Do People Still Do This?

I decided over the weekend that I would get back to my blog.  Then I had a harrowing thought - do people still blog?  Then I almost ran over a ball, because, well, most of my thinking takes place while mowing the lawn.

I want to talk about politics.  That won't surprise most of you.  I don't want to hear, rehash, or bang my head against the same old political arguments over and over.  There are plenty of people talking about tweets and "fake news" and all that other nonsense.  I want to talk about other stuff, the stuff that happens while we are distracted by the shiny stuff over there.  The stuff that happens while you weren't looking.

So, without further ado, and with a very real sense that absolutely no one will read this, here goes:

While You Weren't Looking...

The US House of Representatives approved an amendment, added by Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California, which would end the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) 240 days after the passage of the newest defense appropriations bill.

What is the AUMF?

Well, the AUMF was passed in 2001, and has been the basis for the Executive branch of the government to wage war across Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, and on and on.  37 military operations in 14 countries.  That's right.  Since 2001 the United States has been at war, and during that time we have engaged enemy combatants, trained local fighters, provided equipment to, and weapons for 14 different countries in 37 separate operations.

What's the Big Deal?

Congress holds the power to declare war.  The President is the Commander in Chief.  In this way the Constitution assures that that burden of war be spread across the two representative branches of our government.  This division is meant to assure that wars are only fought when the country is willing to bear the burden of war, and the representatives we elect are willing to bear the responsibility.  

Since 2001, the Congress of the United States has been shirking that responsibility.  Presidents GW Bush, Obama, and Trump have had this open ended authorization to use the United States military anywhere they chose, so long as they could point that usage back to the very vague notion of the "war on terror."

The effect has been to allow Senators and Representatives to sit on the sidelines and politicize military actions while never having to accept the burden of responsibility.  It isn't bad for war to be political.  We should always be open to healthy debate about whether or not we should be involving our military in an action that isn't directly self-defense.  The problem arises when only one person - the sitting President - bears the responsibility.  

If the bill passes with the amendment, the President - whoever he or she may be - will need to get Congressional approval for any new military operations not already declared.

What's Next?

Well, before you get too excited, keep in mind that the Senate will need to pass an appropriations bill of their own, and then the two bills will need to be reconciled.  If the Lee amendment makes it through that process, then we may actually be on our way to full accountability in regards to our military once again.

Fun Fact:

The original AUMF passed the Senate 98-0 and the House 420-1.  The lone "no" vote?   Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California.