Fletcher in the News

Critics Say Public’s Tepid Response to War Debate Is Congress’ Failure: Prof. Glennon Discusses

The Oct. 4 ambush in Niger that left four U.S. soldiers dead revived the debate over Congress’ role in authorizing military operations as part of the war on terror, but a new Morning Consult/Politico survey indicates tepid responses from the public on the subject.

U.S. armed forces abroad have been operating under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which Congress passed in response to the Sept. 11 attacks. The bill authorized President George W. Bush’s administration to wage war on those associated with terrorist attacks, namely al-Qaida, but it also extended to other Islamic militant groups. Subsequent administrations have cited the AUMF to legally justify engaging in conflicts without declarations of war or other congressional consent.

The Trump administration recently identified 17 counties, mostly in Africa and the Middle East, where U.S. military personnel are deployed, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said at the panel’s latest hearing on war authorization, on Monday...

...“The public indecisiveness is a function of the Congress defaulting on its constitutionally prescribed role,” Michael Glennon, an international law professor at The Fletcher School at Tufts University who as a Senate lawyer in 1973 helped draft the War Powers Resolution, said in an Oct. 31 phone interview. Glennon noted that Vietnam-era hearings helmed by then-Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman William Fulbright (D-Ark.) were instrumental in educating the public and, ultimately, hamstringing the executive branch’s power to wage war unilaterally...

...Coons said he understands congressional leaders’ concern “that we won’t be able to come to a consensus” on a new authorization, potentially endangering U.S. troops. But, he noted, “Congress has ceded too much of a role and responsibility.”

Glennon said the abdication of Congress’ role in war authorization is a reflection of political concerns, particularly following the electoral fallout from the U.S. occupation of Iraq last decade, which helped Democrats sweep into power in 2006 and 2008, but also cost former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her presidential bids.

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