Congress Should Repeal The AUMCF
Re-asserting Congressional control of the power to declare war was never more critical than right here, right now. Especially in this increasingly chaotic world, the United States needs a smart, dependable foreign policy. For this to happen, however, Congress is going to have to start doing its job.
On September 14th, 2001, as our nation reeled from the attacks of 9/11, Congress passed the Authorization of Military Force (AUMF). The law gave our military the power to pursue those responsible for the attacks, as well as any associated forces. At the time, it was the right thing to do. Now, it’s time to repeal the AUMF and reclaim Congressional control over the power to declare war.
The AUMF has allowed Congress to effectively absolve itself of any responsibility for overseeing America’s armed forces. The AUMF has been cited more than 35 times in connection with actions taken in 14 different countries. This has gone well beyond the scope originally intended when the law was passed.
Since 1787, when the Constitution came into effect, the US has participated in some 125 conflicts without declaring war. This pattern of undeclared war is clearly not what the framers of the Constitution intended. While I doubt they foresaw the type of imminent attacks al-Qaeda or ISIS launched on the US, they did see a need for collaboration between the Executive and Legislative branches in this critical decision. It is past time for our country to establish a clear, Congressionally mandated process for the special collaboration between the president and a committee of Congressional leaders.
When the framers drafted our Constitution, they gave Congress the power to declare war, and to advise and consent on matters of national security. I believe this is one of Congress’s most sacred duties. Yet, multiple undeclared wars have Americans on the ground, risking their lives: Afghanistan, where I last served for seven months, not to mention Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Africa and elsewhere, often ‘black ops’ that have the potential to spark all-out conflict.
For years, Congress has been too worried about politics to take full responsibility for this duty. They are afraid, if they vote on a military engagement, the result may affect their chances for reelection. As a result, they have allowed the Executive branch unilateral power over our armed forces.
This is not a partisan problem. Both Democratic and Republican administrations have used the AUMF to engage in military conflict, and both Democratic and Republican-controlled Congresses have allowed them to do so.
This is, instead, a problem caused by a crisis of political courage. For too long, Washington has been controlled by Members of Congress who are more concerned with protecting their own political careers than protecting our nation.
I served in the military for over three decades and retired as a Colonel in the US Air Force, where I was responsible the wellbeing training and equipment of hundreds of men and women under my command. My son currently serves overseas in the Air Force. For their safety, and his, the decision to send anyone to war, unless the immediate security of our Nation is at demonstrable and immediate risk, should only be made with the full force of our Democratic process.
Now, more than ever, Congressional oversight is needed to preserve our safety and the safety of our service men and women. Every military action our country takes has a direct effect on the safety of everyday Americans. We need our Members of Congress to display leadership, and provide the necessary, Constitutionally-mandated oversight, to make sure any application of military force is undertaken with our best, national interests in mind.
Max Della Pia is one of five Democrats running to oppose U.S. Rep. Tom Reed in the November election.