President Obama’s Proposal: Authorizing Worldwide War

Last Updated on March 10, 2015.

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The AUMF includes no geographic limitations.  

  • By not limiting where war can be waged, the proposal opens the door for the U.S. to use force anywhere in the world. Recent reports indicate that ISIS is spreading its reign into Algeria, Libya, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. This AUMF would justify expanding our current war into any of these countries. (National Security Network)

The AUMF does not limit the use of force to ISIS.

  • “Associated forces” in the President’s AUMF are defined as “individuals and organizations fighting for, on behalf of, or alongside ISIL or any closely-related successor entity in hostilities against the U.S. or its coalition partners.” This could potentially be used a blanket cover for using force against other organizations such as al-Nusra, al-Qaeda, or Boko Haram. (US News)

The AUMF does not bar the use of US ground troops.

  • President Obama’s AUMF bars the use of “enduring offensive ground combat operations,” but this stipulation is in the eye of the beholder. There is no legal term for “enduring.” The President has leeway to legally deploy ground forces by deeming them temporary or defensive. Additionally, it leaves the option for the next President to take a different interpretation as to what enduring could entail. Indeed, President Obama has authorized the deployment of 3,100 troops to Iraq since August 2014. (National Security Network, Washington Post, Bloomberg)

The AUMF includes a three-year sunset of the authorization.

  • The President’s proposal requires Congress to re-authorize the AUMF in three years. Congress’s ability to extend the AUMF past this sunset could invoke another decade-long war. Furthermore, the Obama administration’s assertion that the 2001 AUMF provides sufficient authorization for war against ISIS undermines the importance of this sunset clause. This sunset also extends into the next President’s term, giving him or her the authority to extend the conflict. (Just Security, Human Rights First)

The AUMF would repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF, but not the 2001 AUMF.  

  • The AUMF leaves the 2001 AUMF on the books. The 2001 AUMF has often been criticized as a blank check, justifying fourteen-years of war. Despite the fact that al-Qaeda and ISIS are different organizations that sometimes directly fight one another, the Administration claims that the 2001 AUMF has given it the authority to fight ISIS. If the 2001 AUMF is not repealed, it creates the potential for future Presidents to rely on it once again for war anywhere, anytime, against anyone.  (Friends Committee on National Legislation)

Analysis compiled by Caitlin Hill.

March 10, 2015