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Corker and the Absurd AUMF Debate

Greg Sargent flags [1] this quote [2] from Bob Corker about a resolution specifically authorizing the war on ISIS:

Whether Congress passes an AUMF or does not pass an AUMF, it’s not going to affect an iota of activities on the ground.

Whether he meant to or not, Corker has succinctly summed up why the entire debate over a new AUMF has been so absurd. If Congress authorizes the war, the war will continue, and if it doesn’t vote on an authorization the war will continue. All indications are that if Congress voted explicitly against authorizing the war, the war would also continue. In that sense, Corker is absolutely right that it will have no effect. Corker is drawing attention to the reality that the U.S. will keep waging the war on the president’s orders no matter what Congress does regarding a new authorization resolution. Most hawks think this is just fine, which is why they feel no need to make an issue out of this, and they happen to be the ones in charge of both chambers.

Unless they are prepared to vote against the war and cut off funding for the war (and they aren’t), Congress has for all practical purposes been left with the choice between formally endorsing Obama’s war and letting it continue without comment. Corker is admitting that the president will not be bound in practice by any limitations contained in a new resolution, which is clearly true, and so he sees no point in going through the motions of crafting and passing one that the administration will ignore or distort beyond recognition whenever it wishes. Under the circumstances, it probably is better that there isn’t a specific authorization for this war, since that will deprive it of the veneer of legitimacy that will help to keep it going longer. As it is, the U.S. should be looking for a way to get out of the war [3] instead of worrying about getting Congress to rubber stamp another unnecessary intervention.

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12 Comments To "Corker and the Absurd AUMF Debate"

#1 Comment By SmoothieX12 (aka Andrew) On May 29, 2015 @ 2:53 pm

Corker is admitting that the president will not be bound in practice by any limitations contained in a new resolution, which is clearly true, and so he sees no point in going through the motions of crafting and passing one that the administration will ignore or distort beyond recognition whenever it wishes.

Bingo, here is the essence of the current US political discourse–it is all about perceptions and “distortion” of the reality, not about reality itself. I am looking at all that and it seems that the entropy comes much faster than I could possibly imagine. It is all a symptom, the larger framework is too disturbing (for some) to even discuss.

#2 Comment By DP On May 29, 2015 @ 4:15 pm

What this is really about is the relentless militarism of our foreign policy. It’s so taken for granted now that the idea of actually declaring a war is passe. Of course, we’re bombing people. And of course we’ll keep bombing people with or without Congressional action, because that’s just what we as a country do.

I am, therefore I bomb.

I don’t know what it’s going to take to shake some common sense into this nation. We supposedly exalt the Founding Fathers, but they had some pretty pointed opinions on this type of governmental decadence.

#3 Comment By Ken T On May 29, 2015 @ 4:23 pm

It always comes back to the old adage: “Follow the money”. As long as Congress is funding the war, they are approving the war, regardless of how many votes are taken to authorize it or not; regardless of how many speeches are made decrying the President’s “usurpation” of powers. It is all just political theater, except the only vote that actually matters. Follow the money.

#4 Comment By philadelphialawyer On May 29, 2015 @ 5:28 pm

Ken T:

“It always comes back to the old adage: ‘Follow the money.’ As long as Congress is funding the war, they are approving the war, regardless of how many votes are taken to authorize it or not; regardless of how many speeches are made decrying the President’s ‘usurpation’ of powers. It is all just political theater, except the only vote that actually matters. Follow the money.”

Indeed. But I would add that the political theater is not just something that happens, there is a reason for it. And that reason is that cutting off the money carries a heavy price.

There is always, whether in Weimer Germany or in the USA, a price to be paid for pulling the plug on a war. A war, no matter how irretrievably lost, as with the Germans in WWI or the Americans and their “allies” in Vietnam, can always be revisionistically reframed to have been nearly won, with those pulling the plug having “stabbed in the back” the war effort.

A whole cottage industry has arisen purporting that the USA had the Vietnam War all but won, until the evil, liberal Democrats stabbed our wonderful Saigon allies in the back by cutting off the money. Beyond the fake academics who peddle this line, there is another cottage industry in the popular entertainment industry that sells a similar product: namely that the USA “would have” won but for the restrictions the “liberals” put on “Our Brave Fighting Men.” The phony historians and the Rambo, et al, movies dovetail perfectly with a political fiction, one that is virtually inexhaustible, and toxic.

And that is that the liberal Democrats in Congress, when they refused Ford’s preposterous request for “emergency” funding as Saigon was practically already falling caused that fall. No one mentions that the regular appropriation had already been passed, and that ships full of American equipment and ammunition and supplies were actually being unloaded at South Vietnam ports as the final offensive concluded. Or that whole warehouses were full of the stuff, or that the ARVN had many, many more tanks, planes, etc than the NVA and VC combined.

No, the liberal Dems stabbed them in the back. And, for decades, have been trying to live that down. By riding in tanks in TV campaign ads. By going along with ever louder and ever shriller “thank you’s” to our “heroes” in the military, and, more substantively, by approving wars, or as you say, by not trying to defund them.

And, notice, the actions of Congress in 1975 did not involve pulling the plug on any Americans (at least, not on any that were admitted to be on the scene…in reality, US spooks and mercs were still pretty much running the show, but leave that aside) in the field. Can you imagine the outcry from the well funded militaristic right wing if Congress had the temerity to cut off the funding of US troops actually “deployed” in a “war zone?” Would it ever end? Would the accusations that Congress, besides losing a war that the military had all but won, had also gotten X number of Brave American Heroes killed, ever stop?

