June 07, 2018

Congress Should Oversee America’s Wars, Not Just Authorize Them

By Richard Fontaine and Vance Serchuk

Nearly 17 years after the 9/11 attacks, a bipartisan coalition of senators has put forward legislation that promises to overhaul the legal framework for America’s worldwide campaign against terrorism. Proponents of this measure argue the existing authorization for military force—an AUMF in wonk-speak—passed back in September 2001 has become woefully outdated. The failure to modernize it, supporters say, represents a dereliction of duty by Congress.

They have a point. The text of the 2001 AUMF no longer bears much resemblance to the wars we are fighting and that we will continue to fight for the foreseeable future. As a matter of both constitutional good practice and common sense, the case for an updated statute is clear.

The problem is that, while a new authorization is legally desirable, its real-world impact is likely to be minimal—doing little more than sanctioning military operations the executive branch is already prosecuting. Lawmakers who portray passage of an AUMF as the ultimate fulfillment of their war-powers responsibilities therefore risk elevating constitutional form over national security substance—while neglecting the far more powerful but less formal tools Congress possesses to influence America’s post-9/11 wars for the better.

That is unfortunate because the need for thoughtful, energetic congressional activism has never been greater. From Afghanistan to Syria to the Sahel, multiple complex U.S. military operations are unfolding . Members of Congress are uniquely positioned to scrutinize these efforts and the strategy underlying them, identify any flaws and failures in policy, and inject innovative or disruptive new ideas into the public debate that will make success more likely.

In the mid-2000s, for instance, it was Members of Congress from both parties who were pivotal in challenging—and eventually overhauling—the Bush administration’s strategy in Iraq.

Read the Full Article at Lawfare

  • Reports
    • October 26, 2021
    The Poison Frog Strategy

    Introduction How could Taiwan and the United States respond if China seized one of Taiwan’s outlying islands, such as Pratas/Dongsha (hereafter Dongsha) in the South China Sea...

    By Chris Dougherty, Jennie Matuschak & Ripley Hunter

  • Podcast
    • October 22, 2021
    The Daily Scoop

    Greg Grant joins The Daily Scoop to discuss a recent CNAS paper about improving joint operational concept development within the DoD. And they speak to Bob Work about the ongo...

    By Greg Grant & Robert O. Work

  • Reports
    • October 21, 2021
    Improving Joint Operational Concept Development within the U.S. Department of Defense

    Executive Summary For the first time in nearly four decades, the DoD is developing joint warfighting concepts designed to counter advanced military rivals—specifically China a...

    By Paul Benfield & Greg Grant

  • Commentary
    • Foreign Policy
    • October 19, 2021
    Why the Pentagon Should Abandon ‘Strategic Competition’

    The U.S. Defense Department has recently been taught it too needs to say the magic word in every force, capability, or resource request. But the magic word isn’t please; it’s ...

    By Becca Wasser & Stacie Pettyjohn

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia