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An ISIL AUMF WTF?

Two weeks ago, the Washington Post ran a story by David Weigel about a draft Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIL being prepared by Senator Lindsey Graham. Based on what was reported in the story, I sent a rather snarky Tweet:

Now that the draft bill has been released, I’m afraid that, if anything, my Tweet wasn’t snarky enough.

In a nutshell, the bill’s operative provision (section 2(a)) authorizes the President “to use all necessary and appropriate force in order to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, its associated forces, organizations, and persons, and any successor organizations.” FULL STOP. There’s a War Powers Resolution (WPR) satisfaction provision and a bare-bones WPR-based reporting requirement, but nothing else.

Thus, Senator Graham’s ISIL AUMF would provide open-ended, limitless authorization for any and all use of military force against ISIL anywhere in the world without any geographic, temporal, or other substantive or procedural constraint (save the WPR reporting requirement) whatsoever. Given that the Obama administration’s current view is that ISIL is covered by the similarly worded (but significantly narrower) September 2001 AUMF, all Senator Graham’s bill would accomplish is to authorize even broader force against ISIL, in perpetuity. Apparently, Senator Graham’s view of the lessons we’ve learned over the experience with the 2001 AUMF over the past 14 years is that we should simply dispense with the romantic notion that Congress should authorize specific conflicts for a specific purpose.

Reasonable minds can and will surely disagree over how Congress can and should responsibly tailor a new use-of-force authorization to provide more specific statutory support for hostilities against ISIL (although as Jack Goldsmith, Ryan, and I explained) in a Washington Post op-ed, there’s a lot more common ground than folks might think. What I hope no one can dispute is that this ain’t it.

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About the Author

Co-Editor-in-Chief of Just Security, Professor of Law at the University of Texas School of Law Follow him on Twitter (@steve_vladeck).