Foreign Policy

Repealing the 2002 AUMF Won't Be Enough To End Forever Wars

Repealing the law that allowed America to depose Saddam Hussein won't stop us from waging war elsewhere.


The House is expected to vote tomorrow on a bill introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D–Calif.) that would repeal the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). Passed as the United States geared up for war against Saddam Hussein's regime, the 2002 AUMF authorizes the president to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq," using the U.S. Armed Forces "as he determines to be necessary." 

Authorizations like the 2002 AUMF empower the president to take military action without the approval of Congress, which is the sole body allowed to declare war according to the Constitution. Congress hasn't formally declared war since World War II, but over the years it has passed laws that have given the president increasing amounts of discretion in military conduct (with decreasing amounts of oversight).

President Joe Biden voted in favor of the 2002 AUMF as a senator—but he's now endorsing its repeal. "The administration supports the repeal of the 2002 AUMF, as the United States has no ongoing military activities that rely solely on the 2002 AUMF as a domestic legal basis," read a Monday statement. "Repeal of the 2002 AUMF would likely have minimal impact on current military operations." 

As important as it is to rein in the president's military powers, the Biden administration's statement shows that repealing the 2002 AUMF would be a largely symbolic gesture. If Biden hopes to make good on his promise to end "forever wars," he will need to look beyond just the 2002 AUMF.

The 2001 AUMF, passed one week after September 11, is a far more important framework to repeal. That measure authorizes the president "to use all necessary and appropriate force" against "nations, organizations, or persons" he determines were involved in the terrorist attacks. Presidents have capitalized on that obvious latitude, justifying 41 operations in 19 countries thanks to generous interpretations of the 2001 AUMF's phrasing. 

The 2002 AUMF, meanwhile, has mostly been used to bolster the 2001 AUMF in conducting military engagements. Since the Iraq War ended in 2011, it has not been the sole authorization behind any military operations. In 2014, the Obama administration named it as an "alternative statutory basis" for the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq. The Trump administration also invoked it to justify its conflict with the Islamic State, but asserted authorization to address threats in "Syria or elsewhere" as well. 

Even if lawmakers vote to repeal the 2002 AUMF, there remains the question of what might take its place. The Biden administration stipulated its support of repealing the 2002 AUMF with a call to replace it "with a narrow and specific framework appropriate to ensure that we can continue to protect Americans from terrorist threats." Biden proved very early into his term that he isn't opposed to continuing U.S. military operations in the Middle East. That, combined with his wish to forge a new authorization framework—perhaps with more teeth than the 2002 AUMF—should worry opponents of U.S. military entanglement abroad.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.), in announcing his support for the repeal effort, said that the Senate would consider the bill sometime "this year." Next week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will mark up a bill introduced by Sens. Tim Kaine (D–Va.) and Todd Young (R–Ind.) earlier this year that would repeal both the 2002 AUMF and the 1991 AUMF, which was passed to authorize military force during the Gulf War. 

As Reason's Scott Shackford pointed out in March, it seems that Biden "still wants to be able to act on what the administration sees as threats without having to get the approval of Congress." Repealing the 2002 AUMF may be a welcome gesture after decades of executive overreach in waging war—but the devil is in the details. 

NEXT: D.C. Council's Ban on Flavored Tobacco Products Is a License for More Over-Policing of Minorities

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22 responses to “Repealing the 2002 AUMF Won't Be Enough To End Forever Wars

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    1. The U.S. campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq. The Trump administration also invoked it to justify its conflict with the Islamic State, but asserted authorization to address threats in “Syria or elsewhere” as well more detail open this link…….VISIT HERE.

  2. Good one, yeah sure Biden and Schumer are for repeal. I doubt Biden even remembers saying it.

  3. As if the law matters any more. The law is an oppressive colonialist construct created by racist white supremacist males solely in order to perpetuate the racist white supremacist patriarchy and therefore is an evil thing all good people should go out of their way to denounce. Fuck your laws, you oppressor!

