Tuesday, June 4, 2013

responsible congressional action

That's almost an oxymoron, isn't it? Or at least a headline-grabbing surprise these days.

I am pleased to report that the House Armed Services Committee included several sensible foreign policy provisions in its defense authorization bill, approved yesterday.

-- Section 1041 establishes a procedure for Congress to be "promptly" notified of "sensitive military operations," defined as lethal or capture operations conducted by U.S. armed forces. There is already an informal notification process. This makes is statutory and regular.

-- Section 1042 demands a report on the "legal and policy considerations and approval processes" for determining targets of lethal operations.  This is reasonable, though I would have preferred a Hughes-Ryan type process requiring presidential determinations as well as notifications.

-- Section 1203 continues the Global Security Contingency Fund, a joint State-Defense enterprise.

-- Section 1211 cuts military aid to Pakistan by 10% and requires certification that Pakistan is allowing movement of supplies to and from Afghanistan and is cooperating on counterterrorism operations. This tough provision can be waived by the Secretary of Defense for "national security interests."

-- Section 1241 requires a report on U.S. military ability to respond to terrorist attacks in Africa and the Middle East. This is better than mandating the creation of a special force to deal with Benghazi-type situations.

-- Section 1251 recites a lot of concerns about Syria, then offers "sense of Congress" language urging the President to "consider all courses of action to remove" President Assad from power.It also calls for "rigorous planning" to secure Syrian chemical weapons as well as "nonlethal aid" to the Syrian opposition. This is much more restrained than pro-interventionist calls for "no fly" zones and offensive military aid.

 Somewhat surprisingly, the committee made no attempt to revise the 2001 authorization of military force law that has been the basis for the operations in Afghanistan as well as drone operations and other military activities elsewhere.  Nor did the lawmakers add either reporting or other directive language on offensive cyber operations.

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