Inside Story Americas

The power to go to war

What are the implications of the US president having the authority to use military force without congressional approval?

Last Modified: 21 May 2013 10:50
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What is al-Qaeda? [Is] al-Qaeda a very narrow band ... [or is it] a broad sprawling, difficult to understand, diffuse network that's constantly changing, with lots of different subgroups … across the world …. It’s quite fascinating, and really rather significant, that 12 years into this war, there is not an accepted definition of that foundational question of who the enemy is.

Spencer Ackerman, senior writer for Wired 

More than 12 years after the September 11 attacks, the US military has said that the current American president, and his successors, will have the authority to wage wars around the world for many more years to come - without approval from Congress.

Soon after the 9/11 attacks, the authorisation for the use of military force gave the US president the right to attack groups directly linked to those who carried out the 2001 attacks, as well as those who harboured them.

"The President is authorised to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organisations, or persons he determines planned, authorised, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harboured such organisations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organisations or persons," the Authorisation for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) law says.

But despite repeated assertions by the Barack Obama administration that significant blows have been dealt against a much-diminished al-Qaeda, a senior Pentagon official said last week on Capitol Hill that the war against the group, its affiliates and "associated forces" could go on for decades.

So, what are the implications of the US president having the authority to use military force around the world without congressional approval?

And how much longer will this type of power last? 

To discuss this, Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, is joined by guests: Jennifer Daskal, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University's Center on Law and National Security, who also served as a lawyer at the national security division of the US Justice Department; and Spencer Ackerman, a senior writer for Wired, focusing on national security for the magazine's Danger Room blog.

"If you go back to just after September 11 2001, you have the Bush administration pushing a much broader authorisation, that would've essentially asked Congress to authorise the use of military forces to deter or prevent acts of international terrorism at large. And Congress, in a bipartisan fashion, said no, we are going to authorise what was understood as a much more limited authorisation to use force against those groups, those entities - everybody understood that to be the Taliban and al-Qaeda - that were responsible for [September 11] ... Now over the course of the last 12 years, both administrations have interpreted this consistent with international law, as covering not just al-Qaeda and the Taliban but also … [those] forces that have joined forces with al-Qaeda and Taliban in the particular fight."

- Jennifer Daskal, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University's Center on Law and National Security


Al Jazeera
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