NSN’s AUMF Paper Discussed in Just Security

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NSN’s AUMF Paper Discussed in Just Security

The Washington Post Editorial Board’s (Mis)Conception of Congress’s Role in War Authorizations

By Ryan Goodman

December 16, 2014 | Just Security

It is unclear how the Post derives its understanding of the proper role of Congress—but if its assessment is based on a sense of historical practices, that view is deeply misguided.

Consider the history of AUMFs. According to a recent study by the National Security Network, “Of the 35 instances that Congress has authorized the use of military force, 60 percent contained geographic limitations, 43 percent named the enemy, 37 percent limited the kinds of military operations or forces authorized to be employed, and 23 percent contained an expiration date.”

As one example: in the 1983 AUMF for Lebanon, Congress stated that the force “shall be limited to performance of the functions, and shall be subject to the limitations, specified” in a 1982 agreement between the United States and Lebanon (which capped the number of troops and stipulated that “the American force will not engage in combat”).

What is more, even the National Security Network’s study undercounts congressional limitations on Presidents’ engagement in military operations.

First, the data include only explicit conditions in AUMFs. Curt Bradley and Jack Goldsmith explain in a leading article in the Harvard Law Review that AUMFs have historically also included a host of implicit conditions and qualifications—and that such limitations have been well-understood and well-accepted by the three branches of government.

To read the full article, click here

To read NSN’s “Ending the Endless War: An Incremental Approach to Repealing the 2001 AUMF,” click here


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