(Washington D.C., Wednesday, June 26, 2019) – Endless wars can only be stopped if Congress can reclaim its constitutional power to decide when the U.S. goes to war – and not the White House. This issue is being debated in Congress now.
The sustained use of our military force is the longest in history – longer than the Civil War, World War I, and World War II combined. Since 2001, presidents, including Donald Trump, used the Authorization for the Use of Military Force to justify 41 military operations in 19 countries.
Our constitution states that Congress has the sole authority to declare war. Yet three presidents have essentially claimed that when Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in 2001, Congress handed its war powers to the president.
An entire generation has grown up not knowing America or the world at peace – only endless war. Young men and women may be sent to fight in wars that were last voted on before they were born. Eighty percent of current members of Congress have never taken a vote about whether to send them into harm’s way.
The over-militarized approach to foreign policy has made the United States less safe and increased instability around the world. American wars have cost $5.9 trillion and resulted in the deaths of some 500,000 people, including approximately 250,000 civilians, and nearly 7,000 U.S. troops.
The 2001 AUMF is outdated, overly broad, and has been stretched beyond its original intent. It is long past time to repeal it. Repealing the AUMF will not impede the president’s ability to defend the U.S. against future threats. The president retains the power to use military force to defend the U.S. against a sudden or imminent attack without congressional approval.
Congress must reassert its constitutional responsibilities by debating and voting on whether to continue participation in any current conflict. Failing to do so makes Congress complicit in endless war.
The over-reliance on a military approach to respond to the threat of terrorism is not working. After nearly two decades of war, we need to bring an end to endless American wars and invest more in non-military means of countering terrorism, like diplomacy, law enforcement, development, humanitarian assistance, and conflict prevention. The Friends Committee on National Legislation (fcnl.org) lobbies Congress and the administration to advance peace, justice, opportunity, and environmental stewardship. FCNL is a nonpartisan organization that seeks to live our values of integrity, simplicity, and peace as we build relationships across political divides to move policies forward.