. The ISIS issue

      1. I believe they do have jobs. Admittedly their job title is ‘jihadi’ and they’re paid by ISIS. The North Africans have even been complaining that they get paid less than the locals jihadis and are treated as cannon fodder. Only a fool would think they’d give up their current post for a more peacable vocation.

        1. *yes, I do know which fool originally made said comment about jobs for jihadis.

          1. My mother’s friend’s aunt has been making bank as a jihadi on the interwebs. She was broke, but now she’s clearing $85 and hour!

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            1. Makin’ phat dinar, jihadin’ on the webz!

              *flings stack of dinar in the air*

    2. Government jobs programs solve any problem.

  4. At first I read “pony war,” and thought I redirected to Popehat.

    1. Too bad more ISIS guys are Bronies. I think we could take them easy.

      1. *aren’t*

  5. “gesture of contempt ”

    Shrugs. So what? Maybe they are worthy of contempt.

    Jacob, I’m a little confused. Do you think Congress is full of anti war radicals? Do you think Obama will get the authority to do whatever he wants against ISIS? If so, isn’t all this talk about contempt just parsing? I sure wish you were around to apply this level of scrutiny back in 2003. It was a little lacking at Reason when gwb started a couple decade long wars back then.

    1. Thank GAWD elections have consequences and we elected a Nobel peace prize carrying dove.

      1. Yeah, if we elected McCain in 2008 we’d still have a hundred thousand troops in Iraq and morons like francisco shooting at Iraqis while he lectures Leftists about limited government. It’s the sickening hypocrisy of right-wingers that gets me the most, to be honest.

        1. It’s the sickening hypocrisy of right-wingers that gets me the most, to be honest.

          But, of course, you are just fine with the hypocrisy of leftists.

          die in a fire, team blue a-hole – maybe ISIS could do the job

    2. Principals over principles

    3. It was a little lacking at Reason when gwb started a couple decade long wars back then.

      You are so full of shit it isn’t funny, you mendacious fuck.

      1. One article? I mean, thank God the editor of a libertarian magazine came out opposed to a war against a country that never attacked us. How brave. You should see what he was writing about Iraq war protestors or when Michael Moore dared to talk about politics at the Academy Awards, because, you know, Leftists who protest war are smelly or something.

        But I was talking more about this…… I see that Ron Bailey is lately sticking to his articles about global warming. I say that’s a good thing.

        1. I see dipshit can’t link.
          Almost as hard as paying a mortgage, right, slimebag?
          So I fixed the link (hint fuckface, delete the period) and find what I guess is the money quote here:

          “First, it is clearly in the interests of the United States to foster the creation of a world populated by commercial republics. One of the keys to achieving this goal is vigorously promoting free trade abroad. Secondly, we need to encourage citizens from countries living under tyrannical regimes to come to the United States to be educated so that they can experience the operation of our free institutions directly. Thirdly, and most controversially, the Federal government should revive the Reagan Doctrine?we should support, train, and finance insurgent movements aimed at overthrowing authoritarian regimes.”

          Now, shitbag, what is your point?
          And, yes, you are a dipshit, a slimebag, a fuckface and a shitbag.
          And worse.

          1. Geesch… Here is the link.


            You can read it yourself and see what the brave writers at Reason we’re saying on the cusp of an occupation of a country that never attacked us.

            “Now, shitbag, what is your point?”

            Probably something about one’s integrity.

    4. BOOOOOOOOOSH!!!!!

    5. All rise for the AmSoc theme song:

      We love the Soviets, Kims, and Cubans
      The Vietcong and the Chinese!
      The state is all that really matters
      and people are just ants and bees!
      We paint Marx, Guevara, Mao
      and Trotsky
      A sickle and some stars
      And not to mention a red hammer
      On our hybrid, hippy cars!
      [trumpet flourish]

      Grow your beard!
      Hate religion!
      But America more!
      Support the
      red faction
      in every civil war!
      Wear fatigues and keffiyehs
      and share all that you own!
      Your rally is hindered by the man?
      Pick up
      the nearest stone!

    6. Once again, AmSoc reveals himself/herself to be a standard Team Blue cheerleader. When confronted with criticism of its Team Captain, it responds with a canned tu quoque. Apparently the only real problem it had with Iraq was that the Prez at the time was wearing the wrong jersey.

      1. We all know that you can’t distinguish between a land war committing a 100,000 or so troops to an occupation of a country that never attacked us and a couple of bombing runs against Islamic militants looking to commit a genocide against a Kurdish minority. I’m not a pacifist so I just say wars should be judged on their merits.

        1. Yes, Obama, who became a leftist favorite because of his anti-war sentiment almost as much as his skin color, stopped the Iraq and Afghan wars, and closed Gitmo, while not engaging US forces anywhere else.

          Oh wait…

  6. For amusement sake, it is going to be funny seeing all the people who have been sucking obama’s cock the past 8 years magically rediscover their problems with executive power once the next time the president is a republican. Will they even pretend to care about the constitution again?

    Related, I’ve noticed the suspicious lack of anti-filibuster articles recently now that the dems are ones using it.

    1. I’ve been taking notes. I cannot wait, and I mean CANNOT WAIT, for the first Tony/AmSoc/Buttplug post screaming “NO WAR FOR OIL” or some shit.

      1. Yeah, the anti-war movement has been eerily quite for the better part of a decade. Seriously, maybe I just haven’t noticed but it seems that no more than a thousand people have bothered to group together to protest any of our military actions in the last six years.

        I don’t believe OWS counts. Sure, anti-war demonstrations did take place there, but it wasn’t the main focus of the movement.

        1. *quiet

      2. “CANNOT WAIT, for the first Tony/AmSoc/Buttplug post screaming “NO WAR FOR OIL” or some shit.”

        Commie kid was on a thread earlier today, trying to spin some statistic to show that Obo wasn’t as bad as BOOOOOOOSH!
        So now it’s ‘Obo runs a better war for oil than Bush did!’
        That’s as good as it gets from what passes for a brain in a proggie.

        1. Sorry, there’s the dipshit right there on THIS thread.
          I MUST keep up.

    2. In fairness, most people who claim to care about the Constitution now will conveniently forget that once a Republican is president. TEAM BE RULED always has the necessary support to do what it wants.

  7. Remember: This is the same president who claimed that dropping bombs on Libya did not constitute “hostilities.”

    Dropping bombs is only “aggressive negotiations”.

    1. Nonsense, it was “energizing the grassroots” (admittedly with chemically generated kinetic energy…)

  8. Will they even pretend to care about the constitution again?

    “We’ll always have Paris the Commerce Clause.”

  9. Sometimes man you jsut have to roll with it.

  10. He’s doing this because he knows he doesn’t really need Congressional approval. There’s a presidential election coming up. Any Republicans that vote against authorization will be crucified by the hawks as soft-on-terrorism. Any Dems that vote against it will lose support from their party in their next primary. Hell, the Lindsey Grahams and John McCain’s of the world, much as they’d love to thumb their noses at Obama, aren’t gonna risk the precedent of curbing executive power two years before they might put a Republican in office. This is a tap-in, and Barry knows it.

    1. Damn I wish there was an edit button. What I meant to say in the first sentence is that he knows there’s no risk to a vote and he doesn’t need to sell Congress on the new AUMF.

    2. True, WWH, but Congress could include a repeal of the 2001 AUMF in its new authorization and more carefully define the limits and consequences to POTUS for exceeding them.

      Haha! Like that’s going to happen!

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