Thursday, May 23, 2013

Obama's invitation to collaborate

There's a lot to talk about in the President's far-ranging speech on dealing with terrorists, including such matters as presidential war powers, drone policy, lethal targeting of Americans, Benghazi, Boston, and prosecution of leaks of classified information.  What I think is most promising is this:

Now, all these issues remind us that the choices we make about war can impact, in sometimes unintended ways, the openness and freedom on which our way of life depends. And that is why I intend to engage Congress about the existing Authorization to Use Military Force, or AUMF, to determine how we can continue to fight terrorism without keeping America on a perpetual wartime footing.

The AUMF is now nearly twelve years old. The Afghan War is coming to an end. Core al-Qaida is a shell of its former self. Groups like AQAP must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al-Qaida will pose a credible threat to the United States. Unless we discipline our thinking, our definitions, our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight or continue to grant presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states.

So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine and ultimately repeal the AUMF’s mandate. And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further. Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. It’s what our democracy demands.
The 2001 law was consciously limited to those involved with the 9/11 attacks or linked to them. Something needs to be done to deal with continuing threats by groups that are not specifically associated with al Qaeda or only vaguely linked to them. The President  has opened the door for congressional involvement. That's good. I hope they get together and work out a reasonable system for handling these issues.

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