The AUMF Crescent
Both Moon of Alabama and Jack Goldsmith have analyses of the Authorization to Use Military Force the White House proposed to Congress yesterday.
The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in connection with the use of chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the conflict in Syria in order to –
- prevent or deter the use or proliferation (including the transfer to terrorist groups or other state or non-state actors), within, to or from Syria, of any weapon of mass destruction, including chemical or biological weapons or components of or materials used in such weapons; or
- protect the United States or its allies and partners against the threats posed by such weapons.
Moon of Alabama focuses on how the use of “as he determines to be necessary and appropriate” turns the AUMF into a very broad authorization.
It is clear from this wording that such a resolution would allow nearly everything far beyond the “punitive” few cruise missile strikes against Syrian forces the administration marketed so far. It could easily be used for an outright blockade of Iran or even a “preemptive” strike against Iran’s industries in the name of “deterrence” and “protecting” Israel.
Goldsmith focuses even more closely on the several other places where this AUMF could be used.
(1) Does the proposed AUMF authorize the President to take sides in the Syrian Civil War, or to attack Syrian rebels associated with al Qaeda, or to remove Assad from power? Yes, as long as the President determines that any of these entities has a (mere) connection to the use of WMD in the Syrian civil war, and that the use of force against one of them would prevent or deter the use or proliferation of WMD within, or to and from, Syria, or protect the U.S. or its allies (e.g. Israel) against the (mere) threat posed by those weapons. It is very easy to imagine the President making such determinations with regard to Assad or one or more of the rebel groups.
(2) Does the proposed AUMF authorize the President to use force against Iran or Hezbollah, in Iran or Lebanon? Again, yes, as long as the President determines that Iran or Hezbollah has a (mere) a connection to the use of WMD in the Syrian civil war, and the use of force against Iran or Hezbollah would prevent or deter the use or proliferation of WMD within, or to and from, Syria, or protect the U.S. or its allies (e.g. Israel) against the (mere) threat posed by those weapons. Again, very easy to imagine.
Given my continuing obsession with the still extant Iraq War AUMF, let’s consider the geography of this proposed AUMF together with the other active AUMFs, the Iraq and Afghanistan ones.
Put all three of them together, and the government would have authorization to use military force in Syria, Lebanon, Shia-governed and increasingly violent Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and parts of Pakistan (plus Yemen, with its Houthi insurgency on Saudi Arabia’s southern border). The President would have authorization to use military force in an unbroken band of land from Israel’s border east to nuclear-armed Pakistan, with both the counter-Saudi Shia block and Sunni al Qaeda related terrorists included within the AUMFs. This, to fight a war that Israel and the Gulf states have allied (if you can call it that) to fight.
President Obama claims he only wants to engage in limited strikes. He has promised there would be no boots (aside from JSOC and CIA ones, presumably) on the ground.
But he has proposed something that could be potentially far broader.
Apparently on military matters, Obama knows how to negotiate with Congress. His starting point is the broadest possible AUMF, from which he can then make minor concessions to give “reluctant Democrats” something to crow about as they provide a fig leaf for another war.
Just what the Pentagon wants. And nothing more. For now. Broadway Theater, script collaboration by This Town Productions.
@Tom Allen: Not sure there’s a middle ground that can pass Congress. McCain and his warmonger crowd have already said this is too narrow. But with 8 days to read this, I suspect it will be far too broad for most of Congress.
AUMFs pass through speed and fearmongering. Boehner may be usually be hapless, but by issuing his 14 questions and insisted on a 9/9 return, he has likely made it impossible to fearmonger this through.
I believe that the Cyber Command is going to make its debut in a hot war in Syria. I’m not sure what our laws or Constitution or international law say about cyberwar, or whether this AUMF will address it in some way, but it would not surprise me if it does.
This is all speculation on my part, but there was a huge amount of propaganda about the Syrian Electronic Army, which, from the minute I read about it, smelled like something that we or one of our allies very sophisticated in cyberwar cooked up, to soften up the public to the idea of using our cyber army in a hot war. The name is a goofy, propaganda-like term, targeting a wide audience, including those who are not very tech savvy. They went after a target that everyone in the world would know about. The timing was very convenient, launched when everyone in the world was paying attention and the war propaganda was in overdrive.
