The proposed Authorization for Use of Military Force that President Barack Obama submitted to Congress on Wednesday would allow United States ground troops to engage in battle around the world. No matter what aspirations Obama may declare regarding limiting the use of US ground troops, the proposed AUMF places little to no restraint on their use in the ISIS War.
Obama spoke truthfully in his statement announcing his AUMF proposal when he said, "The resolution we’ve submitted today does not call for the deployment of US ground combat forces to Iraq or Syria." Though truthful, Obama’s comment is deceptive because it leaves out some important information. Left unsaid is the fact that the proposed AUMF authorizes Obama and the next US president to deploy ground troops worldwide at their discretion.
The proposed AUMF, should it become law, gives the president and his successor the broad power "to use the Armed Forces of the United States as the President determines to be necessary and appropriate against ISIL and associated persons or forces…" anywhere in the world for three years after the AUMF’s enactment. The AUMF also contains one provision purportedly limiting the use of US ground troops. This provision states that the broad power given to the president "does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations."
A quick, uncritical read of the proposed AUMF may suggest that the "enduring offensive ground combat operations" provision in the AUMF means the AUMF bars US ground troops from engaging in battle. However, further consideration reveals the AUMF may be used to justify unlimited use of US ground troops.
Consider the word "offensive" included in the supposed limitation on the use of ground troops. The US government has a long record of expansively defining its military actions as "defensive." The official story of the US government sending in the military as a last resort and only to defend the American people from attack endures despite a tradition of non-defensive US wars that span wars against American Indian nations, the Korean War, and the Iraq War. Recall that Obama justified the bombings in Iraq and Syria that escalated the ISIS War, in part, as needed to "defend" US government employees overseas.
Consider also the word "enduring." There is no limit whatsoever on even "offensive" ground combat operations so long as those operations are not "enduring."
As pointed out by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), who is quoted in Roll Call on Wednesday, the "enduring offensive ground combat operations" language provides no limitation. Instead, it is just propaganda. Says McGovern, "What that is is language that’s supposed to make people like me feel better. … In real terms, it doesn’t mean anything."
Indeed, even Obama’s spokesman has admitted that this language imposes little to no limitation on what Obama or the next president can do. A revealing video accompanying the Roll Call article features White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest saying that the ground troops language in the AUMF proposal submitted to Congress is "intentionally fuzzy" because "we believe it’s important that there aren’t overly burdensome constraints that are placed on the commander in chief who needs the flexibility to be able to respond to contingencies that emerge in a chaotic military conflict like this."
The ground troops limitation in Obama’s proposed AUMF for the ISIS War may help Obama make his case to the American people for yet more war. It also may provide cover for Congress members who do not want to appear as if they are supporting more endless war. But, it is in fact a limitation in name only. Judge Andrew Napolitano, a Ron Paul Institute Advisory Board member, starkly explains the situation in an interview with Fox News host Shepard Smith. Napolitano advises that, unless Congress adopts an AUMF that includes language expressly saying "you may not use ground troops," which Napolitano assures us Congress will not do, "the president has the discretion to use ground troops on his own."
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