    1. Defund the police!
      Defund the police!
      Defund the police!
      Hey, that muthafucka’s robbing my house! Call 911!

  4. “End Forever Wars”? That wasn’t even in my top 10 priorities when I voted for Joe Biden.

    On the contrary, when we Koch / Reason libertarians overwhelmingly endorsed Biden, we knew we were backing the more neocon-approved candidate. An aggressive foreign policy is the natural result of that. Indeed, being on the same side as neocons is nothing new for us. Recall that’s editor-in-chief KMW used to work with Bill Kristol at The Weekly Standard.


  5. It might not be enough, but it is a start.

    1. Amen, brother.

      Even if lawmakers vote to repeal the 2002 AUMF, there remains the question of what might take its place.

      How about absolutely nothing?

      How about, seek approval of Congress first you warmongering fuck?

      How about the same way it’s been done since the beginning of the republic up to 2002?

  6. ^^^This

  7. Given that the democrats are emasculation the military, ending armed conflict involving the US military is a good idea.
    But I need help in determining if I am supposed to be studying Russian or Chinese.

    1. You are only in danger of either if we continue to erode our liberties and continue to practice unsound economics which destroy prosperity. The US led the world just through the cultural notion of personal and economic liberty (though somewhat less liberal in practice). Completely abandoning those principles is exactly the opposite of what the US should be doing, and exactly the opposite of what should be done to resist China and Russia. At this rate it soon won’t matter if you speak Russian, Chinese, or English.

  8. Why does everyone keeps calling Joe Biden president. He is in fact Former Vice President.

  9. So… repealing this act will require immediate withdrawl from Afghanistan, right? And immediate end to all drone strikes in Yemen, etc., right?

    Or are we in a post-legal presidential military authority age?

    Because they didn’t even bother with a nod toward the AUMF in weighing in on Libyan regime change using the US military. Congress didn’t even get a memo.

    And congress didn’t bother asserting their authority either.

    So ….. imperial presidency?

  10. If you want to end forever wars, you should probably end the reason we even stay over there.

    I know this irritates so many people for….some reason..but if you went with a more green energy approach that allowed us to be self reliant, you’d have near no reason to even be involved in the Middle East (besides stopping Israel and anyone around from nuking each other). Having to keep that oil train going is one of the only reasons we care at all. If our energy needs relied solely on ourselves we’d be a lot more free to forget it all and not be trapped in forever wars.

    1. It’s annoying because green energy will not work nationally. There are 2 options, both necessary.
      1) The US must revise its framework for domestic oil production and transportation (oil being necessary for energy and materials, many of which CANNOT currently be changed over. Diesel ships cannot be changed to electric with the current state of the technology. Many plastics require precise types of oil that cannot be replaced by things like hemp).
      2) The US must revise and liberalize its nuclear energy regulations. Waste is minuscule and new innovations are utilizing nuclear waste for other purposes and/or further energy production. Thorium reactors produce 1/1000th the waste of traditional reactors. Nuclear is the safest energy source in terms of deaths in manufacture, maintenance, and operation, for both engineers and locals. Thorium is even safer because it requires a catalyst that stops the reaction entirely when pulled. It is the most dense energy source and is viable well into the future. For example, a 1m/square plant can power all of Manhattan. In order to power Manhattan on wind you would literally need to cover the entire city of New York in wind turbines.

      It’s funny. Oil is a major factor for why we are over there, and that is yet another progressive policy failure.

      1. That was supposed to be 1 mile square, not 1 meter by the way lol

  11. Thats great. thats what we expect

  12. need more actions and collaborations with other parties

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  14. DJT had us self sufficient in energy.
    Biden cancelled the Keystone Pipeline, banned oil exploration in Arctic Wildlife refuge and on Federal land.
    He did allow Russia to build the pipeline to Germany.
    So now we will import oill from the Middle East and Germany will be dependent on Russia.
    An excellent anti America policy!
    I am certain we can expect no new nuclear plants to power all those electric cars.
    Another America last policy of the Biden administration!

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