Skip to main content

At long last, Congress rightly moves to withdraw war authorization

June 21, 2021

For nearly two decades, the Washington foreign policy establishment has dragged us into unchecked, unilateral, never-ending conflicts overseas. These wars cost taxpayers trillions of dollars and leave tens of thousands of service members and their families with both visible and invisible scars.

Even worse, over 7,000 fathers, mothers, daughters, and sons never came home.

Republicans and Democrats alike are responsible for this devastating loss of blood and treasure. The Bush administration got us into these wars, the Obama administration kept us in.

Over a decade later, former President Donald Trump was the first to question why we were still there.

Last week, the U.S. House had and took the opportunity to end this faulty tradition, voting to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force.

Initially enacted to authorize the war in Afghanistan, American leaders have since abused the AUMF for nearly two decades to justify everything from invading Iraq to a drone war in Yemen to bombing African nations.

We’ve perpetuated the war in Afghanistan long after every perpetrator of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks is either imprisoned or dead. We’ve engaged in deceptive campaigns to drag us into Iraq and kept soldiers fighting and dying there for almost two decades now.

The Obama administration expanded these wars far beyond anything Congress or the public ever agreed to. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were already misguided, mismanaged, or both from the very beginning, yet these Washington insiders used them as justification to send people to fight and die in completely different countries across the globe.

Thousands of troops have been sent into harm’s way in Libya, Syria, across Africa, and just about every other part of the world in unauthorized and unconstitutional interventions without a single meaningful debate or vote in Congress. And those are just the wars we know about.

Constitutionally, Congress has final say in matters of war. The big question, though, is why isn’t Congress acting as a check on the executive branch?

Many of my colleagues praised President Joe Biden in March for signaling he wants to return this power to Congress, but three months later, neither the president nor his administration have provided any details of any such proposal, nor any timeline for implementing it. Unfortunately, the early signs are far from promising.

One month after assuming the presidency, Biden ordered a unilateral strike against Syria. According to a letter sent to Congress, the White House claimed the Constitution empowers the president to strike any group, anywhere, anytime, so long as he claims he’s defending American interests after the fact. This new Biden doctrine circumvents Congress entirely, bypassing the need to ever receive authorization for future military engagements.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the same members of Congress who raced forward with a vote to condemn Trump’s strikes in Iraq and Syria barely made a peep when Biden expanded the war powers of the presidency a year later.

This helps illustrate that the only way to prevent presidents of either political party from abusing the AUMF is to repeal it. Either we agree Congress has war power authority, regardless of who sits in the White House, or we don’t.

The Constitution is blind to party labels, barring any president from going to war without first getting the advice and consent from Congress. Even after Pearl Harbor, an actual attack on U.S. soil, then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt immediately requested a declaration of war from Congress for a war that would involve invading foreign territory. Congress granted it within 24 hours.

It’s past time to restore Congress’s constitutional authority over war and to force the legislative body to do the job our founders expected us to do. We should vote on our military actions abroad. Representatives of Congress have the ability and authority to introduce resolutions and require votes on these critical issues.

When Washington bureaucrats drag us into a war, they aren’t the ones who will do the fighting and dying. Our children will.

If Washington is going to send more and more of our children to shed their blood on foreign shores, the very least Congress can do is give their parents a say.


How Are We Doing?