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The American Legion Calls for Ending the Forever War

A major shift from the largest veterans' advocacy group in the country

Oley, PA - May 24: Members of the Oley American Legion Post 878 perform a 21-gun salute at Oley Cemetery in Spangsville followe by taps on Sunday, May 24, 2020. (Photo by Lauren A. Little/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

The American Legion has now gone on record calling for an end to the “Forever Wars.” This is a major development in the fight for a more restrained foreign policy.

Despite its declining membership, The American Legion continues to be the largest and most powerful of the DC veterans advocacy organizations. And, while its advocacy power is most pronounced in veterans affairs, it maintains a commission dedicated to advocating for national security issues and can be influential given its status as a voice for military veterans and service members.

The statement follows the adoption of a resolution last fall by the organization entitled “Addressing the ‘Forever War’” which calls for “a renewal of a proper constitutional balance to American foreign policy decision-making by encouraging Congress to repeal and replace outdated Authorizations for Use of Military Force.” The resolution, however, stopped short of calling for an end to the wars.

Yesterday’s move makes explicit what was implicit in the resolution, and represents a stark reversal of its previous position.  

In 2010, the Legion passed a resolution expressing unqualified “support for the war on terror” which urged “all Americans and freedom-loving peoples everywhere to stand united in their support of the global war on terrorism” and the National Commander of the Legion “to engage whatever means necessary to ensure the united support of the American people.”

When a powerful beltway voice like The American Legion, with the credibility provided by two million veterans and their families behind it, calls for an end to two decades of war, it is clear that change is afoot in DC. Advocates of a restrained foreign policy are making major headway, despite the complaints of those who would have more American blood spilled and treasure spent in far-away places 20 years after the events that sent them there.

For more than 100 years, The American Legion post has been a staple of civic life in cities and towns across America, sponsoring baseball leagues, barbeques, Fourth of July parades, and service projects. 

With this shift, the Legion signals that it is taking seriously the views of the citizens of those American cities and towns, as well as those of the veterans that it represents.

about the author

Shaun Rieley is associate director for programs and development at The American Conservative. He has held positions at several nonprofit organizations in the Washington, D.C., area, focused on veterans policy, education policy, and philanthropy. He holds a Ph.D. in political theory from The Catholic University of America, and an M.A. from St. John’s College, Annapolis, where he studied philosophy, political theory, and literature. As an undergraduate he studied political science at the University of Delaware. Shaun served as an enlisted infantryman in the Army National Guard for nine years, which included overseas tours in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A native of Delaware, he lives in Hyattsville, Maryland, with his wife and daughter.

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