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US strategy against ISIS

March 20, 2015
Jim Hargarten
San Francisco

In Tony Magliano’s article opposing any military action by the U.S. against ISIS (“Beating swords into plowshares,” March 6), he misquotes President Obama. According to Magliano, Obama is asking Congress to approve “enduring offensive ground combat operations” for “at least three years.”

The actual wording of the joint resolution contains an explicit limitation which provides that “the authority granted ... does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations.” (The word “not” is a small word, but it can change the meaning).

Even the limited authorization contained in the resolution would have to be reviewed by Congress every six months and would sunset at the end of three years.

There are many good arguments to be made against the United States getting embroiled in another conflict. I would rather have those arguments made without blatantly misquoting the president of the United States. It is unseemly, unbecoming and unnecessary.

Tony Magliano replies: “Mr. Hargarten is splitting hairs here. In light of recent U.S. war history the vague, broad language of President Obama’s draft resolution (“Authorization for use of Military Force”) to Congress, along with his accompanying letter, can easily be interpreted by the president to order U.S. troops to engage in combat with the “Islamic State” – known also as ISIL. And that’s exactly what ISIL is hoping the president will do. We are dangerously close to once again allowing a president and Congress to drag us into war. The resolution states that the president is authorized to use military forces as he deems “necessary and appropriate against ISIL or associated persons or forces.” According to the military think tank “Defense One,” the White House defines “associated persons or forces” as “individuals and organizations fighting for, on behalf of, or alongside ISIL or any closely-related successor entity in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.” It is similar language to that used in the 2001 AUMF, passed just after Sept. 11, which has served as the authorization for virtually every U.S. counterterrorism action in the more than 13 years since — including the Islamic State fight. If passed by Congress, the “Authorization for use of Military Force” will help keep the U.S. in a state of perpetual war. The president, many members of Congress, the military-industrial-complex and ISIL are all hoping for its passage. But I’m convinced the Prince of Peace is not.”

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