“It’s not a complete waste of time…We have the power of war-making,” said a Senate aide who works on the issue. “It is our job to define the president’s authority in this area.”

“You have my permission to destroy ISIL. Call me if you need anything else.”

It’s hard to imagine the process as anything but a farce. A new authorization won’t affect military operations, already long under way; indeed, three service members have already perished in ongoing operations. And politically, the debate forces lawmakers to take a stance on an uncertain war that could take a generation to unfold.