31 October 2017   Leave a comment

On 18 September 2001, the US Congress approved Public Law 107–40, commonly known as the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), in response to the attacks on the US on 11 September 2001.  The most relevant part of the law reads as follows:


This joint resolution may be cited as the ‘‘Authorization for Use of Military Force’’.


(a) IN GENERAL.—That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.


(1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION.—Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.

Since the law was passed it has been used by Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump to justify the use of armed force in a variety of circumstances without direct oversight by the Congress.  There is a growing sense that this law has institutionalized war powers in the Presidency that exceed the traditional powers inherent in the constitutional authority of Commander-in-Chief.  Last month, the US Senate rejected a bill, 61-36, sponsored by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) to limit the AUMF to a six month period.  In hearings before Congress, US Secretary of State Tillerson and US Secretary of Defense Mattis, argued that President Trump does not need a new AUMF and that the old law gives him the power to continue using military force against any organization–even those not at all involved, or even extant at the time, in the attacks of 11 September 2001–that uses terrorism as a tactic.  In his testimony, Secretary Tillerson argued that any new AUMF should not have any geographical or time limits.  Those conditions are essentially a blank check and should be rejected.  That interpretation of a 16-year old law suggests that there really are no limits on a US President to use military force abroad.


China included its “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) in its revision of its constitution at the most recent Communist Party Conference.  The move suggests that the initiative is far more than an economic policy–it suggests that the initiative is a critical part of China’s vision of its global economic role.  Alek Chance sheds an interesting light on Chinese ambitions, indicating that China does not aspire to be the “leader” of globalization as the US moves away from its central role in supporting the international liberal economic order.  Nonetheless, the Chinese wish to demonstrate that this next phase of globalization will have a “center of gravity”.  The difference is nuanced, but diplomatically important.

Posted October 31, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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