When President Obama came to office in 2009 he was elected with a mandate to wind down both the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Having largely done that, with varying success depending on who you ask, it’s a bit of an odd idea that the President is now seeking war powers from Congress to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. However the war powers he’ll be asking for don’t put this conflict don’t appear to require the full commitment of large numbers of troops as was deployed in Iraq in 2003. Here’s what the war powers request entails.
- The powers would create a three year mission with need for war power re-approval after the third year. He’ll be out of office by then, of course, giving a new President essentially one year of power under the new authorities.
- The powers would largely limit U.S. ground forces with exceptions being carved out for search and rescue missions. As in all wars everywhere for all time, the President would still reserve authority over Special Forces operations that fall outside the strict use of the term “ground troops” although that would also undoubtedly be Top Secret.
- If approved, these war powers would likely put an end to the 2002 Authorization for Military Force in Iraq which has been the crux of every operation in Iraq since that time. Presumably, these new war powers would replace those old ones which would decidedly limit what forces could be placed in Iraq. The 2002 authorization was enormously broad and allowed the President to basically do whatever he felt he needed to in order to combat the former regime and terrorism there.
As with everything political there is added complexity here as well. Democrats want the President to also roll back the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists which constitutes the legal teeth behind the term Global War on Terror (or GWoT if you’re fancy). Doing so would dramatically reduce the Executive Branch’s ability to wage war globally and would constrain a future President from falling back on the authorities once the three year term for this new, hypothetical set of war powers had expired.
On the other side of the aisle, many Republicans are loath to fully rule out ground forces as a larger part of the fight against the Islamic State and so there is some politicking to do on the part of the White House to get what they want. However, it is fairly clear that both Democrats and Republicans want to authorize the President to use force here. It’s simply a question of what level of force and what they will get for giving their support for a final plan.
Don’t expect this to happen immediately though. According to CNN:
“Senate Democratic aide predicted a final measure would not be voted on before Memorial Day at the earliest.”
So, May, possibly?