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This Means War!

Frank Wolf and Obama
In a news release issued late yesterday, Representative Frank Wolf (VA-10) announced his intention to introduce legislation authorizing the use of military force, or an AUMF, against international terrorist groups, including the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al Qaeda and its affiliates, like al Nusra, Ansar al Sharia, al Shabaab and Boko Haram, while encouraging close coordination with NATO and regional allies on any action. (Link to the text of the legislation appears at the end of this article.)
What Rep. Wolf is proposing, legislation authorizing the use of military force, is the closest the United States has come to passing a constitutional Declaration of War in the post-World War II era.
And Wolf sees the threat posed by the Islamic State as so dire that he is proposing this AUMF, or what amounts to a Declaration of War, without a presidential request.*
"From the Washington Administration to the present, there have been 11 separate formal declarations of war against foreign nations enacted by Congress and the President, encompassing five different wars—the War of 1812 with Great Britain, the War with Mexico in 1846, the War with Spain in 1898, the First World War, and the Second World War. In each case the enactment of a formal declaration of war has been preceded by a presidential request to Congress for such an action, either in writing or in person before a joint session of Congress," concluded researchers for the Congressional Research Service.
However, unlike past presidents, who when faced with growing national security threats began to prepare the country for war, President Obama has downplayed the threat the Islamic State and its associated military/political organizations pose to the United States.
In a 2013 speech at National Defense University, President Barack Obama called for modification and eventual repeal of the authorization of the use of force passed in the wake of 9/11, which is commonly referred to by its acronym, AUMF. "I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF's mandate. And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further," he said. "Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end." (Emphasis ours)
And just this past May Democrats introduced a bill to sunset the post 9/11 AUMF effective December 31, 2014. The bill sponsored by Democrat Adam Schiff (CA-28) called on the administration and Congress to work together to determine what new authority, if any, (emphasis ours) would be necessary to protect the country after that time.
It appears things have change just a little since May, and Wolf said he was compelled to introduce the measure because of the rapid advances made by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, as well as territorial gains made by al Qaeda-affiliated groups in Libya, Nigeria and Somalia.
Wolf, long recognized as one of Congress’ leading defenders of human rights around the globe, has been speaking out for months about the threat from ISIS to religious minorities as well as the potential threat to the U.S. homeland.  He was among the first to call what was happening to the Christian and Yazidi population in Iraq “genocide” and took to the House floor for seven straight legislative days leading up to the August recess to urge the president to take action.
Wolf said the motive behind the bill is to end any ambiguity about the president’s authority – or the Congress’ support – for a U.S.-led international coalition to disrupt and eliminate ISIS and al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups from committing genocide. His Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) would be the first approved by the Congress since the 2001 and 2002 resolutions authorizing military force against al Qaeda and the Taliban and against Saddam Hussein’s regime, and would fill in the gaps from past authorizations to deal with the current terrorist threat, including regional al Qaeda-affiliates who at times try to obfuscate the extent of their relationship with al Qaeda leadership.
Wolf believes passage of his bill also would send a clear message to the international community that the United States intends to work with allies to confront and defeat this increasingly dangerous challenge.  
Wolf said he agrees with those who have described the current fight as a clash within the Muslim world between the forces of moderation and extremists and Sunnis and Shia factions, making it incumbent on Muslim states to forcefully confront ISIS and al Qaeda-affiliates. This violence threatens Americans and others in the international community as well as regional governments, requiring a broad coalition response. However, Wolf also cautioned that an effective response is unlikely absent strong U.S. leadership.
“For far too long the Obama Administration and the Congress have been debating whether or not authority exists for action to address this threat,” Wolf said.  “This resolution would provide clear authority for the president and our military, working with coalition partners, to go after these terrorists, whether in Syria, Iraq or elsewhere.  We cannot continue operating on outdated authorities passed 13 years ago; it is time for this Congress to vote.”
Earlier this year, Wolf introduced legislation aimed at preventing terrorist groups in Syria from helping to radicalize Americans by restricting unsanctioned travel to Syria by U.S. citizens and prohibiting material support to groups in the war-torn country.  H.R. 4223 would give the president authority to restrict travel and material support to countries like Syria, where foreign terrorist organizations are active in fighting and may be working with government or anti-government forces. The measure is pending consideration before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. (Link to H.R. 4223 appears at the end of this article.)

