tv Reps. Peter Meijer and Abby Spanberger on Authorizations of Military Force CSPAN December 10, 2021 7:29pm-8:03pm EST
>> we have with us today to members who have clearly worked on the issue of reasserting congressional oversight of the nation at -- starting with a repeal of the authorization -- representative peter meijer represents michigan's third congressional district. representative abigail spanberger represents virginia's seventh congressional district. them and others in congress have really lead this effort. when we were looking for someone to host this discussion we had mr. richmond at the top of our list, the co-editor of just security. she's also written widely on the subject and it's fair to say that much of what i have learned on the subject in especially would i've learned in terms of congress's work on the subject has started with dr. richmond. with that i'm going to turn over things to tests.
it's your show, tests. take it away. >> thank you so much. it's really wonderful to be here with these two members. i can't think of anyone better to have this conversation with. you've both really been steadfast and reminding us that it is congress's duty to start reclaiming the work powers that have been largely seated to the executive branch over the last several decades. but you've also both been matching it with action, you've been writing legislation, cosponsoring legislation, trying to get it passed. you thought strategically about these issues and you reminded us that presidents of both parties have been stretching authorizations -- unilateral article two authority. you've treated it as a bipartisan issue. an article one prerogatives issue. i think both of you -- thank you for focusing us on on that. let's jump right and since our time is short. i want to start with what i think representative meijer has called the cleaning than on
2001 aumf decks which is a good place to start. of efforts for congress to -- more powers. we're talking just to make sure we are on the same page about the 2000 to iraq aumf, the 1991 gulf war and even the 1957 middle east aumf from the eisenhower administration. spanberger has said that removing this dog is a clear opportunity to show [inaudible] -- serious about reclaiming its war powers and serious about representing service members and veterans which i think is an important thing to keep in mind. representative meijer has said colourfully that these old outdated aumf's are like zombies. it could be brought back from the dead and used in ways far from the original intent. it is essentially an end run around congress's constitutional authority. i want to start by asking each
of you, why now, since these have been around for decades? some more than 60 years. why is now the time to repeal these outdated aumf and when motivated you to take this action. both of you had distinguished service in the executive branch as well. visit those experiences that motivated it or was it your experience now representing your constituents, and maybe i'll start with representative spanberger for this. >> thank you so much for the question. wood has motivated me on this issue is frankly my background in counter-terrorism. i'm a former cia case officer. and i know first hand much of what it is that the united states has been engaged in in our larger global war on terror, so when i came to congress, just one term before peter, so i've not been here that much longer, focusing on aumf issues was very very important to me for a couple of reasons. one, it seems that this is a very clear place for congresses -- has walked away from its
responsibility. it is far easier to allow the executives to just run roughshod, to go about utilizing these aumf's, extenuating these aumf's, and the further we get big on the dates and times there initially voted on, if you remember congress, the few members of congress that represented their constituents as part of that conversation, so the larger real change needs to happen with the 2002 and 2001. making sure that people understand that in fact we still have them from 1991. we still have one for many years ago. decades ago. let's start as we are bringing aumf discussion to the larger congress, 2001 is going to be a really difficult conversation. i think peter and i both know that it has been a difficult conversation, but we can't start taking steps in the right
direction by saying, do we still need a decades old aumf? remember our aumf that allowed us to go to iraq in 1991. it's frankly no longer necessary. so i think it's getting us into practice of talking about aumf's, recognizing that these zombie aumf could be resurrected, and really pulling people together on that path towards contending with the reality that we still have the 2002 and 2001 on the books, which are from a congressional standpoint something we need to contend with. >> representative meijer, we'd love to hear from you on this as well. i know you have written some very similar points to what's representative spanberger just raised. >> absolutely. i think abby touched on a lot of the key elements as well. i would just say that i think there is a shared recognition
that the 2001, i mean this is the war on terror, you aumf, the authorization that has been used in 19 countries against al-qaeda, against groups that al-qaeda was fighting. against groups that did not exist on 9/11, against groups that did not exist on 9/11 but that al-qaeda was fighting. it is just very tricky, very messy. it has basically underpinned the war on terror. all the other aumf, the 2002 was used this millennium. it has been used, or it has been the secondary justification. there was a little bit of an argument. i'm not persuaded by it in terms of continuing or that there would be any damage of repeal. i think the broader emphasis here is that if we are going to go about the tough work on the oh one, we should be laser focused on that, so before you go and renovate your house, clean everything out that is
dusty and filled with cobwebs, bring it to goodwill. get rid of that stuff so you can deal with the actual task at hand instead of getting distracted by things that are no longer relevant or no longer necessary, but could still pose a hazard. >> the constitutional hygiene as i think you put it before. which is a nice phrase to use for it. let's make this a little bit more concrete. i think that the phrase that representative spanberger used, which is easier for the executive to run roughshod then it is for congress to vote. we did not used to worry about zombie aumf's. it was only in recent decades from presidents of both parties starting using old aumf that congress never intended, that this became a concern. and at the same time the war powers resolution fast-track mechanism for forcing the president to remove forces from hostilities is broken. a super majority of boathouse