Personally, I was only slightly suspicious at first, and then something else happened. A young woman named Andrea Peterson who writes for “The Switch”, a technology/policy blog in the WaPo, wrote this story, also at the height of the propaganda period:
So who does this hactivist patriot remind you of?
@joanneleon: I agree there will be cyberstrikes (though CyberCommand already launches 250+ operations a year).
But consider that 1) Edward Snowden is in Russian custody, 2) the Russians want to prevent this attack 3) the Russians probably have the best ability to hack while hiding attribution 4) NSA and Booz surely have an understanding of Saudi cyber vulnerabilities since the most recent TCA included that and Booz got a big chunk of that business 5) this is basically a proxy war between Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Whether or not Snowden shared files with the Russians — and whether or not the US knows whether he did — I suspect they are cognizant that we and our allies remain very vulnerable on the cybersecurity front. Plus, as I understand it the Assad regime is less reliant on the Toobz than the rebels.
The existing AUMF concerning “those who attacked the US on 9/11” would already allow Obama to go into Syria … but only on Assad’s side. He wants another AUMF so he can be on the other side, too.
The prescience of that Nobel committee is more and more impressive every day.
The plucky ally that was so willing to cooperate with the United States in the torture of Maher Arar was Syria.
@emptywheel: MTWheel, I think joanneleon was suggesting this Oliver Tucket seemed like a crude attempt at a Snowden foil, one working for “our” side. If this was South Park, the evil one would have a little black goatee. I’m not sure if Eddie’s facial hair qualifies him for SP evil guy from the alternate universe.
my personal view is that the obama admin intend to use the congress’ refusal to rescue our prez and his national security/diplomatic advisers from an ill-conceived, incredibly embarrassing, first-order f–cup.
it makes no sense at all for this president, who surely understands by now what chaotic states iraq and afghanistan were (and remain) and what a pointless drain on this nation’s resources and opportunities warring there was, to deliberately engage us in another 10-20 years of war in a part of the world that is and will remain for decades fundamentally tribal, struggling to evolve into coherent nations.
@orionATL: So what should we say about a
country that gasses their own people. Chemical warfare is prohibited.
What would be your response?
Like that old joke says, “How do you tell when a liar is lying?”
“His lips are moving”
USS San Antonio moves off of Syria
@Bay State Librul:
i think you are being beaten up on unnecessarily, and don’t intend to join in.
my comment was not a moral statement pro- or con- punishing for gassing.
it was a guess about the obama admin’s motives for going to congress – to get their tail out of a crack.
to go thru with any kind of military action now makes no political sense, even for the likes of the bumbling obama boyz.
“So what should we say about a country that gasses their own people?”
This is what is known as begging the question.
Is there any evidence that the government of Syria used chemical weapons? If there is, then let it be tested in a “court”. The United Nations could be used or the matter could be referred to The Hague.
The truth is that, over the years, allegations of this sort have been routinely discovered to be false. To use false evidence to justify the killing of a single person (even if that person be foreign and non Caucasian) amounts to wilful murder.
What would be your response to an accusation that you are actively promoting killing?
Thanks and maybe I’m naive but I don’t think Kerry is lying.
He is my former Senator and believe he has the evidence.
I think our world is full of cynics.
Let the debate begin
maybe the events at the Boston Marathon changed my views.
I’m a runner and the bombing really pissed me off.
I personally hate war an am sick of the Middle east constant killings.
I also think that I’m a realist and just don’t have the answers.
I also voted for Obama and respect his decision-making.
