End the AUMF, end excessive use of military powers

A few weeks ago, two representatives from the Friends Committee on National Legislation visited campus. They hope to bring 25 Guilford students to Washington this spring to lobby against a piece of legislation known as the Authorization for Use of Military force. Perhaps you should join them.

The AUMF is a bill passed on Sept. 18, 2011, that authorizes the president “To use all necessary and appropriate force against those he determines planned the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001.”

That broad definition has been used to validate a host of executive actions spanning both national and foreign issues.

The use of military force used in Iraq, Afghanistan, and eight other countries? Thank the AUMF.

The prisoners being held without trial in Guantanamo? The AUMF.

NSA warrantless wiretapping? AUMF.

“The AUMF has stretched far beyond what it was intended to be,” said Elizabeth Beavers, policy assistant for foreign policy at FCNL, in a phone interview with The Guilfordian.

“Even (for) something as broad as it is … the boundaries have been trampled on.”

There are some who argue, however, that the AUMF is no more than a confirmation of power the president already has.

“If push comes to shove, as commander-in-chief, the president can do any damn thing he wants,” said Robert Duncan, visiting assistant professor of political science. “(Ending the AUMF) won’t change anything — the president can still do what he needs to do with or without congressional authorization.”

Likewise, it would be naïve to assume that all the programs authorized by the AUMF will immediately end with it.

“I don’t think nationally (ending the AUMF) really would have that much impact,” said Sanjay Marwah, assistant professor of justice and policy studies. “(And) I certainly think it could lead to a perception of weakness globally.”

Given this, is it worth ending the AUMF?

“Well, certainly I think it’s worth it,” said Marwah. “I mean, the executive branch shouldn’t have too much power and get away with it.”

This is the heart of the issue — in a democracy; there must be a balance of power. The AUMF is the president’s indulgence from Congress, freeing him in advance from any sins as commander in chief. But this indulgence can and should be revoked.

The Supreme Court has stated that “The president has the most authority if he has been authorized by Congress,” according to Beavers. Revoke the authorization, and we can “move away from reactionary, fear-based politics.”

The AUMF was born of fear — the scourge of democracy. It is a law for an emergency situation, not decades of military action.

Even the president acknowledges the law has lasted too long.

“Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue,” said President Obama in a speech on March 23, 2013.  “But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.”

After 13 years, let us finally lay the AUMF to rest.