is to make it work. never going to happen. let's make it really concrete. president obama from starting in 2014 argue that the 2001 aumf covered isis. you mentioned it. it did not exist on 9/11. we were fighting al-qaeda at the time the argument was made and president trump in 2020 relied on the 2002 aumf for the strike against soleimani, and that authorization was clearly against saddam hussein's government. but what should the president and congress have done in these instances? do you think those are two instances where the president definitely should have come to congress before using force and to put it at an even finer point, if congress stayed in the isis situation, had not acted or voted no, should the president have let baghdad fall? i would love to hear your thoughts on what congress should actually do in those circumstances, and the politics of that if you could get into that. maybe we will start with representative meijer, since we
started with president representative spanberger last time. >> the 2002 aumf was a secondary justification. it was principally president trump said that under the article two self-defense powers that he has as commander-in-chief, he was executing that to prevent a strike and by the way he said if that does not pass muster it could also -- be, i mean there's a lot of fear and this was some of the concern around applying the oh one aumf with the fight against the islamic state in 2014. takethere is this concern that f we take away these authorizations then we will be tying the president's hands and putting our country at a disadvantage. bob tying into that clarification with the 2002 aumf, the president as commander-in-chief article to retain self-defense capabilities, every strike we
conducted in iraq, to my knowledge, especially against iranian militias under both president trump and president biden has been using the article to self-defense as illegal to justification. so article two self-defense is still there and there's a longer conversation on about whether or not it should be hemmed in or with that looks like, even if we were in that case with isis in 2014, a court would have ruled that the 2001 aumf did not apply. if majorities in both houses think that we should be fighting against these folks and it is not a defensive measure that can be justified under article two self-defense, the simple answer there is to pass a new aumf. rather than letting these things lie and try to stretch or contorted them beyond their intent. just pass a new one. and if there is not a political will in congress to pass a new one, that is sending a very different message. that is itself wet the constraint could and should be. >> i would just add to this,
echoing some of peter's points. i think that question is not, for me it's not necessarily what we should have done in 2014 or wet we should have done in the case of the soleimani strike, but i think it's actually my challenge, it's not what was done. i mean it is, but the real issue is that the landscape is what should be different. so the fact that it exists as a possibility, the 13 years after the 2001 aumf, exists as a possibility that there is just this open aumf and the president can say well actually, isis is -- they came out of al-qaeda and their 13 years later, that congressional authorization is utilized for this purpose. that is in and of itself the problem. that that aumf is even a bit available for that use.
and so arguably the same with the 2002 aumf being available for use as a secondary kind of just in case i need an extra reason for going after soleimani. that is the landscape issue that is the problem. because we should be having conversations all along the way about 13 years later or 2014 where we are looking about with the isis threat is and what is the action the united states should take and as peter importantly noted this is not kind of the self-defense piece of it. this is the offensive web is the actual action the united states should take. what did the american people want us to do and what does the united states congress willing to authorize? in the landscape where these aumf's just hang out there available for use, none of those conversations have to
happen. and that is to the detriment of our national security and that is to the detriment of a bit of responsibility, because i do think members of congress should have to take those votes and be accountable for them rather than sort of pointing this president, that president and then as they extenuate and as we get further and further away from a new ms, so to be it further from the responsibility of it all. >> if i could build on that point really quickly, because i think it's an important distinction between saying if we in the 2001 and umf, if we would have had a two-year sunset requiring reauthorization then you can make the argument that you think it should have been reauthorized every year since 2001, and so on the net it would be the same impact from a statutory authorization standpoint, but procedurally from an oversight standpoint and from a congressional attention and focused on point,
it could be very different. if every two years as abigail said, each member of congress had to be asking the tough questions. and not just congress asking those questions, but the executive being forced to articulate exactly what they were doing, being in the hot seat, being forced to sharpen and in a more disciplined fashion, communicate and say here is our strategy, here's what we are sitting up to do. this is why we need you to reauthorize, rather than just trust us on this. >> i think you both have just made a really forceful and eloquent case for outright repeal of the 2001 aumf. i am characterizing that myself. i know neither of you actually said that, that the main points here you are emphasizing, having these aumf hanging around for use is making them susceptible to the executive branch saying i don't need to go to congress. having this idea that congress doesn't need to vote because the president can rely on what is out there, and has article two authority in any event if there need to be self-defense
strikes that are not already authorized to existing authorizations. let's just take these things off the books. i think that this is a compelling argument, actually. i want to give you a chance to argue for the alternative, if that is in fact what you think. i want to frame it a little bit differently than it is usually framed. i think people are used asking, should the aumf be repealed or replaced? if replaced, with wet? but i think the more direct way to phrase that question to some of what you've been saying about congress need to take these hard votes, should we still be at war at all 20 years after 9/11? do we need to have a standing force authorization for a strike tempo that looks like war? if so, specifically against him? who should the united states be fighting in a war in 2021 and
