Sen. Rand Paul’s bipartisan amendment to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act was tabled — killed — with a 36-61 vote Wednesday. The amendment would have repealed the 2001 and 2002 resolutions authorizing the use of military force and providing the legal support used by previous administrations for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The amendment also would have forced Congress to have a much needed debate about America’s role in the Middle East.
“For the first time in 15 years, we are debating the congressional role in the declaration of war,” Paul said today on the Senate floor before the vote.
The U.S. Constitution states the initiation of war and military intervention is a power held by the legislative branch and not solely an executive branch decision. Paul’s amendment would have forced the outdated war resolutions to expire in order to facilitate an open and honest debate by Congress on if we should be at war. If approved, the amendment would have rightfully returned the power to declare war to the legislative branch.
While the amendment drew support from both sides of the aisle, it elicited strong opposition from the typical “neoconservatives and neoliberals,” to use Paul’s phrase, who promote war at every turn. What do they have to say about the thousands of lost lives and the trillions of dollars spent? Nothing other than the standard talking points about not sending mixed signals to the troops and how cutting war funding is somehow the equivalent of not supporting the military. But the opposite is true: failing to even allow debate on whether we should be militarily engaged is a clear way to not support the troops.
Don’t the men and women who put their lives on the line defending this country at least deserve a discussion about it?
Paul’s amendment would have forced our congressional leaders to face these facts and discuss the appropriate level of military involvement while simultaneously curbing executive overreach. For the last 15 years, Congress has shirked that responsibility.
It is not our job to police the world and it is certainly not within the bounds of the Constitution to grant sole authority to the executive branch to do so.
Paul’s amendment should be a wake up call to all Americans. Now is the time to decide if we are going to continue on this path, one that leaves the current generation knowing their country only as one always at war. It is mind boggling to think an entire generation does not know what this nation looks like at peace.
War is not pretty. Thousands of Americans have given their lives. Tens of thousands come home with mental and physical injuries. Unfortunately, as a nation, we’ve become numb to war and accepted it as the new normal. Now more than ever, we need a robust debate about our outdated foreign policy of policing the world and nation building.
We need a sober foreign policy and we need it now.