Bush Admin Lawyer: Obama is Asking Congress for Authority to Attack Anyone on Earth Forever
The Administration’s Proposed Syria AUMF Is Very Broad
By Jack Goldsmith
Sunday, September 1, 2013
The administration’s proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) for Syria provides:
(a) Authorization. — The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in connection with the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in the conflict in Syria in order to –
(1) prevent or deter the use or proliferation (including the transfer to terrorist groups or other state or non-state actors), within, to or from Syria, of any weapons of mass destruction, including chemical or biological weapons or components of or materials used in such weapons; or
(2) protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons.
There is much more here than at first meets the eye. The proposed AUMF focuses on Syrian WMD but is otherwise very broad. It authorizes the President to use any element of the U.S. Armed Forces and any method of force. It does not contain specific limits on targets – either in terms of the identity of the targets (e.g. the Syrian government, Syrian rebels, Hezbollah, Iran) or the geography of the targets. Its main limit comes on the purposes for which force can be used. Four points are worth making about these purposes. First, the proposed AUMF authorizes the President to use force “in connection with” the use of WMD in the Syrian civil war. (It does not limit the President’s use force to the territory of Syria, but rather says that the use of force must have a connection to the use of WMD in the Syrian conflict. Activities outside Syria can and certainly do have a connection to the use of WMD in the Syrian civil war.). Second, the use of force must be designed to “prevent or deter the use or proliferation” of WMDs “within, to or from Syria” or (broader yet) to “protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons.” Third, the proposed AUMF gives the President final interpretive authority to determine when these criteria are satisfied (“as he determines to be necessary and appropriate”). Fourth, the proposed AUMF contemplates no procedural restrictions on the President’s powers (such as a time limit).
I think this AUMF has much broader implications than Ilya Somin described. Some questions for Congress to ponder: