Party Platforms Should Include Clear, Specific ISIS AUMF
Tonight the Republican Party will finalize its draft party platform, setting out the party’s principles, goals, and positions on major issues as a precursor to the general election in November. The Democratic Party released its draft platform a couple of weeks ago and both parties will formally adopt final versions at their respective conventions later this month.
Including language in the party platforms that seeks an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that is appropriately tailored to the conflict with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) would demonstrate a commitment to countering terrorism while upholding the rule of law and maintaining global legitimacy.
Members of both parties have criticized the failure to pass an ISIS AUMF, with several introducing proposals for a new resolution. But aside from several proposed AUMF-related amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act from both sides of the aisle (none of which were successful), Congress has not taken any further steps to consider a new resolution tailored to the armed conflict with ISIS since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced an overly broad proposal in January.
The Obama Administration maintains that existing AUMFs passed in 2001 (against al Qaeda and the Taliban) and 2002 (targeting the Saddam Hussein regime) provide it with sufficient congressional authority to target ISIS. Reactions to this interpretation run from acquiescence to outrage and Congress has been unable to agree on the parameters of a new resolution that would be capable of gaining bipartisan support.
Yet such disagreement is noticeably absent among national security law experts, where there is bipartisan consensus on the necessary elements of an ISIS AUMF. Consistent with this bipartisan expert consensus, the Democratic and Republic Party platforms should commit to ensuring that any new AUMF:
Clearly defines the mission objective and the enemy;
Includes robust reporting and transparency requirements sufficient to keep both Congress and the public informed;
Requires compliance with U.S. obligations under international law;
Clarifies that the authorization is the sole source of statutory authority to use force against ISIS to prevent confusion or overlap; and
Sets a sunset date for both the new ISIS AUMF and for the 2001 AUMF (which authorized force against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks) to ensure continued congressional support for the use of force as the conflict evolves.
These recommendations, explained in detail here are in line with this set of principles by national security law experts.