Beto O'Rourke

Beto O'Rourke: U.S. 'Has Completely Forgotten Its Constitutional Responsibility to Lawfully Declare and End These Wars'

O'Rourke has long been a critic of U.S. intervention abroad.


Beto O'Rourke's criticisms of U.S. foreign policy don't get as much attention as those of his fellow Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard. But in a recent interview with The Nation, the former Texas congressman makes a point of listing several U.S. interventions that didn't go well. "Look at [the 1953 CIA-orchestrated overthrow of Mohammad] Mosaddegh in Iran," O'Rourke says. "Coming on 19 years in Afghanistan. Twenty-seven years in Iraq, [five] successive presidential administrations. Tell me that any of those wars or covert actions or interventions have made those countries, the world, or our foreign-policy prospects any better. They haven't."

Twenty-seven years isn't the right year count for America's presence in Iraq—more on that here—but the underlying point is valid. O'Rourke's criticism of the Afghan intervention is especially welcome. The U.S. has lost 2,400 American lives and $900 billion in that war, yet Afghanistan faces worsening violence and instability.

The key to avoiding these types of conflicts "is to lead with diplomacy, holding the card of military involvement as the last resort," argues O'Rourke. "We need to bring these wars to a close. We need to follow the lead of [Democratic Reps.] Mark Pocan (Wis.) and Ro Khanna (Calif.), who are trying to prevent us from going into new wars or continuing the wars that we are effectively in, in places like Yemen," he tells The Nation.

Pocan and Khanna have been vocal opponents of U.S. involvement in the Yemen war. They were among the members of Congress to cosponsor legislation, which has now passed both houses of Congress, that tries to ensure that the president only commits U.S. military forces to conflicts abroad if he has congressional approval.

"This country has completely forgotten its constitutional responsibility to lawfully declare and end these wars, as prescribed in the first article of the U.S. Constitution," O'Rourke tells The Nation. "I don't think there's been a meaningful vote on the wars since 9/11, since the ones we had in 2001 and 2002, and I think that's desperately needed right now."

O'Rourke is referring to a pair of congressional resolutions that easily passed in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks. The 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) gives the president power to take military action against any nation or person he believes to have been involved in the 9/11 attacks. It's been used to justify military intervention not only in Afghanistan but in Syria, Somalia, the Philippines, and Niger. The 2002 Authorization of for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution, meanwhile, allowed the U.S. to invade Iraq.

Some in Congress have tried to address this issue. Last month, for instance, Sens. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) and Tom Udall (D–N.M.) introduced legislation that would withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and repeal the AUMF. The AFGHAN Service Act has yet to gain much traction the Senate.

In decrying unauthorized U.S. intervention abroad, O'Rourke echoed Paul, who warned Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week that wars must be approved by Congress. "You do not have the permission of Congress to go to war in Iran. If you want a war in Iran, you have to come to us. It's the way the Constitution was written, and it needs to be very clear," the senator told Pompeo, who was testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Paul was specifically addressing a possible U.S. intervention in Iran, but the concept applies to other potential conflicts too: If the president wants to go to war, he needs congressional approval.

This sort of anti-interventionist sentiment is not unusual for O'Rourke, who has criticized Washington's intervention in Iraq and Syria and has rightly called the AUMF "a blank check for endless war." O'Rourke has come under fire from some on the left for not being progressive enough, but when it comes to foreign policy, he's at least as much of an anti-war candidate as Sanders.

NEXT: Pete Buttigieg Is Officially Running for President

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. How dreamy!

    And how courageous to oppose the Iraq war!

    1. I agree with Beto that the American war regime under Bush/Obama/Trump (the WarBOT for short) has completely forgotten its constitutional responsibilities. However, Congress shares responsibility by writing war declarations that facilitate the permanence and expansion of the WarBOT’s wars. Unfortunately for Beto, he is part of the problem.

      The ONLY Democrat who is good on foreign policy is Tulsi Gabbart. If she were to be nominated (probability of this approaches zero), she’d be the first Democrat since McGovern to get my support. Unlike Bush’s campaign for “a more humble foreign policy”, and Obama’s campaign for “change we can believe in”, and Trump’s campaign to “make America great again”, Tulsi genuinely campaigns for sanity in foreign policy. I’ve already sent her $25 for her campaign. I figure that will both support Tulsi’s campaign for sanity in foreign policy and cost other Democrats far more than that in postage and printing in the next few years.

      1. One problem with Tulsi: OBL does not like her.

        1. ??? OBL is dead … at least that’s the official story.

          It’s true that OBL anticipated that the US response to 9/11 would be an insane foreign policy that would successfully recruit more willing Islamic terrorists and culture support for Islamic terrorism among moderate Muslims.

          If he were to be alive, OBL certainly would no like Tulsi: first, she’s a Hindu infidel, and second, she supports a sane foreign policy.

          1. OBL has indicated a preference for they/them pronouns. Just FYI.

          2. No, he’s talking about our very own OBL. That *that* one.

      2. Tulsi is good on foreign policy.
        Her domestic policy ideas are rather terrible.

  2. Has anyone called him Beta O’Cuck yet?

    1. …because that would be wrong.

      1. Tony would bet a cock that butt a gag won’t win.

    2. I think “Puta” O’Rourke is better.

    3. Just call him BetoMax. That was a loser too.

  3. dude’s a terrible speaker. struggles to sound like a man.

  4. Since when did US presidents follow the US Constitution to go to war?

  5. To what extent can we expect O’Rourke to resist the socialist policies of his fellow Democrats? Where does O’Rourke stand on the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and reparations for slavery?

    If he’s supportive of the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and reparations for slavery, then what difference does it make if he’s against invading Iraq?

  6. Show me where he made these statements when Obama was President or stop wasting my time. If he didn’t have the same thing to say when Obama was President, he doens’t mean a single word of this.

  7. Just to be clear, the CIA did not overthrow a lawful, democratically-elected leader in Iran. The CIA, desperate to sell its relevance and importance to lawmakers, took credit for domestic Iranian institutional leaders stopping an election-stealing would-be dictator from consolidating his control in Iran.

    Calling it a “CIA-orchestrated overthrow” is as silly as saying the Allied invasion of Europe was “orchestrated” by an Eagle Scout who led a scrap drive in Des Moines. And pretending the coup was anti-democratic because Mosaddegh won one election before abolishing free elections is like declaring the Allied invasion of Europe was anti-democratic because it overthrew the democratically-elected Adolf Hitler.

    1. ^^THIS^^

      But you are beating your head against the wall trying to point out the facts to reason.

    2. is as silly as saying the Allied invasion of Europe was “orchestrated” by an Eagle Scout who led a scrap drive in Des Moines.

      Nations can be toppled with a Facebook post.

  8. You know, they’re always totally against all the wars until they sit in the big seat… then they start drone bombing everyone.

    1. Obviously, they have to wind down the wars started by previous Presidents, and sometimes wage kinetic military actions on a multilateral, holistic basis, and so on…but that’s quite different, of course.

  9. […] Just last month, Beto O’Rourke gave an interview to The Nation that included several notable remarks about war powers and foreign […]

  10. […] Just last month, Beto O’Rourke gave an interview to The Nation that included several notable remarks about war powers and foreign […]

  11. Tulsi is good on foreign policy.
    Her domestic policy ideas are rather terrible.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.