Reprinted from www.ips-dc.org
ORIGINALLY IN FOREIGN POLICY IN FOCUS.
(Photo: U.S. Army / Flickr)
At long last, the Obama administration has submitted a draft resolution to Congress that would authorize the ongoing U.S.-led military intervention against the Islamic State, or ISIS.
The effort comes more than six months after the U.S. began bombing targets in Iraq and Syria. Since then, some 3,000 U.S. troops have been ordered to Iraq, and coalition air forces have carried out over 2,000 bombing runs on both sides of the border.
The language proposed by the White House would authorize the president to deploy the U.S. military against the Islamic State and "associated persons or forces" for a period of three years, at which point the authorization would have to be renewed.
In an attempt to reassure members of Congress wary of signing off on another full-scale war in the Middle East, the authorization would supposedly prohibit the use of American soldiers in "enduring offensive ground combat operations." It would also repeal the authorization that President George W. Bush used to invade Iraq back in 2002.
The New York Times describes the draft authorization as "a compromise to ease concerns of members in both noninterventionist and interventionist camps: those who believe the use of ground forces should be explicitly forbidden, and those who do not want to hamstring the commander in chief."
As an ardent supporter of "hamstringing the commander in chief" in this particular case, let me count the ways that my concerns have not been eased by this resolution.
1. Its vague wording will almost certainly be abused.
For one thing, the administration has couched its limitations on the use of ground forces in some curiously porous language.
How long is an "enduring" engagement, for example? A week? A year? The full three years of the authorization and beyond?
And what's an "offensive" operation if not one that involves invading another country? The resolution's introduction claims outright that U.S. strikes against ISIS are justified by America's "inherent right of individual and collective self-defense." If Obama considers the whole war "inherently defensive," does the proscription against "offensive" operations even apply?
And what counts as "combat"? In his last State of the Union address, Obama proclaimed that "our combat mission in Afghanistan is over." But only two months earlier, he'd quietly extended the mission of nearly 10,000 U.S. troops in the country for at least another year. So the word seems meaningless.
In short, the limitation on ground troops is no limitation at all. "What they have in mind," said California Democrat Adam Schiff, "is still fairly broad and subject to such wide interpretation that it could be used in almost any context."