I want a vote
@Bay State Librul:
i don’t have to believe kerry is lying.
what i do believe is that this affair began (domestically speaking) as a loud, public bit of braggadacio (“he crossed mah red line, he did.”) by the admin with lots of public comments about the need to discipline assad.
this was, as events have proven, a very unwise strategy. an unambiguous statement of dissaproval followed by quiet fact-gathering and consultation with allies and congress would have better served obama’s cause. the admin went for a quickie, ran into a buzzsaw of opposition here and in the u.k., and had to back off.
then what to do?
lateral to congress as you’re falling.
the nytimes has this reportage which expresses matters in a far more genteel manner than i have:
mcclatchey has this bit of whitehouse-ology:
i’m not sure mccl is looking thru the right end of the telescope.
here is wapo’s report (“we dont want congress to have their cake and eat it too”) ???? :
@chris harries: +1
Also, please note that we cannot attack Syria as a “punishment” for using CWs – at least, not right now or any time soon. Punitive strikes are only allowed after a conviction in the ICC/Hague/etc. Each time that anyone in the Admin says “punitive strike,” they are pretty much saying “we are about to commit a crime.”
@emptywheel: Just to clarify, I don’t think that contact actually was Snowden but I think it was modeled after Snowden and was probably a persona cooked up by us or one of our allies.
joannelson points out above that the The Amazon.com/Washington Post is active in the electronic disinformation area.
Amazon/WaPo also published a copy of Obama’s draft legislation authorising yet another open-ended presidential war, and Richard Falk has enumerated and begun analysis of the worrisome ramblings in Obama’s speech on Libya.
I took the Amazon/WaPo draft legislation and refashioned a draft of the peoples’ prohibition of yet another in the seemingly endless series of trumped up aggressions against Islamic nations and sent it off to my senators – Cruz and Cornyn – and my representative – Blake Farenthold in TX 27th CD – demanding that they pass it, or something of their one device embodying the same prohibition.
I think all of you should send your representatives the same. Feel free to use my draft legislation if you haven’t the time or inclination to write your own
@emptywheel: Also the rumor is that cyber attacks will accompany and enhance the cruise missile attacks by messing with the Syrian air defense. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but there it is. I’m not very knowledgeable about cruise missile strikes or air defense systems. I know they are based on GPS coordinates but that’s about it. I don’t know if Syria has some kind of missile shield of their own that can hit cruise missiles and if that is what they’re talking about when they say they’ll manipulate Assad’s air defense systems. I figured that the air defense was used more for aircraft. Obama claims that the strike is going to be limited in size and scope and the things I’ve read say no aircraft. But I wonder about that. We won’t use any drones? Won’t use any of the fighter jets that are now in Jordan? Messing with his air defense systems would make more sense if we planned to use those.
And all in all, you have to wonder if this is a real life test/demonstration of a combined military force and cyber command coordinated mission in a hot war. I get the sense that there would be a number of people who would be very excited to do something like that, and show it off to the world.
I find the invocation of the Syia Accountability and Lebanon Sovereignty Act of 2003 to justify US national interest in this region to be one big long reach. Go look at the text of that act. Lots of little loopy holes there.
@joanneleon: Who does he remind me of? The guy who delivered the supposed Government of Niger yellowcake letter to the media.
Obama ‘has the right’ to strike Syria regardless of Congress vote, says Kerry
When does the impeachment trial begin?
@JTMinIA: Except for the minor and convenient detail that the US rescinded its signature on the Rome Statute that created the ICC. They are still under the illusion that that is their get-out-of-jail card. Well that and the largest military force in the world.
@emptywheel: One more thing. I have to disagree with this statement: “3) the Russians probably have the best ability to hack while hiding attribution”. I believe this distinction belongs to the Israelis.
The rest of your statements I have no disagreement with.
@JTMinIA: Yes. Sort of remarkable how he would have keys to go to war against all sides.
@Bay State Librul: If you want the killings to stop why would you favor a policy that will help Al Qaeda?
@joanneleon: Sorry. Should have specified that I meant among our adversaries. I agree the Israelis are best.
We don’t know that, do we?
I’m certaintly not an expert in Middle Eastern affairs
@Bay State Librul: That is one of the reasons a lot of people object to this (and frankly, why Assad wasn’t ousted earlier). No one–except maybe the Qataris, who paid the extremists–have a really good handle on who’s who among the rebels. Bandar says he can clear this up but he’s not reliable like Mohammed bin Nayef on this front.
