Top senators in both parties have begun talks on revising, or updating, the congressional resolution authorizing the use of military force following the Sept. 11, 2001, but signs are that any “revision” will simply expand the purview of the already expansive law.
Critics of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) have long complained that the sweeping mandate to use force against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks and their affiliates has served as a blank check for permanent war.
Indeed, “the AUMF opened the doors to the US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya; attacks on Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Mali; the new drone bases in Niger and Djibouti; and the killing of American citizens, notably Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old noncombatant son,” write Michael Shank and Matt Southworth in the Guardian.
“It is what now emboldens the hawks on the warpath to Syria, Iran and North Korea,” they add.
But the senators involved in talks to revise the AUMF are not exactly civil libertarians worried about permanent war waged by the Executive Branch. They include Senator John McCain, Carl Levin, Lindsey Graham, Bob Corker, and Dick Durbin.
Durbin seems to at least acknowledge the AUMF’s true problems: “None of us, not one who voted for it, could have envisioned we were voting for the longest war in American history or that we were about to give future presidents the authority to fight terrorism as far flung as Yemen and Somalia. I don’t think any of us envisioned that possibility,” he said.
But the real motivation for revising the war statute is probably an attempt to expand it so that it is updated to include groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, Ansar al-Sharia, and other Islamist militant groups sprouting up around the world that did not exist at the time the bill was written.