The repeal of these authorizations is welcome. But most Americans hardly realize that men wearing their uniform are involved in conflicts in Niger and Yemen. They hardly understand the ins and outs of what is happening now in Iraq and Afghanistan. And leaving the 2001 authorization to cover all these actions still allows the White House and its lawyers to send the military out under new emanations and penumbra of an act of Congress passed nearly a generation ago. Congress will not be taking responsibility in any real way.
Stephen Walt, writing at Foreign Policy, notes that this state of affairs allows members of Congress to look like they are taking some responsibility back, but none has transferred into their hands. “Doves can complain that presidents are misusing their authority and leading us into pointless quagmires, and hawks can express their outrage whenever a president fails to take some military action they favor,” Walt writes.
We need to go much further. President Biden has asked for further AUMF reform, something “narrow and specific.” That’s exactly as it should be. It also serves his interest to do so. As it is now, Biden inherits half a dozen conflicts. Any one of them could produce a Mogadishu moment, which Bill Clinton faced in his first term — an enormity that the president cannot explain to the public.