There are reports, at least, that the reason the Israelis have gotten more involved of late (including bombing Syria) is whereas, for years, they were happy to have the Assads and stability on their border, when Bashar could no longer do that because of the rising number of AQ affiliates, they decided to start getting involved.
A bit further to go to get to Hank Paulson’s “there will be tanks in the streets”
Good analysis but don’t you think Obama has all this info and much more than us.
Kerry gave a good briefing in my opinion.
We elected the Prez to make these decisions and I’m putting my faith in Obama.
We also elected Congress to weigh in.
Let’s debate the issue and go from there.
@Bay State Librul: A great many of them have been, or are. It’s well documented
Since I’m too lazy right now to dig up my own links, stopped on a break on the road, I’ll give one. Here’s one of the latest sites to connect the dots
There are 18 links in that paragraph.
@Bay State Librul: From the beginning I have wondered: is Assad really such a moron as to conduct a chemical attack while the inspectors are in Syria? To what advantage? The government has the opposition out manned and out gunned by a wide margin. Why do the one thing that has the potential to turn around your tactical advantage?
The other thing that made this seem reminiscent of Iraq was that the case was made early on which supposedly pointed to the guilt of the Syrian government. The claim was that Assad had put off answering the call to allow inspectors to the site. The truth was very different, Assad was not given the written request until Saturday and the positive response was delivered on Monday. Maybe as few as 36 hours and in any case no where near the reported 5 days. In addition, Obama’s statement about not wanting to wait for the UN inspectors to complete their investigation. Talk about dejavu. Brought me back to Bush and the Iraq invasion.
It doesn’t seem that a handful of cruise missiles will make a big dif to Assad. But it will surely wipe out some number of innocent civilians. A larger attack will lead us down the road to a greater conflict, maybe WWIII (Iran and Syria have a pact to help the other if either is attacked). In any case, it would entail fighting in the cause of al Qaeda. Regarding punitive strike(s), I just don’t see any positives. Too weak, and it will send the wrong message. Too strong, and we’re stuck in another 10 years of war. We can forget about schools, bridges, medicare, unemployment, Head Start, etc. Which if I figure correctly, “our” elites would love this scenario, huge profits for the defense industry and less than nothing for the rest of us.
Imho, if is determined with certainty that Assad is behind the gassing, the world should be involved and charges should be filed at the Hague. This gives all the participating member states in the International Court an obligation to apprehend Assad and bring him to trial.
@Bay State Librul: Hmm, sounds exactly how we got hoodwinked into invading Iraq.
@Bay State Librul: Sure. And as part of the debate I will point to abundant public evidence that anything that would be effective would also, given current conditions on the ground, help al Qaeda. That’s my opinion, but it’s an opinion shared by a lot of smart people.
I am amazed that in all this discussion, the topic of COST has not come up.
We don’t have enough money for Head Start. We can’t fund health care. We can’t pay for unemployment benefits. Our infrastructure is cratering. Cities are declaring bankruptcy. Students are in monstrous debt because government support of of universities has been slashed and the costs passed on via tuition.
But somehow we’ve got plenty of funds for this little adventure? Is there a larder stocked with drones and missiles, already pre-paid, that the Pentagon’s just going to raid?
And where are our reliable howler monkeys and their ceaseless concern about the scary, scary deficit? Anyone?
@orionATL: It is possible, as shown by the breakdown of some large nation-states and federations, that that species is no longer a likely evolutionary development.
Worldwide instant information exchange, used by transnational corporations, instant translations assisting private interactions, and some fracturing of one of the world’s largest, most polyglot nation-state, are factors involved.
Balkanisation is likely to affect large, populous nations. Such entities as the EEU are shaky at best, and we may expect them to fragment in many ways.
Many modern nations exist due to de facto colonisation – exploitation of natural resources outside their boundaries. Since easy resource exploitation is over, from minerals to wild food organisms, growth economies are essentially headed for a fall.
We might claim that technological sophistication can continue to overcome these problems, but the world’s most populous economies have just begun to drain and compete energy sources with highest returns on energy.
