Limited Authorization

The use of military force as foreign policy is one of the most sensitive aspects of U.S. power. Interventions usually begin as worthy — even humanitarian — missions, only to turn into unpredictable disasters that damage the initial goals and discredit the U.S.

The proposed resolution President Barack Obama has sent Congress asking authorization to back his strategy against Islamic State (ISIS) takes into account past experiences with similar proposals, such as the one made in 2001 allowing operations in Afghanistan and the 2002 authorization to start a war in Iraq.

In this case, Obama discarded the 2002 case and is offering to modify the 2001 resolution, although this is precisely the authorization that the White House uses to justify the use of drones from Yemen to Pakistan, which leaves more innocent victims than terrorists killed.

The good news is that this new proposal includes a three-year limit instead of leaving the door open for interminable interventions. The bad news is that the petition signifies a war against “associated persons or forces” linked to ISIS, a definition so broad that it turns the whole world into a battlefield.

We are extremely worried that, while the President’s proposal rejects the idea of putting boots on the ground, the resolution would keep this possibility open under certain circumstances, threatening escalation.

Internally, authorizations of this kind cause division. They trigger debates regarding the President’s constitutional power in times of war and political discussions about the role of the U.S. in the world.

Like commanders-in-chief before him, Obama does not believe that he is obligated to obtain consent from Congress to carry out his strategy against ISIS. His proposal, as it has been explained, seeks to show a unified front to the world while making Republicans commit to his plan in the face of the terrorist threat.

The problem is that some people in Washington believe that setting any kind of limits shows weakness in front of the international community.

We need to keep in mind that, while the U.S. is an important part of a coalition against ISIS, it is not decisive to ensure their defeat. That is the role of the Sunni nations within the coalition