On September 20th, 2001, President George W. Bush proposed the new Office of Homeland Security to help confront a new threat to national security in the first step of what became the War on Terrorism (Select Committee on Homeland Security, 2004). One week earlier, Congress had signed off on the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), allowing the president broad scope for using military force against countries or organizations who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” terrorism (Ackerman & Hathaway, 2011). 17 years and more than $2 trillion later, the War on Terrorism continues with no sign of easing up (Amadeo, 2018). Though President Trump ran a campaign on getting American soldiers out of the Middle East and letting other countries handle the ISIS threat, the war on terror rhetoric out of the White House has continued unabated, with sights now set on regime change in Iran, a nation that Trump has singled out as being the biggest supporter of terrorism in the world. During his campaign, Trump identified Saudi Arabia as the “world’s biggest funder of terrorism” (Williams, 2018)—and the shift indicates a new alliance between the Saudis and the White House and the potential likelihood of an escalation of conflict in the region, just as the ISIS threat in Syria appears to be mitigated (Colling, 2016). So while some voters and politicians want the War on Terror to end, others support its continuation. This paper will discuss the sides and whether change on this issue is likely to come about anytime soon.
Sides to the Issue
The sides to the issue of ending the War on Terror cross political affiliation and encompass Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and Tea Party groups. The anti-war advocates are numerous as a result—but the pro-war, pro-regime change, anti-terror advocates are also numerous and powerful. The complexity of the issue also arises from the fact that those who are said to support terror (states like Iran) are defended by anti-war proponents who argue that Iran may be a supporter of Hezbollah but that this is not the same thing as Saudi Arabia supporting ISIS, since, as they say Hezbollah is there to defend Lebanon from Israel (Sputnik, 2018) and not there to attack the U.S. or oppose its national security interests.
Mullen (2016) provides the argument of the anti-War on Terror side by stating that the War on Terror has been “as complete a failure as the War on Drugs” with its “continually increasing budgets, exploding proliferation of what is made war upon, increasingly harsh measures following each successive failure and enormous collateral damage.” The proliferation of spying on American citizens by the NSA has fueled the anti-War on Terror side as well, with whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange both hailed as heroes in exile (Price, 2015). The interests of those who oppose the AUMF are rooted in a desire to preserve the right to privacy, a desire to curb spending on foreign wars, a desire to stop regime change abroad, and a desire bring American forces home.
On the other side are those who support the War on Terror.
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At the time of Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan, Americans supported the War 2-1 (Langer, 2001). Their interests were security and a desire for atonement for 9/11. By 2012, however, only 1 in 4 Americans supported a continuation of the War (Madison, 2012). The reason for this could be that the majority of Americans feel that the U.S. is winning or has won the War already (Rasmussen, 2018). Today, though support may be vacillating among the public—in Congress, Senators Bob Corker (Republican) and Tim Kaine (Democrat) have shown that the War still has bi-partisan support at least in parts of the government as they seek to update the president’s authority to wage war against terrorism and its sponsors in the Middle East by allowing the president to continue to “wage an unlimited war” by granting “the administration the ability to continue conflicts against stateless terrorism organizations and start new ones” while at the same time giving Congress oversight power with a clause in the proposal to ensure that “a congressional review is built in every four years at which point Congress could amend, expand or repeal the president's authority” (Caldwell & Salama, 2018).
Kaine has argued that this proposal is the best chance at achieving bi-partisan support for a bill that both extends and simultaneously (potentially) limits the president’s broad powers in the War on Terror (Caldwell & Salama, 2018). Proponents of the War on Terror do not like the limitations aspect of the bill, while those who oppose the War do not like the extension. If Congress does nothing, the president’s mandate to wage the War on Terror will continue.
What Might Prevent Change
Repealing the AUMF does not appear to be an option for today’s Congress. The War is being won as far as the majority of Americans believe, according to the latest Rasmussen poll, and curbing the president’s power to wage war against Terror could mean allowing terror cells to proliferate once more. That means that ending the War on Terror is unlikely to be a reality in the near future. Senator Rand Paul attempted to pass a bill to repeal the AUMF last year and “the Senate voted 61-36 in a procedural motion to kill Paul’s amendment” (Herb, 2017). With Iran now in the cross-hairs of the White House, which has identified it as the biggest sponsor of terrorism in the world, it looks as though meaningful change to the AUMF in terms of repeal is unlikely.
Additionally, Israel is one of the biggest proponents of taking aim at Iran and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is a huge lobby that empowers many members of Congress—so much so that….....
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