Since up to 90% of commercial fish stocks are now gone, and fishing down the food chain has reached tiny organisms- krill, etc., this source which kept armies mobile since late medieval times, is over. While forests may not be used as much as previous to late industrial revolution, claims that it will regrow are likely still false, and the 50 to 90+% losses will not likely to regrow under the press of overbloomed humanity (Africa has past 14 times the population it did 100 years ago, and even the USa has over4x) , fast climate change is burning up low latitude forests, which will not return quickly.Humans directly use some 40% of photosynthesis on earth, and the hugest issue before climate change was, and still is, topsoil loss.
Topsoil loss and degradation (podzolization, pollution, and sequestration – covering land with asphalt, concrete, and other aggregate disallowing biotic growth) is serious beyond what lay person understand. irrigation farming leads to salted soil, and no crop remains as nutritious or fertile as it was over 50 years ago.
Thus the present human population, so often projected to increase by two more China-size nations, has already so stressed and overexploited earth’s capacities that a more likely prediction is down from the present size.
Impoverished ecosystems become unstable and fail, breaking down into simpler fragments.
None of this is catastrophe, but will merely lead to a reduction in human overpopulation.
While we have millions fighting malaria and the faster-emerging viruses of crowd diseases, there are many more ways for our supporting ecosystems to break down. I have listed a very few.
Water is often mentioned as “scarce” or limited, and teh crazed ideas of bringing water from the Columbia R., Canada, and Great Lakes, uphill and across vast distances to the Southwest desert cities (SoCal and AZ) has already been rejected by those occupying source areas. Vast water projects, aside from largely being used for irrigation, the reason that ancient city-states are now under the sand due to salt pollution (Egypt made the grave mistake of building Aswan High Dam, and is beginning to suffer the consequences of cessation of the Nile’s once-yearly silting of that naturally-recurring rich bottomland. Mesopotamia is no longer recharged due to upstream water use. There is much more on related losses for the present civilisation). Estuaries, the richest nurseries of ocean species have been eradicated for human housing, port and farms, and are lost until very large shoreline changes occur without human re-exploitation.
Most of you will not easily detect the problems in your urban and industrial economic focus, and will only suffer through the increasing strife of competition for resources. This is already occurring, resulting in greater social stratification in these involuted societies.
Did you know that, like so many other species, humans increase their reproduction under predatory stress? Our main predatory stress has long been war. Think Baby Boom. The average age over in the war-torn nations of South Asia tends to be more like 14 than our much older age elsewhere.
Although I have a background in psychology, I will not here go into what happens under population stress, except to say the suicide, as in suicide bombers and youth eager to suicide through warfare, increases. I am not certain that our progress toward greater human civility will continue, for reasons of stress. 1/4 of adult reproductive women in the US take a mood -altering drug.
There’s more, far more, but the likelihood of evolution from tribal to nation status may not ever have been more than a short, limited aberration, as we are only adapted to deal with a very specific limited number of others, before heuristics like generalisation, strong self-interest bias, stereotyping, and others, cause social fragmentation.
I guess it boils down to who you believe.
I never believed Cheney
I never believed Roger Clemens when he lied his ass off.
I really don’t believe the Patriots about Hernandez and being duped.
They invested $40 million and must have done security checks.
I do believe Emptywheel since she does her due diligence and spends hours on her job.
I do believe John Kerry.
I do believe Obama
What I like is the democratic concept of voting.
I am so sick of this country not pulling together it makes me sick.
Congressmen, debate the issue, vote and then shut the fuck up
@Bay State Librul:
“I do believe Emptywheel since she does her due diligence and spends hours on her job.
I do believe John Kerry.
I do believe Obama”
Congratulations, you have mastered doublethink. To get there you have successfully assimilated blackwhite, duckspeak and other elements of newspeak.
George Orwell would not be pleased, nor would he be surprised. B.B. B.O. Mox nix.
@lefty665: Spoken like a true fundamentalist… ever hear of nuances, where there are flashes of truth
on both sides, and where we might not have all the answers. My College professor of English Lit, once told me “One never knows, Jack, one never knows….”
