Even as America’s military footprint has dramatically expanded across two decades, Congress’s war powers have atrophied for lack of use. America’s founders intended for the act of going to war to be slow, challenging, and deliberate. But with a generous Pentagon budget, limited congressional oversight, and the secretive nature of special operations forces, going to war has never been easier!
Checks on war have eroded not through legal or constitutional changes, but through Congress’s dereliction of duty, with the complicity of the executive branch. The good news is that altering this reality does not require changing law. If President-elect Biden is serious about ending endless wars, leading with diplomacy, and using force only as a last resort, as his foreign-policy platform indicates, he need only end the practice of actively overstepping the bounds of executive authority. Just because Congress will allow it does not mean Biden is obliged to do it.
President-elect Biden should encourage Congress to rein in ongoing military activity. But there are steps Biden can take even if Congress is unwilling to take war decisions back where they are meant to be.
President-elect Biden does not need a compliant Congress to raise the threshold for expanded military engagement.
Haunted by the 2002 decision to authorize war in Iraq, members of Congress would just as soon avoid the hard votes for war. As a result, for 20 years now, successive U.S. presidents have relied on the 2002 Iraq War authorization and the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) as cover to launch at least 41 operations in 19 countries. While the language of the 2001 AUMF is overly broad, its continued application has exceeded the reasonable bounds of even the most generous interpretation of an authorization intended to retaliate against those involved or supporting those involved in the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Read the full article in The American Prospect.