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Where Is the Opposition to Our Illegal and Unnecessary Wars?

Michael Brendan Dougherty wonders [1] if more Democrats will start caring about our illegal and unnecessary wars once Trump takes office:

In less than two weeks, Trump will assume the office of the presidency. He will inherit from Obama a U.S. military engaged in conflicts across the Islamic world. Will Democrats who either cheered or ignored these patriotic exercises of American power suddenly find it in themselves to oppose these wars as racist, imperialist actions of an arrogant unilateral superpower gone rogue?

There will be stronger political incentives for Democrats to challenge Trump in matters of war than there were during Obama’s presidency, but there may be less dramatic change than Dougherty suggests. Apart from a few honorable exceptions in Congress and a few in the media, no one in Washington cares or even pretends to care about what the U.S. has been helping the Saudis do to Yemen, and that total indifference and/or pro-Saudi whitewashing will almost certainly continue in the coming year. Most Democrats aren’t going to want to call attention to the atrocious war that Obama enabled for almost two years, and most Republicans never even feigned concern when Obama was doing this and will do their best to ignore it once Trump is president. As Dougherty notes, there have been some critics of Obama’s shameful Yemen policy from the left, and I assume they will continue to condemn our disgraceful support for the pummeling and starving of Yemen, but most of our representatives and most of the public just ignore all of it.

What about our other wars? The war on ISIS is unauthorized, open-ended, and has produced limited results, but it remains broadly popular and has the backing of most people in both parties. Perhaps there will be a Tim Kaine-led push to get a proper debate and authorization vote, but Congress has had over two years to do this and hasn’t done anything so far. The war in Afghanistan has been all but forgotten by members of both parties, and there is no reason to expect a change there. Unless Trump commits the U.S. to a large-scale ground war or proposes to start a new war against yet another government, he probably won’t encounter much opposition in waging the wars he has inherited. That is Obama’s legacy: normalizing perpetual war while pretending to end wars, and launching wars without authorization so that there is no debate or serious scrutiny of the president’s wars.

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13 Comments To "Where Is the Opposition to Our Illegal and Unnecessary Wars?"

#1 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 9, 2017 @ 10:11 am

The biggest reality arguing against a change in what has become an economic underpinning, the export business of war, is that so many remaining good jobs with benefits and pensions are in the war sector, whether manufacture or customers. Stop the wars and the hemorrhaging of jobs with no replacements in visible sight will be politically impossible. For wars to stop, alternatives for the economy have to be in place first. History shows us a strong incentive to war is economic uncertainty as well as imperial hubris.

#2 Comment By Fred Bowman On January 9, 2017 @ 10:32 am

Way past time to scrap the AUMF (Authorization of Use of Military Force) or to amend to be “Time and/or Mission Specific). Seems to me Obama’s military misadventures in the Middle East were using Bush II AUMF. That needs to change. Any President NEEDS to go before Congress and the American people before engaging our Military into yet another mis-adventure in the Middle East. Of course Congress is probably with the AUMF as is, as it allow them to be a bunch of “Pontius Pilates” in regards to America servicemen and women being placed needlessly “in Harm’s Way”.

#3 Comment By MULGA On January 9, 2017 @ 11:07 am

We must immediately uncouple our foreign policy from Saudi Arabia and Israel. Different countries with very different goals and aspirations. Without Israel and Saudi Arabia- would we have all these wars? It is nonsense to believe wars support economic growth. War is human carnage, suffering, and the destruction of our GDP by firing it at other human beings. Let’s return to the Marshall Plan ethic where we built not destroyed. BTW – anyone notice our own infrastructure needs fixing.

#4 Comment By SteveM On January 9, 2017 @ 11:42 am

Related to Obama’s “light” wars. Well wars are only as light as the opponent allows them to be given that he has the wherewithal to either engage further.

My point is that it is very difficult to unring the bell of a war instigated by an Imperial President no matter how “light” the intent and no matter the actual preferences of Congress and the people. The President could set up a no-fly zone in Syria which leads to shooting down Russian aircraft and then all hell breaks loose no matter limited the President’s actual intent. In that context, a no-fly zone is an implied de facto declaration of war against Russia by the United States represented ONLY by the President, who eventually drags along the rest of country with him/her.

Giving the President even “limited” war making power for pre-emptive reasons opens up the potential for escalation to a massive conflict that neither the Congress nor the people want.