2022? if you do in fact think that the aumf should not just be repealed. i will start with representative spanberger for this one. >> okay. i'm going to piggyback my answer on what peter was just giving as an example of why if in 2001 there had been an authorization for us that period of time, two years, three years, and then subsequently congress needed to reauthorize and that scenario, as he laid it out, there would be a constant pace of oversight, of knowing exactly where our service members were or were not deployed. understanding the full scope of whatever those operations were. however, in the absence of that, in the case where these a women's have been stretched, indicating the 2001 because that was your question, where 2001 has been stretched and operations are in multiple different countries on various different fronts, operated in
many different ways, we find ourselves in a place where, while there has been congressional oversight to be clear, it has not been at the level or with the focus that it would have otherwise been it if it was constantly a question of do we continue this military operation? i actually think we're in a place where there is not necessarily all of the information available for people to make a very, very finite decision. at this point in time, i advocate for a discussion for replacement. in the process of replacement, where do we currently have people deployed? where are we currently in an increased wartime uptempo against a terrorist entity organizational threat? in that process of determining where we might need to continue, that we might need to authorize
in a replacement aumf? there exists a possibility that we could determine, in fact we no longer need one, at this point in time, as peter mentioned, we are deployed in so many different places, so many different concurrent counter-terrorism efforts. my priority is having this focused conversation towards, in the case where we are seeing this 2000 when a umf is outdated, what do we need right now to keep our country safe? for me, that arrives at a place of replacement. but in doing that we will be so finite, ideally, that we will answer many of the questions that frankly have gone unanswered for 20 years. in that process, create and aumf that is succinct, focused and driven by what our priorities are. importantly, with some sort of deadline so that we do not fall into this pattern of every 20 years where we have a conversation about --
try to do 20 years worth of oversight, of thoughtfulness, i've really examining with threats exist. i will stop there. i think this question can continue quite a bit. doctor bridgeman, it's a very good one. >> plenty more to say on that. i think that was a really great way to think about. it would do even need to know to make this determination? congress needs to show up to do the oversight -- theater by theater, program by program, abby interested to hear your thoughts on how to do that oversight in order to make those finite -- but first i want to give representative meijer a chance to answer repeal versus replacement and we need to be at war after 2011? >> i think we clearly need a replacement with the sunset and a much more narrowly defined a set of targets. again, i'm not willing to say
we should have al-qaeda on their, but not al-shabaab. this is a fundamental problem. what is the strategy? what is our goal? when are we driving towards? if i had to still down my frustration with our foreign policy inward stands right now, interventions and so many places of military context, all around dropping precision guided ammunition on someone, dropping hellfire or whatever, with this idea that if we kill this guy who was a bad guy, things will be safer. that is a tactic. is that tactic aligned with the strategy yours it just a futile exercise for -- someone's promotion report? i think we saw this encapsulated well in that airstrike that was purportedly
against and isis v. bad in downtown kabul. and the preponderance of evidence suggests obstruct a local national employee, killing his family, including a cousin or brother that was a special visa applicant. because he worked for the u.s. forces. and there's anything that illustrates just how warped and unintelligible these conflicts have become, it is those targeting operations that known only are contributing to an objective that they might very well be encouraging recruitment by terrorist organization, turning away natural allies and making us less safe. again, that's where i think i would be more than happy, if i felt like i had good information right now from the executive if there was an elucidated strategy on here and what we are sitting out to do. because then you could actually align tactics to an overall initiative and know where we
are going. but if we don't know where we are going, any road is going to get us there. >> if i could just add to that and talking about the strategy focus, as peter just did, when you know what your strategy is then you can move towards with the tactics. while we are talking about authorization of the use of military force, we also need to be talking about our diplomatic efforts. we need to talk about our intelligence sharing efforts, outside of the operational aspects. but if we are looking to get at a terrorist threat that exists in the world, part of that can be achieved through diplomacy, part of finding our allies are, making sure that we are optimizing those relationships. that is part and parcel of what needs to be that longer term strategy. that yes, in many cases does involve military engagement. but not in silo, not on its
own. and absent that strategy, that is clear and defined and with a roadmap forward, i think it is much easier to fall back on, while this is and aumf, so its military force. and all of those other factors they could be so beneficial to our nation's ability to project strength, engage allies, keep our country safe, thwart the recruitment of terrorist organizations around the world. we are giving up elements of which should be i'm broader, very diversified portfolio of programs and tools that we can use. >> that is vitally important to think about long term goals, not just in terms of wet can be bought with military force but it should the overall strategy be and how can it be sustainable? we had limited time left.
