President Obama took a confident stand against the Islamic State on Wednesday as he asked Congress for a resolution authorizing the continued campaign against the terrorist group.
“Make no mistake, this is a difficult mission. And it will remain difficult for some time. It’s going to take time to dislodge these terrorists,” Obama said. “But our coalition is on the offensive. ISIL is on the defensive, and ISIL is going to lose.”
Obama addressed the nation from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, where he stood in front of a painting of Teddy Roosevelt during the Spanish-American War. “Know this: Our coalition is strong, our cause is just and our mission will succeed,” he said.
Though Obama said the resolution he sent to Congress would give him the power he needs, the White House said it actually would place more limits on the president’s military campaign against the Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, than authorizations already in place.
The draft resolution would not authorize “enduring offensive ground combat operations,” and it would place a three-year time limit on operations before the resolution would have to be renewed.
“It is not the authorization of another ground war like Afghanistan or Iraq,” Obama said. “As I’ve said before, I’m convinced that the United States should not get dragged back into another prolonged ground war in the Middle East. That’s not in our national security interest, and it’s not necessary for us to defeat ISIL.”
Military leaders were satisfied with the language in the proposed authorization but would have preferred a measure that had no restrictions on the kinds of troops that can deploy, what they can do and how long they can stay, according to a senior Defense Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about it. The authorization is important to troops, the official said, because it shows public support for their mission.
The three-year limit, Obama said, “is not a timetable.” Rather, it would allow the next Congress and the next president to “revisit the issue.”
Even as he asked Congress to pass the authorization Wednesday, he said, “Existing statutes provide me with the authority I need to take these actions,” raising the question of whether the congressional debate is primarily a legal or political exercise.
The resolution — called an authorization for the use of military force, or AUMF — would repeal a 2002 measure that authorized the invasion of Iraq. It would leave intact a 2001 authorization that Obama says gives him authority to conduct a worldwide war on terrorists, including the Islamic State.
The 2001 resolution “can be read broadly to authorize military actions against terrorists for decades to come,” said Louis Fisher, a scholar at the Constitution Project and an expert on war powers. Unless it’s repealed, the draft resolution contains “very loose language” that adds to the ambiguity about the president’s war powers, he said.
Any resolution that does not clarify war powers would give Obama and his successors unfettered authority to conduct war, Fisher said. “Any president who reads his authority in that sweeping fashion is cause for concern, even if previous presidents made similar claims,” he said.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Gregory Korte