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NYT Pushes For Congress To Pass Authorization Of War Against ISIS


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The New York Times editorial board is urging Congress to carry out its duty and finally authorize the war against the Islamic State.

In an op-ed published Saturday, the editorial board argued that the increasing role of the American military in combating ISIS in conjunction with the group’s rapid decline means that it’s essential for Congress to authorize the war, in order to set the foundations for what happens after the dust settles.

“But as the American military is doing its job, Congress is refusing to do its duty,” the piece read. “Nearly three years into the war against ISIS, lawmakers have ducked their constitutional responsibility for making war by not passing legislation authorizing the anti-ISIS fight. This is not merely a bureaucratic issue. While the president has the power to order troops into battle, the founders were adamant about ensuring that only Congress could commit the nation to protracted overseas military actions.”

While the editorial board admitted that members of Congress have in the past tried to pass an Authorization for Use of Military Force, the board added that the attempts failed because of “congressional fecklessness.”

However, a large of the reason why the authorization has failed to garner the required votes is because under the Obama administration, Republicans were concerned that an authorization would essentially constitute an endorsement of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, which many viewed as utterly disastrous.

As GOP Rep. Tom Rooney put it in early 2016, “I hate to be seen giving him the authority or green light or my vote to do anything because I have no confidence in him at all in that theater.”

And even without the authorization, the war seemed to proceed just fine, as the Obama administration argued that the justification for the war against ISIS flowed from the 2001 AUMF, which allowed war against al-Qaida. In other words, the administration argued that ISIS constituted a seamless offshoot of the terror group.

For the editorial board, this legal justification is dubious at best.

But there may be a renewed hope for authorization under a Trump administration. Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine is trying to gain support for such an effort. The topic has come to the forefront again because Democratic Sen. Tom Udall said to Secretary of Defense James Mattis that it’s possible to argue the United States has violated Syria’s sovereignty by unilaterally invading the northern part of the country.

And that is precisely the narrative that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has maintained. In an interview with Chinese television earlier in March, Assad said he considered U.S. forces as “invaders.”

Mattis answered Udall that given the havoc ISIS has wreaked on Syria and Iraq, it doesn’t make much sense to “draw that imaginary line in the midst of an enemy.”

However, Mattis also added that he would have no problem if Congress passed authorization. Previously, House Speaker Paul Ryan has supported the idea of an AUMF.

If Congress refuses to act, the editorial board noted, a court could declare the war against ISIS unlawful, because if President Donald Trump decides to ship new ISIS detainees to Guantanamo Bay, the Obama administration’s interpretation of the 2001 AUMF could be subject to judicial review.


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