WASHINGTON — President Obama asked Congress Wednesday (Feb. 11) to authorize the use of the American military to defeat an Islamic terrorist army that has waged a widespread campaign of carnage in Iraq and Syria.
The president’s request was the latest in an escalating effort to thwart a push by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to establish a militant Muslim regime in the Middle East. The Sunni Muslim terrorists that largely make up ISIS have executed or driven from their homes many Christians, Yazidis and other minorities, as well as some Muslims. ISIS also has threatened to attack the United States.
Obama’s proposal to Congress followed his authorization in August without legislative approval of military airstrikes against ISIS that have since taken place in Iraq and Syria. It also followed by a day the confirmation of the death of American aid worker Kayla Mueller, at least the fifth United States citizen to be killed while in the custody of ISIS, also known as ISIL.
After airstrikes began in August, Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the United States could not demonstrate “moral indifference” to the slaughter by ISIS.
“This is both a humanitarian catastrophe and a national security emergency, and nearly everyone agrees that America bears a special responsibility” because of the war in Iraq, said Moore. “Wisdom is needed,” he said, “to know when to start, and when to stop,” against ISIS.
Moore also joined others in an open letter in August that called for the destruction of ISIS as a military force.
The proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) from Obama enables him to use American forces as he deems necessary against ISIS “or associated persons or forces” but does not permit “enduring offensive ground combat operations.” The authorization concludes after three years unless it is reauthorized. It requires the president to provide a report to Congress at least each six months on actions taken under the authorization.
In a letter that accompanied the draft authorization, Obama said the proposal “would not authorize long-term, large-scale ground combat operations” like those in Iraq and Afghanistan in the previous decade. While local forces should be the ones involved in such actions, his proposal would empower U.S. ground efforts in “more limited circumstances.” Among examples of such occasions the president cited were rescue operations, the use of special ops forces against ISIS leaders and the collection of intelligence.
The new AUMF would rescind the 2002 resolution that authorized military action against Iraq.
Republican leaders in Congress promised thorough hearings regarding the president’s request.
Speaker of the House John Boehner expressed doubt regarding the adequacy of Obama’s proposed authorization.
“Any authorization for the use of military force must give our military commanders the flexibility and authorities they need to succeed and protect our people,” Boehner said in a written statement. “While I believe an AUMF against [ISIS] is important, I have concerns that the president’s request does not meet this standard.”
Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said hearings would begin soon in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which he chairs and which has jurisdiction over AUMF measures.
“Voting to authorize the use of military force is one of the most important actions Congress can take, and while there will be differences, it is my hope that we will fulfill our constitutional responsibility, and in a bipartisan way, pass an authorization that allows us to confront this serious threat,” Corker said in a written release.