WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) released the following statement on his vote in the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in favor of a limited authorization for use of military force (AUMF) against ISIL. Murphy's provision requiring the administration to provide Congress with a clear political and diplomatic strategy was included in the AUMF.
Since September, the United States has been engaged in a military campaign against ISIL without explicit authorization from the Congress. I have said from the beginning that the President does not have unlimited power to wage war, and that only Congress can authorize it. I am pleased that today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee finally lived up to our Constitutional responsibility by debating and voting on an AUMF against ISIL.
I supported this AUMF because, while I agree with President Obama that ISIL is a threat that must be confronted, I strongly believe that we must put strict limits on the use of force to ensure that the United States does not get entangled in another endless war in the Middle East. This AUMF is time-limited and prevents ground combat operations by U.S. troops. It also includes a provision I authored requiring the executive branch to submit a comprehensive strategy that sets forth the political, diplomatic, and military objectives of the United States, and a clear end goal and exit strategy. As the President himself said, “we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region.” Our use of military force can only be a shaping mechanism giving space to achieve the ultimate goal of political stability in the region—it cannot be a replacement for the hard work of political and sectarian reconciliation and improved governance that must take place.
Further, this AUMF sunsets the two previous authorizations from 2001 and 2002 that have been used as legal justification for continued hostilities around the world. Those authorizations are woefully out-of-date and were never intended to apply to a new conflict with different aggressors and in additional countries more than a decade later. If this or a future president believes there is a new terrorist threat requiring a military response, they should have to make the case to the Congress and the American people.
It is past time that we learn from the mistakes of our recent history, and recognize that open-ended military campaigns waged against an amorphous terrorist threat may create more enemies than they eliminate. Yes, we must confront an enemy like ISIL, but military force is neither a strategy nor a goal in and of itself, and must only be used in the context of broader political and diplomatic objectives. We cannot continue to authorize unlimited war, and it is completely within Congress’s constitutional bounds to place statutory limits on the military action we endorse. It is ultimately up to the Congress to reassert its constitutional role in foreign policy—a role it has abdicated for too long. The Foreign Relations Committee took a big step in that direction today.
But this bill is not likely to be voted on by the full Congress before we recess. That is regrettable, as we should not leave this critical issue unfinished before adjourning. I will continue to urge the leaders of the Senate to bring this AUMF up for a vote on the Senate floor as soon as possible.