Last night the Commander-in-chief addressed the nation to lay out the latest iteration of his plan to fight ISIS (aka Daesh, a name the terrorist group hates) in Iraq and Syria. The speech came at a critical time as the fight requires a legal vote from Congress to continue funding the military response in the region. Until now, the President used the 2001 and 2003 resolutions Congress passed to allow for military action in Iraq and Afghanistan against Daesh, maintaining the terrorist group is an offshoot of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
In effect, the President is asking for a declaration of war but without the powers and privileges a formal declaration of war from Congress would give the Executive office. An authorization of military force gives the President the power and funds to use the military as he sees fit, but does not automatically trigger a constitutional set of domestic laws that he might need in an all-out war. Those laws include giving him the power to take over businesses and transportation systems, detain foreign nationals, conduct warrantless domestic spying, and the power to use natural resources on public lands. The last time a declaration of war from Congress gave the President these powers was at the outset of World War II.
The President’s 13-minute speech was, in effect, an request to Congress to vote on an authorization of military force. Obama said the following:
“For seven years, I have confronted this evolving threat each morning in my intelligence briefing. And since the day I took this office, I have authorized U.S. forces to take out terrorists abroad precisely because I know how real the danger is. As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than the security of the American people.”
He laid out four points in his current plan to combat the terrorists at home and abroad:
- Hunt down terrorist plotters in any country where necessary.
- Provide training and equipment to tens of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian forces fighting ISIS on the ground to remove safe havens
- Work with allies to stop ISIS operations, to disrupt plots, cut off financing, and prevent recruiting
- Lead the international community to establish a process for ceasefires and a political resolution to the Syrian Civil War
His request to Congress on expanding the fight in the United States not only includes passing an authorization for use of military force (AUMF) but means to combat those who are already radicalized in the United States or are on their way to the U.S.:
- Vote to authorize the continued use of military force against the terrorist organization
- Ensure no one on a No-Fly List is able to buy guns or assault weapons
- Place stronger screenings for travelers to the U.S. without visas if they’ve been to war zones
On top of his call to Congress, the President, as Commander-in-chief, laid out the roles of the American civilian in the fight against terrorist extremists.
- Avoid a costly ground war
- Reject anti-Islamic sentiment
- Help American Muslim communities root out extremist ideology
“Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes — and, yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defense of our country.” – President Barack Obama
The three points enumerated by the President are points many experts agree is part of the terrorist organization’s strategy to draw the West into un-winnable ground wars in the Middle East while gaining followers and recruits, disillusioned by the West’s potential knee-jerk anti-Islamic responses to Daesh terrorism.
The President has been asking for this authorization since February 2015. There are many who believe Congress will not authorize the continued use of force against ISIS. There are a few reasons why Congress may not pass a formal authorization:
- While the President’s actions against ISIS have so far been acceptable to Congress, even without an authorization for use military force (AUMF), a formal AUMF would require details and specifics which would telegraph the U.S.’ plans to the enemy
- Politics: The Presidential race is wide open and neither side wants to give that kind of power to a potential political rival
- A new AUMF is not necessary. The Obama Administration has been acting on previous authorizations and the Bush Administration established a precedent of engaging abroad as matters of “imminent national security.”
Congress’ disregard for a new AUMF suggests that no one wants to rock the boat for fear of giving too much power to the other political party, and there’s no political pressure to change the course of action for the time being.