1. Update
  2. U.S. Wars & Militarism

The Endless War

November 29, 2017

The 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force has provided three presidents with a blank check to wage war against anyone, at any time, anywhere in the world without congressional review or approval.

For 16 years, FCNL has lobbied relentlessly for this authorization’s repeal—while the United States has engaged in an ever-expanding war that has not brought stability to any country or reduced the danger of violent extremism. Today, we are working with a growing number in Congress who want to see this endless war ended at last.

Expanding Military Action

Our presidents have cited the 2001 authorization to justify at least 37 military actions in 14 different countries—everything from the ongoing U.S. war in Afghanistan to lethal drone strikes. Under President Trump, military operations are accelerating. In his first 200 days in office, President Trump sent his military on more than five times as many lethal combat operations in non-battlefield countries—such as Yemen and Somalia—as President Obama did in the final 193 days of his administration.

Article I section 8 of the Constitution states that “The Congress shall have power to...declare war,” yet for 16 years Congress has not fully debated whether our country should expand its military operations.

New Energy for Repeal

After years of silence from all but a few members of Congress, more are pushing back against this excessive executive power. Following the death of four U.S. military personnel in Niger in October 2017, Reps. Barbara Lee (CA), Walter Jones (NC), and 46 other representatives from both parties wrote to President Trump, questioning his administration’s legal justification for U.S. involvement in the conflict and urging him to seek congressional authorization going forward. They wrote, “We are … gravely concerned that the United States is committing itself to a long-term war in Niger and elsewhere in Africa.”

In a series of hearings this fall, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee questioned administration officials on legal justification for military action around the world. These hearings could result in Senate legislation to repeal both the 2001 authorization and a companion bill from 2002 that allowed the U.S. to go to war in Iraq.

When I was the only member to oppose the 2001 authorization to use military force, I was honored to have FCNL and the Quakers by my side standing up to war without end. - Rep Barbara Lee (CA)

These hearings come on the heels of efforts in both chambers to force a vote on repealing the 2001 authorization. The House Appropriations Committee added a repeal amendment to the military appropriations bill, but House leadership removed it before the final bill came to a vote. FCNL released a statement opposing leadership’s decision. Sen. Rand Paul (KY) was likewise unsuccessful in getting the Senate to repeal the authorization—but he called Senate attention to the issue by forcing a debate as part of consideration of a military policy bill. Previously, Congress has refused to seriously consider repeal; FCNL applauds these steps toward a full debate on endless war.

Congress provides a critical check on presidential military actions. The Constitution's framers drew a distinction between the president, who merely commands the military, and a king, who “possesses [the power] of declaring war… by his own authority.” (Federalist 69). So long as the 2001 authorization stands, it erases that distinction and paves the way for continued expansion of U.S. military action. FCNL will continue to advocate for Congress to fully debate and vote on this authorization and to take back its authority over U.S. war-fighting. Members of Congress also need to hear your voice; please contact your representative and senators and urge them to support repeal of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force.