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January 27, 2007
Democrats Will Push Replacement AUMF

Steny Hoyer announced yesterday that Congress will pursue a new strategy in its opposition to the war in Iraq, one that has the effect of turning back time. Instead of issuing meaningless resolutions or taking the political risk of defunding the troops under fire, Hoyer and the Democrats now want to re-write the original Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed in 2002 regarding Iraq:

Democrats may promote a new revised bill authorizing the use of force in Iraq -- to replace the 2002 bill that allowed the Bush administration to proceed with the war, a top Democrat said Friday.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer -- No. 2 in the House behind Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- said that is one step Democrats might pursue to change conditions in Iraq.

"Frankly, it is time for the president to accept that we are no longer involved in a nation-building exercise. We are involved in conflict resolution," Hoyer said during a speech at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

After a series of congressional hearings on the war, "We will then explore appropriate ways to affect the policy and strategy being pursued in Iraq," Hoyer said.

Some ways include spending bills for military and diplomatic activities in Iraq "and possibly a revised authorization for the use of military force in Iraq that more accurately reflects the mission of our troops on the ground," he said.

Unfortunately, that's a lot like closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. Issuing an AUMF has traditionally meant that the conduct of the war then transfers completely to the executive. The only method of ending the conflict authorized by the AUMF from the position of the legislature is to end its funding and forcing the withdrawal of troops -- a radical step fraught with peril for the troops involved and the position of the American military around the world.

Congress will set an awful precedent if it decides it can re-jigger its language in the middle of the war they authorized. Wars do not get fought on day-to-day whims; they involve large-scale planning. The movement of our military takes tremendous logistical planning, and when we have other nations working with us within a coalition, it gets even more complex. Having a branch of government with no responsibility for military command suddenly dictate rule changes in the middle of the war will destroy any hope of success and force a collapse that will cost the US dearly in terms of credibility as well as money.

Besides, it's almost certainly unconstitutional. The Constitution has traditionally been interpreted to say that Congress can declare war, but the executive has to declare an end to conflict through the office of Commander-In-Chief once war has been declared. Congress, in attempting to amend or replace the AUMF, wants to usurp that office for themselves, making the C-in-C an executive consisting of a committee of 535 people. Regardless of one's position on this war, it's a horrible precedent to set even if it could pass Constitutional muster, which it almost certainly will not.

The key for a political party to end a war is to win the White House. They had their opportunity in 2004 and lost the election. Short of pulling the funding and taking responsibility for that act, the Democrats have no legal way to do it.

I will give Hoyer his due, however. He addressed the nations that have carped about Iraq in the same statement:

"While the world can and should critically evaluate the administration's flawed execution of this war, we cannot ignore the central argument that our action was, in part, a consequence of the international community's failure to act multilaterally," Hoyer said, citing Saddam Hussein's flouting of U.N. resolutions. "The U.N. only talked in the face of international violations, even though history demonstrates that vacillation only emboldens those who seek to rule through force and terror."

"The international community must embrace its responsibility in Iraq," he added.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 27, 2007 8:57 AM

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