Wolf has a long history of leadership on counterterrorism issues. He was the author of the legislation creating the National Terrorism Commission, also known as the Bremer Commission, which produced a report in 2000 warning of the threat from al Qaeda and his leadership has been key in keeping the threat from radical Islamists on the front burner in Congress, despite the dangerous follies of the Obama administration in Syria and Libya and their claims that ISIS and the Islamic State are “the JV.”
But let’s be clear, Wolf’s proposal of what amounts to a Declaration of War, without a presidential request is almost unprecedented in American history.
While there have been many instances of the President taking military action without a declaration of war or specific authorization from Congress, there is virtually no precedent for Congress granting the President an authorization to use military force without a request by the Commander-in-Chief.
Although it is hard to see the two situations as comparable, the nearest precedent to Wolf's AUMF without a presidential request we could find arose in the early days of the Republic, when American shippers petitioned Congress for action to protect them from pirates in the West Indies and Caribbean.

In response, on March 3, 1819, legislation was enacted to authorize the President to use force “to protect the commerce of the United States, and punish the crime of piracy.” In so far as we can discover there was no specific presidential request for that authorization, which was later codified into laws still on the books today according to CRS..
It remains to be seen whether or not the American people are ready to undertake broader military action against the Islamic State, and without presidential leadership many will certainly question whether such a step is necessary.
Frank Wolf is a serious man who is retiring from Congress at the end of this year. He has no need for political grandstanding. The unprecedented nature of Congressman Wolf’s AUMF against the Islamic State, ISIS, and associated radical Islamist organizations is compelling evidence of two things  – President Obama’s complete lack of vision and leadership and the severity of the threat for military action against the United States posed by the Islamic State and its associated political/military organizations.
Click this link for the text of Wolf’s proposed AUMF against the Islamic State
Click this link for Rep. Frank Wolf’s companion legislation to the War Powers Consultation Act
Click this link for Rep. Frank Wolf’s H.R. 4223, a bill that would give the president authority to restrict travel and material support to countries like Syria, where foreign terrorist organizations are active.

* Hat tip to our friend Matt Boyle of Breitbart for his article pointing out that "President Barack Obama hasn’t consulted America’s legislative branch on what to do about the ISIS threat."

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This means war.

It is about time that someone in Congress has enough guts to stand up and do what is right and honorable. Thanks Rep. Wolf for doing this, but I do not think that there enough real men in the House that will do this. They just do not have the back bone to do their jobs.


I really hate to see conservatism and war-mongering conflated. One branch of the Republican party would be overjoyed to see more war and intervention. The opposing branch sees only problems with meddling in the affairs of other sovereign nations.

More War=More War

Therein lies the problem: namely, members of Congress who think their job is to be "leading defenders of human rights around the globe". That's not what the Founders intended for these united states. And, our Constitution does not authorize taking the property (income) of American citizens to defend other nations or peoples.

The way to prevent ISIS from becoming a clear and present danger to these United States is by eliminating the kind of behavior that creat the problem; namely, religious crusades that foolishly preach democracy at the point of a gun with unpopular boots on their ground that actually destroys stability in the region and encourages anti-Western recruitment. It's a Muslim problem outside our national interests. And, we can't afford it.


This comment is a great example of how the rhetoric of some conservatives almost exactly replicates the position of liberal groups such as Code Pink: It's our fault, and if we only stop, we will be just fine. I find it interesting that, politically, instead of a spectrum, we've formed a ring where far right actually meets far left... but having arrived at the same conclusions for different reasons.

One is driven by the Utopian dream of a great peaceful sea of humanity stirred to violence only by great (and nefarious) powers abusing those powers. The other is swayed by the illusion that distance and two great oceans truly insulate us from the conditions of the rest of the world. Complex questions are not answered by simplistic answers providing a quick cure for the symptoms we feel even here, across those vast seas. Perhaps the real driver of Mr. Sainsbury's comment is captured in the last four words, and all other argument that he puts forward are oriented towards it. Does he simply wish to lower his tax burden by excusing the federal government from its Constitutional responsibility to defend the nation... and its Constitution... against all enemies, foreign and domestic?

It would take a deep examination requiring absolute honesty from Mr. Sainsbury to ascertain the answer. This being impossible, we can look at the fallacy in his argument. First is the assumption that the use of force in Iraq and Afghanistan has been, in fact, a religious rather than a political use of force. This is quite a leap,