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Congress Divided Over AUMF

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One week ago Congress finally got what it had been waiting for: President Barack Obama requested that they grant him a three-year Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIL).

So far though, Congress has stalled and the requested authorization has taken flak from both the Left and the Right.

Strangely enough, this appears to be a fight on Capitol Hill which will pit the majority of the Republican Party alongside President Obama and in opposition to large swathes of the Democratic Party, including close Obama ally and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Meanwhile, a poll released Tuesday by CNN shows that the majority of the American public disagree with the administration’s handling of the Islamic State so far, and that the majority of Americans favor stronger military actions against ISIL.

This point of view appears to be prevalent on campus, where students like Brooke Boisseau, a sophomore double major in French and international studies, voiced her support for the AUMF.


Other options have been tried and haven’t really worked,” Boisseau said. “We tried the drone strikes, and ISIS isn’t open to diplomacy. We’ve tried giving aid and weapons to groups like the Kurds, but that obviously isn’t making a big impact. I feel like something else needs to be done, and it has to have a time limit on it so it isn’t like we are involved (in the Middle East) for another decade.


Republicans, in a role reversal from their stance on the majority of executive actions taken by the Obama Administration, are actually arguing that the measure is too restrictive, and that it does not grant the president enough flexibility and power to effectively respond to the situation in the Middle East.

Democrats, on the other hand, have by-and-large blanched at the thought of allowing anything that has the potential to see American combat troops back on the ground in Iraq, which is to be expected considering that many Democrats now in Congress – and especially in the Senate – ran campaigns that harped on the need to get America out of Iraq.

Some have questioned the actual legality of the AUMF itself. However, this has largely come from outside the political establishment, and in Washington itself no one has stepped forward to challenge the authorization on legal grounds.

This is in large part because of precedent: the United States currently has two AUMFs in effect, which authorized the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and form the legal basis of the ongoing Global War on Terror.

The main argument involving the document actually revolves around the phrase, “enduring offensive ground combat operations.” As in, the AUMF would prohibit them.

However, no one knows how the administration would define “enduring,” which has led to considerable consternation on both sides of the aisle.

There’s a real ambivalence there,” said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin. “There should be more clarity in terms of what that means. There’s a lot at stake.

Of course all of this is politics, ignoring the moral argument, which was summed up quite succinctly by Wilson Williams, a sophomore history major and ROTC cadet.

If the United Nations, nor any other multinational organization, will do their jobs, the United States must do it for them,” Williams said. “The United States is the best agency to promote peace and stability around the world, and has the resources to do so. (There) are people hurt and dying in the so-called Caliphate.

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