Congress should seek clarity before granting president more war powers


The Appalachian Online

Kevin Griffin

Now that President Barack Obama has finally submitted an authorization of military force against the Islamic State, we can begin the familiar process of debating the merits of yet another war in the Middle East.

Of course, it is wrong to say that this is the beginning of a war with Islamic State. The United States has been bombing Iraq and Syria for six months now and has had a contingent of ground troops for the same amount of time.

In so far as this authorization is a concession that the president must in fact consult Congress about military intervention, it is a good thing. The resolutions particular to provisions do however pose some problems.

The issue of vagueness is a central point of contention in the debate in Congress over the resolution. Democrats like Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin have questioned how limited the resolution is, while Republican Sen. John McCain opposes limits on military action, according to the Huffington Post.

The resolution would authorize the president to use armed forces against Islamic State, with the exception that these forces may not be used “in enduring offensive ground combat operations.”

Specifically, critics such as Durbin are raising questions about what exactly counts as “enduring” or “offensive.”

The questions are valid and deserve a full evaluation before Congress grants the president any latitude to take military action. Clarity will be key to ensuring that we do not once again become mired in a Middle East war.

The tensions surrounding the role of ground troops might be one of the reasons the Obama administration chose the particular wording. Only 31 percent of Americans supported the use of ground forces, according to an AP-GfK poll for January and February.

Despite the public opposition, some military leaders have said that ground troops may be necessary. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in September that he would recommend the use of ground troops if he felt the situation called for it, according to CNN.

We should all be weary of the use of ground troops and the potential that the use of those troops would call for long-term engagement in Iraq and Syria. Our recent adventures in the Middle East should make us aware that American power does have limits and our actions may have unintended consequences.

The president finally did the right thing by putting a resolution before Congress, but there are many points that need to be clarified before Congress signs off on another potentially problematic military intervention.

Griffin, a junior journalism major from Madison, is an opinion writer.