Agree with Fred Bowman. After the election, the first order of business for Congress in a collective and bipartisan manner should have been passing a veto-proof repeal of the AUMF, with an invitation to President Trump to negotiate an updated version that constrains military operations not directly related to an immediate threat to the United State.

Heck, even re-validating the current metastasized AUMF but tacking on an explicit sunset provision would be an improvement from the unbounded and perpetual military hammer now wielded by an Imperial Presidency run amok.

Fred is right. AUMF has to go away, and the sooner the better.

#5 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 9, 2017 @ 11:58 am

I don’t believe Congress doesn’t want war. There’s a lot of money in it for their biggest donors. The people’s will doesn’t enter into it, except at election time, but that brake doesn’t last past the vote tallies, when the people are powerless again. The jobs issue is a major one, and the military-industrial complex has seeded every district with an economic dependence upon war manufacture, making voting against war an issue that will have local impact on constituents’ employment. It’s doubtful that ratcheting back warfare could happen unless the country somehow first provides mass employment and investments that are as lucrative. Now it all might prove self-limiting in the end, if the consequences spiraled out of control, either through economic collapse, a major existential war that was lost, or the miscalculation that led to a nuclear exchange. Is there a will to resist the trajectory we are on? It cerainly seems inevitable that the incoming President won’t be allowed to make peace or reduce conflicts with anyone. The circumstances as they already exist, are not the result of foreign policy failure, but its mighty success for those who count.

#6 Comment By Anonne On January 9, 2017 @ 12:11 pm

We need to press Congress to actually do its job and declare wars. The “American people” (scare quotes intentional) keep demanding action, leaving it to the Executive to act in Congress’ cowardice, and members of Congress themselves use it as a bat against the President. The whole situation is inane.

#7 Comment By Scott F. On January 9, 2017 @ 2:29 pm


“Agree with Fred Bowman. After the election, the first order of business for Congress in a collective and bipartisan manner…”

As Fred notes, this will never happen. Because, Congress wants the AUMF to remain in place as it is, because they would much prefer to have an Imperial President while they sit around and complain about it, than to bear the responsibility for war so clearly given them in the Constitution. And, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, Presidents are highly unlikely to constrain themselves.

#8 Comment By Donald On January 9, 2017 @ 11:46 pm

It is really depressing how people ignore Yemen. Liberals have shown that much of the criticism leveled at Bush and Cheney for war crimes was largely motivated by partisanship. one expects this to some degree, but it was worse than I had thought.

#9 Comment By EliteCommInc. On January 10, 2017 @ 3:53 am

I am concerned that the larger problem on perception is going to plague any pushback against the use of force.

Since Sept 11, the perception of the world from the view of most people in the US is probably that the whole thing is becoming unraveled. In a news cycle of 24/7 and a media primed for action as to what sells. They have and continue to a fine job of selling the sense of whatever order existed is coming loose at the seams.

I am not sure we have seen a political leadership that has responded to the greater reality that the world’s tend to violence is slowing as opposed to growing. That the US is not under some eminent threat of chaos or annihilation from anyone. There are terrorists they are states who don’t toe the (world)party line, and there are dangers.

But our actions over the last twenty years have actually further created the environment we fear or least say we fear. But having ramped up our military industry for the “long war” it’s hard to imagine many of them having the fortitude to explain to their voters that we just don’t need an F-35 coming online with all of its issues.

#10 Comment By The Colonel On January 10, 2017 @ 10:45 am

@ Fran Macadam

Congress is most certainly complicit, but not officially. CYA is still the first rule of Fight Club (as most recently evidenced by the equivocal “assessments” offered by the intelligence industry regarding the KGB sabotage of our election process). making each member stand up, say their name and vote means they have to share the blame.

#11 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 10, 2017 @ 9:14 pm

“Congress is most certainly complicit, but not officially. CYA is still the first rule”

That hypocrisy is necessary to preserve the illusion of democracy that with whomever has voted for them, there their loyalty remains, rather than with the elites who bankrolled them, and whose policies therefore do not coincide with the interests of most Americans.

#12 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 10, 2017 @ 9:17 pm

“CYA is still the first rule … the equivocal ‘assessments’ offered by the intelligence industry regarding the KGB sabotage of our election process). Making each member stand up, say their name and vote means they have to share the blame.”

Notably the “assessments” have been anonymous, with no actual named person wanting to stand up behind them.

#13 Comment By The Colonel On January 10, 2017 @ 9:46 pm

@ Fran Macadam

er, yes. those were the points i thought i was making. Congress’ demurring isn’t accidental.