The situation in Iraq grows more perilous by the day. The nation seems of the verge of dissolving into now only warring ethnic enclaves but warring ethnic enclave engaged in their own civil war. Barack Obama and his administration has stood idly by as the situation has spiraled out of control and any gains made during the Iraq War have been erased.
Yet, on Friday National Security Advisor Susan Rice sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner asking him to pass legislation to revoke the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq:
Today the House will consider H.Con.Res. 105, a resolution introduced by Representative James McGovern, Representative Walter Jones, and Representative Barbara Lee. We appreciate the House debate on Iraq, and its readiness to vote on a resolution consistent with the Administration’s views.
As the President unequivocally stated in late June, “American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq, but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region, and American interests as well.”
The President has also made clear that if American interests are threatened, “we will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it.” The President has made exceedingly clear that he will consult closely with Congress and leaders in Iraq and in the region.
While we understand the House of Representatives will consider this resolution that supports the President’s position, we believe a more appropriate and timely action for Congress to take is the repeal of the outdated 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq (P.L. 107-243). With American combat troops having completed their withdrawal from Iraq on December 18, 2011, the Iraq AUMF is no longer used for any U.S. government activities and the Administration fully supports its repeal. Such a repeal would go much further in giving the American people confidence that ground forces will not be sent into combat in Iraq.
Obama has made noises in this direction before. In a speech at the National Defense University last year Obama said:
The AUMF is now nearly 12 years old. The Afghan war is coming to an end. Core al Qaeda is a shell of its former self. Groups like AQAP must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States. Unless we discipline our thinking, our definitions, our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant Presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states.
So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate. And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further. Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.
What is noticeable is that even though the White House has asked for the AUMF to be withdrawn, despite the worldwide fight against terrorism continuing in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East it has not submitted an alternative which would allow the United States to continue prosecution of that fight with military means rather than going back to the Clinton era philosophy of treating it as a law enforcement problem. Though Politico reports that the White House wants new authority, Susan Rice’s letter makes it clear that report is simply wrong.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon was underwhelmed:
Armed Services chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said when Boehner told him about the Rice letter, “I thought he was joking.”
“Obama Administration officials are warning us daily that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is ‘worse than al-Qaeda’ and an extreme threat to the American people. The American people aren’t worried that the president will send the military back to Iraq. They’re worried about a deadly terrorist state that can hit us from Wall Street to Main Street. They’re worried that this president refuses to do anything, at anytime, in any way, to stop the flood of national security crises that are popping up around the globe,” McKeon said.
“Why on earth is the president’s national security advisor pleading with Congress to help build Americans’ confidence that the president will not confront a clear and present danger to the United States? He needs no help there. Where is her plan to stop this looming threat? Where is her request for additional intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets to monitor the situation? Why isn’t she over here, building support to stop a common enemy? Why is she fighting Congress instead of ISIS? Why on earth is she refighting the 2003 Iraq War in 2014?”
McKeon said Rice’s move “isn’t just absurd.”
“We’re past absurd. This is dangerous. This administration is fiddling while the world burns, and now they’re demanding Congress play with them,” he said.
When taken in light of Erick’s post earlier today, it gives one pause. Why is the Obama administration not lifting a finger in Iraq (Rand Paul supporters can stop reading here and go straight to comments and denounce warmongering and “beating the war drums”… and my son is 12, so no he’s not going to Iraq) while clamoring to be rid of the legal authorization to use force?
The logical reason is that it locks in the gains that ISIS and Iran have made in Iraq and prevents the next administration from taking any action roll back those advances. It also hamstrings the ability of the next president to pursue al Qaeda forces by use of military and intelligence action and forces them to use courts and law enforcement agencies in a role they are simply not designed to undertake.