Readers of Shadow Warfare will recall that we extensively explored the initial Authorization of Military Force following 9/11which created what appeared to be an open ended military authorization for the President to use any and all military means to engage and eliminate the terror groups which had conducted or enabled the attacks on America of 2001. We also delved into the actual legislative rework of the initial legislation which constrained in well beyond the point that President GWB had initially requested. That sort of background is really critical in following American’s “anti-terror” efforts since 2001 and to appreciating the arguments that are following President Obama’s request for additional legislation to focus resource constrained and time limited military action in a fight against ISIS.
I’ve noticed that a few reporters really have caught on and are highlighting the point that President Obama already has the authority for a military campaign against ISIS in context of the previous AUMF – as long as you consider ISIS an al Qaeda derivative or demonstrate that any of the former generation of terrorists are involved with or supporting ISIS. Essentially this new legislation would give Congress an opportunity to at least show its official support for military action against ISIS – since following their outcry for the same last fall, they have done nothing at all on their own the issue which they declared an national security emergency months ago.
So, let’s make it clear that this is primarily a political exercise and secondarily, an example of temptation to middle with military action in the worst tradition of combat micromanagement. Some will note that for a good while the Obama Administration and in particular its NSC have gotten a lot of heat for micromanagement combat against ISIS – in my opinion deservedly so. But now, Congress is going to spend its time on arguing limits on military action in the AUMF – which of course amount to another type of political management of war fighting.
It pains me to sound more and more hawkish but as a Vietnam era vet (not a Vietnam vet, just of that time frame) I’m very sensitive to the fact that you do not win wars through political management. If you want a good lesson on how to win wars, study up on the relationship between FDR and his generals. So I’m back to the proposition that AUMF’s really are a political exercise but have the potential for constraining the war fighting in a fashion which will either prolong it or very possibly obstruct it. Another AUMF just continues to dump all the decisions on the President so Congress has no skin in the game – they take a pass on their real responsibility (which constitutionally is that of declaring war) and just toss the ball to somebody else. Or in this case it’s President Obama’s effort to at least get Congress to put some legislation in place rather than just shooting off its mouth.
All of this maneuvering allows all parties to avoid two basic issues. First, you should not be fighting at all unless you declare war. Second, the thought of a time limited AUMF simply targeting ISIS ignores all the larger strategic implications of jihadi political/geographic movements throughout the Middle East and Africa. We are still tackling that piecemeal, group by group, country by country, with JSOC and military assistance programs. More fundamentally, it appears that neither the administration nor Congress wants to dig far enough to address the core issues of opposing jihadi territorial expansion in the fashion that the U.S. Opposed Communist regime territorial expansion during the Cold War.
Of course if you have read Shadow Warfare you know my view of that decades long effort is pretty critical – primarily since America was often unable to differentiate nationalism from a communist manifesto nor separate populist movements from truly brutal communist regimes such as the Khmer Rouge – the folks who operated on a genocidal level (unfortunately some of the dictatorships that America supported operated on a level of murder that equated to class based genocide). If we don’t really study the current trends in Africa, we may be cursed by the same lack of clarity and the same mistaken interventions.
My view is that the President’s request to Congress will produce immense debate and media dialog. And that will allow all parties to avoid the much harder issues that should be discussed.

About Larry Hancock

Larry Hancock is a leading historian-researcher in the JFK assassination. Co-author with Connie Kritzberg of November Patriots and author of the 2003 research analysis publication titled also Someone Would Have Talked. In addition, Hancock has published several document collections addressing the 112th Army Intelligence Group, John Martino, and Richard Case Nagell. In 2000, Hancock received the prestigious Mary Ferrell New Frontier Award for the contribution of new evidence in the Kennedy assassination case. In 2001, he was also awarded the Mary Ferrell Legacy Award for his contributions of documents released under the JFK Act.

6 responses »

  1. DennisBartholomew says:

    Yes, hopefully Obama’s move will create “intense debate” and hopefully an acutal decision by Congress! This could be a precedent that will limit more authoritarian Presidents in future years.

    • I certainly agree Dennis. The current situation demonstrates extreme irony not to mention dysfunction. Early last fall you could not even visit a news channel without hearing Congressmen calling for action against ISIS, across the board. Yet after almost a year their level of legislative action has been minimal. Perhaps worse is the lack of any considered discussion of strategy – in other words what entities represent enough of a danger to our country or to humanity in general to either call for a declaration of war or a turn to either overt or low profile, military support.

