The Problem With a Perpetual AUMF

What is AUMF?

The power to declare war is the most important Constitutional duty assigned to our Congress. Since the outset of the Global War on Terror, our elected officials have abdicated this responsibility, preferring to cede authority to multiple presidential administrations under the 2001 Authorization of Military Force (AUMF). Relinquishment of Congressional war powers has witnessed the staggering expansion of executive powers and the calcification of a permanent war posture, unbound by spatial or temporal boundaries.

For 15 years, Congress has declined to properly exercise its war powers, according to Bonnie Kristian writing for Real Clear Defense. Instead, it has simply reauthorized the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) instead of having presidents seek proper approval to wage war against new adversaries.

This abdication of authority, Kristian observes, is coming to a head in a legal case brought by Capt. Nathan Smith of the U.S. Army. An initially passionate anti-ISIS fighter, Smith became troubled by Congress’ lack of leadership as the Obama administration continued to wage war with its “blank check” AUMF.

As a result, Smith and legal scholars are arguing that Smith is being forced to violate his oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the War Powers Act, which requires a president to obtain approval for war from Congress within sixty days of its beginning.

Kristian writes that Yale University’s Professor Bruce Ackerman, who is advising Smith on the case, argues that “the biggest casualty in the struggle against the Islamic State so far has been the American Constitution.”

Furthermore, Kristian conveys that the “White House claimed in October that Article II of the Constitution … is all the authorization [President] Obama needs to expand the war on ISIS.” Despite this and other arguments advocating for the status quo, ending the 2001 AUMF “will not put American security at stake,” according to Kristian.

Congress could simply end the 2001 AUMF and institute an updated version, but as Kristian suggests interventionists may realize, “such a debate might demonstrate that most Americans lack the appetite we had 15 years ago for large-scale, limitless intervention at the president’s sole discretion.”

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