Published on
by

Presidential Candidates Must Promise to Rein in Use of Force

The American people need presidential candidates who will vow to use peaceful, constructive means to solve diplomatic disagreements.

Every presidential hopeful should publicly publicly commit to not use the 2001 or 2002 AUMFs to take military action. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Every presidential hopeful should publicly publicly commit to not use the 2001 or 2002 AUMFs to take military action. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Tuesday night, Democratic candidates took to the stage for another debate that touched on a lot of topics that have garnered the politically-minded public’s attention in recent days, including Australia’s bushfires, the impeachment proceedings against President Trump, and the killing of Major General Suleimani of Iran’s Quds Force. It’s unusual for foreign policy to be so prominently discussed so early in a presidential debate, but being brought to the brink of war with Iran seems to have highlighted the urgency of foreign policy for our next administration.

Every  candidate who spoke on the subject agreed that the United States should not be on the path to war with Iran. What’s more, most of them agreed that the President did not have the authority under previous war authorizations to go to war with Iran, which was a genuine danger given the drone strike in Iraq that killed Suleimani. This is a major recognition that the Trump administration has followed in the footsteps of previous administrations in claiming for itself far more extensive war powers than it has actually been granted by the Constitution.

The U.S is operating in 40% of the world’s countries and has troops in combat in 14 countries, including such disparate geographies as Yemen, Somalia, Kenya, the Central African Republic, Mauritania, and Cameroon.

However, this is not enough. To help ensure the next administration’s respect for their constitutional obligation to consult Congress before going to war, we need presidential candidates to promise that, if elected, they would not abuse the executive’s Constitutionally-enumerated war powers. Warren did state that she would only use military force if the country was faced with an imminent threat, as the power of self-defense is well within the President’s acknowledged powers as commander-in-chief. However, this language has been used and abused across multiple administrations, both Republican and Democrat, in order to evade the legal obligation to secure an AUMF to engage in military action abroad.

The authorizations alluded to during the debate are the most current and direct incarnation of this trend. The 2001 AUMF specifically authorized the limited use of force against the groups who planned or aided in the September 11th terrorist attacks. Now, it has been stretched beyond recognition to support the endless, global “war on terror” being waged by the United States 18 years later. The U.S is operating in 40% of the world’s countries and has troops in combat in 14 countries, including such disparate geographies as Yemen, Somalia, Kenya, the Central African Republic, Mauritania, and Cameroon.

National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien indicated that the drone strike that killed Suleimani was supposedly authorized under the 2002 AUMF.  The 2002 Iraq War AUMF authorized the U.S.’s invasion of Iraq in 2003; however, it has mainly been used over the last 17 years to bolster the U.S.’s claims of authority in other theaters identified above.

The stretching of these two authorizations is a total departure from both the objective reality of their factual basis and the law which governs presidential use of force. Decades-old authorizations cannot and should not suddenly apply to new situations merely due to mission creep. We are glad that the Democratic presidential candidates agree with the numerous legal experts and members of Congress who insist that these authorities do not apply to using force against Iran, but they must take more proactive measures to prevent such abuses in the future, even by a Democratic administration.

Obviously, a great deal of that burden rests with Congress, and members of Congress are already taking steps to stop war with Iran. The House has passed a resolution requiring the President to seek permission from Congress before using any more military action against Iran, and the Senate should follow suit (or support any other independent piece of legislation similar to the multiple resolutions currently circling the House and the Senate).

But we still need more. Every presidential hopeful should publicly publicly commit to not use the 2001 or 2002 AUMFs to take military action. If the next President thinks force might be merited, they should be required to go before Congress for permission, as envisioned in the Constitution. Any future war authorizations should have mandatory sunset clauses and other restrictions to prevent authorizing another round of “forever wars”.

Beyond that, the American people need presidential candidates who will vow to use peaceful, constructive means to solve diplomatic disagreements. We must turn away from a force-first foreign policy built on American hegemony. If we are to prevent future bloodshed, our Congress and our next president must act to substantively restore Congress' war powers. If we are to choose peace, we must first reclaim the power of choice.

Ashley Pratt

Ashley Pratt

Ashley Pratt is a member of the Foreign Policy Generation. Ashley has a master’s degree in International Relations from the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. She produces and hosts the Women in Foreign Policy podcast. She has also previously worked in international open-source research.

 

Susan Nahvi

Susan Nahvi

Susan Nahvi is a member of the Foreign Policy Generation. Susan holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Penn State University. She has worked as an advocate with Human Rights First and the Friends Committee on National Legislation, pushing for greater respect for human rights in the U.S.’s national security policies.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news outlet. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Won't Exist.

Please select a donation method:



Share This Article