      The consequences are two-fold. First, politics will force President’s to to act on his own authority as CIC (we demonstrate that in Shadow Warfare, regardless of party Presidents have done repeatedly, with no legislative authorization at all). At best you get something less than a national commitment, you get knee jerk legislation such as the Tonkin Gulf resolution. President’s GWB and Obama actually received had a much broader mandate for aggressive military action under the AUMF than Johnson did with the TG resolution, which was intended to be purely defensive.

      We all know the fiasco of the “political war fighting” which resulted from the Gulf of Tonkin resolution – under both Johnson and Nixon. In that instance Congress consciously avoided any further
      involvement for almost a decade. And if the President is forced to operate in a political warfare context overseas, history shows us that combat turns into a political exercise and micromanagement
      eventually begins to escalate. The bottom line for that is conflicts that run on for ages, with evolving objectives and none of the true national involvement that you find during WWII.

      I have not blogged on this much but one of the current military trends, not much discussed in the media, is the explosive ramp up of National Guard units to perform special operations overseas as
      well as military assistance overseas. That is being done because we are not stepping up to it within the regular Army. I’ve read the explanations for it but I have to say that intuitively when
      you are turning on larger and larger “National Guard” forces to overseas combat and special forces operations, I have to feel there are some serious disconnects in the nations overall
      national security strategy.

      • DennisBartholomew says:

        Larry, thanks for the lengthy reply. Obama has always been much more of a dove than the ohter leading Presidential candidates, including Hillary (but excepting Ron Paul). Obama started slowly in this effort, but he is now using the last two years of his presidency to “teach” the public and our political leaders that a military solution is usually not the best solution and should be a last resort. I’m hoping that before he leaves office, Obama will have reset the national mind set that war is something we work to avoid, and more importanly, perhaps he will have put a process in place where Congress will actually discuss the issues and limit the use of military force by Presidents who have been taken prisoner by the military-industrial complex (yes, I mean Cheney).
        As an FYI, I consider myself a conservative, am a registered Republican, and believe starting unnecessay was is NOT a conservative policy.

      • Dennis, I do suspect that Obama is more “dovish” but that may be because his natural inclination is towards compromise and political resolutions. He can certainly be pushed over the edge though….earlier on the JSOC commanders had considered him to be far easier to deal with than the GWB group because he would talk to them directly and showed little micromanagement. Of course that was to clandestine operations against terrorists; as the combat went more overt and full scale, micromanagement returned as it always does. Actually I see Obama as something of a pragmatist, in that respect like JFK. But perhaps more than that he tends to think rather than jump to knee jerk reactions, just as JFK preferred to go over all the consequences first – fortunately for us. The difference that I see is that JFK, with a much broader international background, may have started further up the learning curve. JFK did understand the limits to compromise and actually had to surrender principal to reality in regard to Angola.

        In terms of disclosure I’m politically all over the place, a registered Republican for years, changed that because I considered the party was just sounding bitter and whinny. I took an interesting political self diagnosis quiz a year or so ago and the results showed me as conservative on international affairs, liberal on domestic, libertarian on some issues and green party on others. I too don’t see starting wars as conservative but you need to have a firm policy on when fighting is justified and if it meets that guideline you don’t do it incrementally or half way. My hawkish nature tends to lean towards the King of Jordon…

  2. DennisBartholomew says:

    Larry, I tend to agree with your comments.
    However note: I said starting “unnecessary wars” is not conservative. Maintaining a strong national defense is a conservative principle, but I question whether a national defense that is much stronger than it needs to be is fiscally conservative.

    • Well said Dennis and I agree. My view of the problem is that until you sit down and specifically identify national level threats and prioritize them you tend to respond to everything equally – which means spending money to the maximum required by each task…or trying to at least. Certainly I don’t hear much rigor when I listen to Congress – I hear polemic. Everything is a crisis, everything requires immediate response, etc. Is Chinese expansion in the South China sea really an American security threat? Is ISIS the same as Boko Harem or for that matter even the insurgencies in Yemen? Is the Ukraine really a national security threat. I’m not claiming to have all the answers but I see no sign that of that granularity in Congressional dialog or budgeting. I do get into that subject a bit in my forthcoming book, Surprise Attack, so I’ve had to ponder it a good deal – especially the historically proven concept called “mirroring”. I see our defense spending driven by who is campaigning to what base, what serves individual Congressional districts and who ranks where in DC committee seniority more than any strategic vision much less pragmatism.

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