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Fecteau: End the War On Terror

Thursday, October 26, 2017

 

With the tragic death of our troops in the country of Niger, some – especially in Congress – were surprised we were even there. There is a little bit more to the story. After the September 11th, 2001 terror attacks, Congress passed a law known as the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (specifically Al Qaeda terrorists and its associates.) This became infamously known as the global war on terror and encompasses the entire world -- including the faraway country of Niger.

While not technically a declaration of war, it gave the president at the time – President George W. Bush -- the ‘authorization’ to use military force against terrorists almost everywhere. Because of inaction from Congress, this 15-year-old, antiquated legislation remains in effect to this day, and the United States remains at war with the terrorists of a new generation, across multiple continents.  Some of the troops serving in our military ranks were too young to even remember this authorization’s passage, but not too juvenile to fight this limitless war.

This 2001 war powers resolution has been used expansively for military operations since its inception. While President Bush used it to justify various interventions, President Barack Obama, and now President Donald Trump expanded the combat arena sending troops into Syria, Yemen, and other countries. Many of the counterterror operations – including drone strikes -- are justified because of this specific authorization to this day.

The American people should demand Congress replace this existing authorization. We should not be committing our troops to a war based on a law that is not reflective of a new combat environment. The terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden is dead, and al Qaeda terror threat has been supplanted by the so-called Islamic State. The Afghan Taliban are no longer in power, but their insurgency remains alive and well. In other words, this is a much different world than in 2001 (also, terror is a feeling).

With the tragic death of our troops in Niger, for a brief moment, the American people remembered the global war on terror continues to this day. Let’s end the global war on terror already, and pass a new authorization for the next generation that clearly defines the scope of our operations. We need to decide if an endless conflict is productive and even Constitutional. If we fail to act, there will be much more loss of American life in faraway lands, a somber reminder: our country is still at war.

 

Matt Fecteau ([email protected]) is a Master of Public Administration candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and an Iraq War veteran. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewFecteau

 

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