Tuesday, February 17, 2015

AUMF: Where have all the flowers gone? When will they ever learn…

Peter, Paul, and Mary: Where have all the flowers gone

As usual, billmoyers.com jars its viewers and readers into a more realistic take on world affairs than that of our government or for that matter, the US electorate. This time, Bill’s guest is Andrew Bacevich, professor of history and international relations at Boston University. And just so you know, Professor Bacevich is a graduate of the US Military Academy, and he has taught at West Point and Johns Hopkins. He’s wise to the strategies of leaders to drag their nation’s into prolonged wars.

Bacevich wants us to reflect on the eerie similarities between President Richard Nixon’s 1970 request to Congress for expansion of his war powers that became the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) and President Barack Obama’s recent request for AUMF.

Now that’s not too much to ask of an informed citizen, right? Kind of reminds you of some words from that old Peter, Paul, and Mary song from the sixties, Where Have All the Flowers Gone:

Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Bacevich writes:

Try this thought experiment. Pretend that it’s the spring of 1970. President Richard Nixon has just sent US troops into Cambodia. He thereby expands the Vietnam War, a costly undertaking already ongoing for years with no sign of victory in sight.

Now imagine further that Nixon sends a message to Congress asking that it authorize him to do what he has already done (while simultaneously insisting that even without legislative approval he already has the necessary authority).

The president emphasizes that the Cambodian operation is not really a big deal. He has no intention of US troops maintaining an “enduring” presence there. Even so, he’d like Congress to approve a three-year grant of authority, not only to attack North Vietnamese sanctuaries in Cambodia, but also “associated persons or forces” aiding the North Vietnamese or “any closely-related successor entity” posing a threat to the United States.

Bacevich continues:

This essentially describes the present-day position of the Obama administration, requesting ex post facto congressional approval of the military campaign against the Islamic State that it launched several months ago.

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