That is why Congressmen, even those who agree in principle with the Larison Line, are loath to do anything about it. Vote to cut off funding for “Our Troops?” And face a full court press from the Murdoch Media, from the Sheldon Adelsons of the world, from every idiot, militaristic blogger, and from every flag waiving super patriot yahoo in the land?

#5 Comment By SmoothieX12 (aka Andrew) On May 29, 2015 @ 5:36 pm

@Ken T

There are many dimensions to all that other than just fiscal interest and corruption. Economic determinism is fine, as long as it is placed in the proper context. American foreign policy madness is a direct derivative of cultural milieu of American political (and power) elites–they are not conditioned by the Continental Warfare–a process which takes centuries to occur and which, usually, allows for the emergence of a very practical strategic consensus in the society and becomes the part of its culture. US culture lacks it, other than this “super-hyper-what have you power” nonsense and narrative, formulated by different “think-tanks” who consistently can not get anything right, and which generally belongs to some parallel universe. In the end–it is fundamentally cultural with economics being a major, but one of many factors.

#6 Comment By starve the beast On May 29, 2015 @ 7:23 pm

Yes, Congress must stop the hemorrhaging of American money and blood into the Middle East.

Defund Obama’s wars. Please.

#7 Comment By EkiteCommInc. On May 30, 2015 @ 4:23 am

I am not sure where I posted the Chine Russian warship data, but I am aware that my dates are old and it pnly matters if they were sent and they remain in play —-

my careless on that post of old data.

#8 Comment By JLF On May 30, 2015 @ 8:18 am

starve the beast: Just Obama’s wars? Why not defund the whole enterprise? Bring defense appropriations down to the level of the country with the next largest defense budget. Curtail all overseas adventurism . . . which is not the same as Fortress America but more in line with FDR’s Good Neighbor Policy writ larger than merely the Western Hemisphere.

#9 Comment By Daniel (not Larison) On May 30, 2015 @ 9:22 am

One advantage of Congressional “approval”: they will then own the war. Not that “owning” a failed war seems to have political impact.

#10 Comment By sglover On May 30, 2015 @ 4:48 pm

@philadelphialawyer — Bush the Elder gave another example of what you’re talking about, when he unilaterally sent about half a million American troops on a camping trip in Saudi Arabia, pending a Congressional “decision” on what to do about Saddam Hussein and Kuwait. After that, everything the Congress did was mostly theater, melodrama. None of our political “leaders” had the stomach to interfere with such an immense and visible expedition. They knew it, and Bush emphatically knew it — that’s why he did it.

#11 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 31, 2015 @ 5:09 am

There are three occassions when Congress has checked the Pres. use of force by Congresssional defunding.

1. Congress refused the naval tour initated by Pres. Teddy Roosevelt and the fleet rested in the China. It highlights to very impportants about the military.

a. The executive dosn’t need an AUMF to deply the military as he sees fit.
b. A faiure to fund such operations leaves the those servese deployed in eculiar and vulnerable positions — placing pressure on Conress to fund the atter in any case.

2. THey defunded any further use of force in Vietnam I (that acknowledgement does not change my position on Vietnamm at all in any manner). Unlike Pres. Roosevelt’s Navy operations tour, they did so after the military had departed Vietnam and were already back in CONUS.

3. They opted to defund any further use of the military in Somolia.

Whether these were actuall successful in stopping the use of force is questionable. And I would add, whether they should do the same. There’s a sound reason why the executive is vested with the CNC authority. And measures by Congress, by law or funding are not binding on ability to do so and it should not.

While noble, it hardly has value as a pragmatic measure. In age when deficit spending is the norm and the security protocols have expanded well beyond mere readiness, but operate in real time since September 11 and both invasions. There is little stomach or will by Congress to risk their political futures, because of the lingering exaggerations of of what might happen.

“And face a full court press from the Murdoch Media, from the Sheldon Adelsons of the world . . .”

Less an issue the eternal idea of not binding the ecxecutive from the immediate use of the military in a time of crisis.

And while time creates some muting of the intent of the Chinese or the Russians in Syria, does anyone think that those actions and threats are themselves muted. Anyone who thinks so is mistaken.

#12 Comment By philadelphialawyer On May 31, 2015 @ 9:12 am

“There’s a sound reason why the executive is vested with the CNC authority. And measures by Congress, by law or funding are not binding on ability to do so and it should not.”

CNC authority and “deployment” are hardly the same thing, when deployment means not moving around US troops within the country, or among or between US bases or otherwise on the territory of US allies, or moving ships around in international waters and so on, but rather sending troops or ships or planes into war zones. Deployment means war in those circumstances, and the Constitution did not contemplate the President taking the country to war on his own.

Congress is supposed to be in charge of the war declaring authority. That authority has never really been ironclad, and has eroded dramatically over the years, particular since WWII, as the US has been at war for the most of the time, and yet war has never been declared.

The authority to raise armies doesn’t really matter much either, in an era of huge, standing, permanent military establishments.

That leaves Congress with only its last and most anciently pedigreed weapon, the power of the purse. Cutting off the money means no war. And Kings in England learned that centuries ago.

“There is little stomach or will by Congress to risk their political futures, because of the lingering exaggerations of what might happen.”

Yes, that was my point.