i think your both rightly pointing out that the tactic of lethal strikes, especially over the horizon, remotely piloted vehicles these non boots on the ground forms of the use of military force are wet presidents from both parties have been gravitating towards lately. and it seems to reflect in part of the american people are more wary and do not want to see big interventions with a lot of boots on the ground. how do you bridge this gap? on the one hand these tactical strikes where we don't have boots on the ground, we don't have necessarily great firsthand intelligence of our own because, we don't have boots on the ground and we don't have the resources to be doing this -- how do you bridge that with the desire to still be using military force at all? is it actually something that we are trying to have it both ways? can congress crack something and what kinds of principles which you think about to try to
find that middle ground? >> i think it is incumbent on politicians, on elected officials, leaders to communicate to their constituents, the people why they were making this decision. why this is in their best interest. i think what you mentioned was essentially the casualty fatigue component on the public site. i have heard, not alleging what you were saying, but i take great umbrage with the notion that it was sustainable solely because there were not that many u.s. service members getting killed in afghanistan. our casualties might have been low relative to others because we shifted our tactics. we were far left on the ground, wishing that burden on to air support, but at the same time we may have had a lower rate of
military fatalities. we had spiking civilian fatalities. we had larger civilian casualties and conflict and we also had incredible numbers of afghan national security forces getting killed. from 2015 onwards on a per capita basis similar to u.s. fatalities in world war ii, when it comes to a percentage of population. so i think that is where it's an important consideration, a political dynamic, but that's where the job members of congress, the job or the president, the job of our senator should be to articulate why we need to do this to keep the country safe and frankly if they can't articulate that then why are we doing it in the first place? >> i do want to turn to representative spanberger, and this is the last word. >> thank you so much for putting this discussion together. i think with which peter just pointed out, it's about the
tactics. there's someone -- it should not try with the authorization needs or should be. if we are authorizing military force, whether that be you drop a bomb and nobody is on the ground or whether or not that is an entire battalion, it is still military force, and it still needs to be authorized, because as we have seen throughout the past 20 years, that has ebbed and flowed. there was this urge. our numbers went up and down. when we are just counting what is the utilization of u.s. forces that does not take into consideration what is happening on the ground as peter so correctly mentioned. no matter the sort of military tactic we are employing, at the end of the day, if we are utilizing military forces there should be an authorization use of military force and we should as legislators and as the united states congress need to be debating whether to utilize that force, whether it is a
soldier with a gun or a drone flying overhead. absent that, congress is not doing right by constituents. it is not doing right by the safety and security of our country, long term. i think that is why speaking for both of us, we have been so passionate about this issue, because it really is what we choose to do now. it either hits reset into the future or we choose to accept into the next 100 years that this is just how we function. and i just don't think that's acceptable. >> thank you both for this incredibly rich conversation. i wish we could keep going for another half hour. i could not agree with you more that this has been the key moment to be grappling with these issues. i will turn it back over to our organizer and host, chris. thank you both again. >> thank you so much, tess. the thanks to everyone who joined us online today.
and on behalf of my colleagues we extend a special thank you to representative meijer representative spanberger for joining us today on this important issue. if you liked this discussion, mark your calendar for our next event and our future foreign policy series on october 5th. we are committed to challenging conventional wisdom, unquestioning assumptions to advance a wide-ranging discussion on how the united states engages with the rest of the world. those of you who would like to learn more, please visit our page at the atlantic council. thank you.