Congress should update its military-force authorization.
By Andrew McCarthy
National Review Onlne
We remain a nation at peril, but are we still a nation at war?
In his State of the Union speech, President Obama signaled, yet again, that the war in Afghanistan is effectively over. Soon, in fact, it will be over by any honest measure: The presence of American troops will be halved to 34,000 in the coming months, and erased entirely by December 31, 2014. On this arbitrarily chosen date, the president claims, we will “achieve our core objective of defeating the core of al-Qaeda.”
This was just rhetorical fluff. The core of al-Qaeda will still be intact, even resurgent. It will simply have moved on to more hospitable climes such as northern Africa — thanks in no small part to a windfall of new arms from Libya, courtesy of Obama’s unprovoked, unauthorized, and strategically disastrous war to topple the Qaddafi regime.
Indeed. The 2001 AUMF is wonderfully vague. In the hands of a competent Administration with a clear foreign policy and the will to pursue and exterminate terrorist organizations which are actively waging war on the United States, that would be a good thing. In the hands of of the 0bama Administration, it has been a muddled mess which has been ineffectual.
What, moreover, has Afghanistan got to do with “defeating the core of al-Qaeda”? We have been told for years that al-Qaeda has virtually no presence in Afghanistan. It has been a very long time since the mission of our troops there was to defeat al-Qaeda’s core. For several years, their mission has been incoherent: Prop up the ramshackle and often hostile sharia government we have birthed in Kabul, while simultaneously staving off and negotiating with the Taliban. You may think, as I do, that these are futile objectives and that it is irresponsible to put our troops in harm’s way for them. Or you may believe that, though difficult, they are worthy goals. One thing you cannot credibly believe, though, is that these are the aims for which we went to war in 2001.
By its very nature, a terrorist organization such as al Qaeda is geographically in-determinant. Those Nations which choose to support, or turn a blind eye to the operations of, al Qaeda have suffered no consequences for doing so, while Nations which have supported the suppression and destruction of al Qaeda have enjoyed scant benefit (often times none) for their support over the last four years.
It is essential to remember those aims because it is they, and they alone, that determine whether we are still, constitutionally and legitimately, a nation at war. That is a very real question. It is one we must confront because on it hinges such crucial questions as whether the intensified drone campaign — the subject of heated ongoing debate — is lawful.
Understand: Though war is political act, it is also a formal legal reality. Its existence and legitimacy, in our constitutional system, are up to Congress.
Our system of government was established with three co-equal branches such that a delinquency on the part of one can, and should be, remedied by one or both of the other two branches.
How long will the Legislative branch tacitly ignore the delinquency of the Executive Branch?