In a wide-ranging speech at the United Nations today, President Joe Biden made a curious and inaccurate claim that the United States is no longer at war. Americans need to understand that even as we withdraw from Afghanistan, the U.S. is nowhere near on a peace footing.
Biden's speech (read the transcript here) focused significantly on "looking ahead." It dealt with climate change, fighting the spread of COVID-19, protecting infrastructure from cyberattacks, containing Iran and North Korea, and fighting new terror attacks.
Early in the speech, Biden noted that America (and the rest of the world) has "ended 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan." That's certainly true. But later, as he wrapped up the speech, Biden delivered this whopper:
I stand here today, for the first time in 20 years, the United States is not at war. We've turned the page. All the unmatched strength, energy, and commitment, will and resources of our nation, are now fully and squarely focused on what's ahead of us, not what was behind.
That is just simply not true. As commander in chief, Biden is still operating under the authority of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which, on paper, grants the president only authority to bring the military to bear against those responsible for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but in reality has been used by multiple U.S. presidents to authorize very broad military interventions throughout the world.
Furthermore, the 2002 AUMF, which directly authorized the military invasion of Iraq, is still in force. The House voted in June to repeal the 2002 AUMF, but that repeal hasn't passed the Senate yet. We still have thousands of troops in Iraq and are currently planning to keep them there indefinitely. The plan is that these troops will serve as logistics and advisory help for Iraq's government, but they will most definitely still be involved in fights against the Islamic State.
We may have pulled troops out of Somalia, but we're still performing airstrikes there against Al Qaida affiliate al-Shabab. In June, the Pentagon announced that it is considering putting troops right back in there.
And none of that gets into the countless—well, not countless, but the numbers are deliberately concealed from the American public—drone strikes in places like Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan, and Libya. We don't really have data on drone use under the Biden administration yet, save the disastrous one from late August in Kabul that killed 10 civilians, including 7 children. Biden has reportedly quietly implemented stricter rules on the use of drones outside of war zones and the White House is evaluating the legal and policy "frameworks" for continuing to use them.
Biden might not see all of this piecemeal military intervention as "war," but let's be clear here: We're talking about thousands of U.S. troops overseas involved in potentially killing armed combatants. And Biden currently still has congressional permission to wage war.
This is not actual peace. We have not "turned a page." Don't mistake the U.S. pulling out of Afghanistan as an end of 20 years of military interventions. U.S. military interventions are still going on right now.