We’ve just finished Hate Week.
What nuance is there in: “[The Congress shall have Power…] To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water”? Why should there be nuance in that unambiguous prohibition of unilateral executive decisions to start wars?
What nuance is there in: “I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization”?
EW and others, in addition to your lit prof, give you plenty of reason to doubt.
Be careful, even though it trivializes the issues, considering that there might be a flash of truth on the “other” side is crimethink. Better engage crimestop before it is too late.
I have plenty of doubt, I could be wrong, I’ve made plenty.
From your viewpoint, you are 100 percent correcto in your analysis?
Good luck to you and the Red Sox
Remember how Bradley Manning was putting lives at risk by revealing war crimes? Now the same Crew of neo-nazis who lied us into wars, such as Elliot Abrams and Dougie Feith (stupidest humanoid in this quadrant of the galaxy) are leading from the front into new wars.
Barack Obama is putting American lives at risk. And so is John McCain who is a war lunatic. These, and the other neo-cons are endangering Americans and Syrians with their reckless falsehoods and secret armies. So they tell the Presdient what to do. He does it as he leads from the back. John McCain wants our enemies, Al Qaeda to rule Syria.
What are you smoking?
@Bay State Librul:
What does that mean? Crazy McCain is not any kind of military or moral authority. How many chances to you get to cause reckless bloody adventures, endlessly and with no purpose as Crazy has.
Then Crazy says cruise missles are a “pinprick”. And he claims Barack Obama is encouraging enemies. For a President to encourage enemies might be considered treason.
So you are a fan of John McCain and cannot tolerate criticism of his outstanding military record?
I am not a combat “Ace” as is McCain. McCain destroyed five aircraft, which makes him an Ace. Of course they were US aircraft. And McCain wants more destroyed American aircraft for more war.
So what is your problem or was that snark?
@john francis lee: Et tu, Brute?
I’m not a fan of McCain.
It was you reference to Al Qaeda, where you kidding?
Al Nusra rebels seems to be an Al Qaeda “affiliate”. Those two amigas, McCain and Lindsey want the “rebels” to win. And that means “decisive” US military attacks. But maybe Syria might choose to fight and create more casualties.
And does McCain support Al Qaeda? There is no Al Qaeda. It was a secret army created by Ollie North. Bin Laden, Riggs Bank, Graham Fuller, Operation Gladio, these are all contrived pretexts for more war. These Syrian atrocities are an elaborate hoax of one form or another.
Recall how angry the President was, when the elaborate hoax or ruse, of Undie Bomber #2, was discovered. The Undie #2 double agent could not be used again, so Obama went Full Metal Bush against AP.
We will always have Benghazi, MANPADS to Al Nusra?
@Bay State Librul: What you are getting here, from lots of folks, including EW, is called reality.
I’m not going to get into a litany here, but it is objectively clear that the B.O. administration has been a disaster for America and the world. It will not stop until people of good will and good reason stand up in large numbers and say enough, and make it stick.
What it seems to me, and I could be wrong, I often am, you are seeing here is a country awakening from a national nightmare that began with 9/11 or before. For you to be out there in never never land saying things like “I believe in B.O., I believe in John Kerry” is part of the nightmare.
Doubleplusbellyfeel and I’m sure everything will be ok for you. The rest of us, not so much.
I had a Black Crown beer and one Heiniken.
Not sure if you like beer but would offer you a drink if you we’re closer, not sure where you live
@Bay State Librul: I’d do that. I’m down the coast from you in the Old Dominion. I admire your Sam Adams, and enjoy his picture on the bottle when I toast him and our Patrick Henry.
@David of Our World Report:
I was against Iraq invasion. Not sure you can equate the two situations.There are similarities but also differences.
I think you are saying the country is sick of war and I am sick of war too.
My issue is let’s take a vote, and either punt or do what our elected Reps decide.
I think that’s the democratic way.
yes the Summer Ale is one of my favorites.
@Bay State Librul: You get this way or I that and we’ll tip a couple.