WASHINGTON, D.C.: President Barack Obama’s request for congressional permission to wage war against the Islamic State (IS) group doesn’t go far enough to defeat the jihadist fighters, the US legislature’s top Republican said on Sunday (Monday in Manila).
Tantamount to a declaration of war, the authority sought from Congress last week would provide Obama political cover at home and a firmer legal basis on which to prosecute the fight.
Meanwhile, the top Democrat in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Obama’s proposal contains “largely undefined” wording that could be interpreted as license to wage open-ended war.
The US military has already been involved in airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria since the middle of last year, and Obama on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) asked Congress to formally back a global war against the group — but with limitations on the authorization’s duration and curbs on the use of ground forces.
House Speaker John Boehner, however, was sharply critical of the request, which he described as less than “smart.”
“The president is asking for less authority than he has today under previous authorizations. I don’t think that’s smart,” said Boehner, the top Republican in the House of Representatives.
“We need a robust strategy to take on ISIL [IS]. No one has seen one from this White House yet. In addition to a robust strategy, I think we need to have a robust authorization,” he said.
“I don’t believe what the president sent here gives him the flexibility, or the authority, to take on this enemy and to win,” Boehner told the Fox News Sunday program.
“I look at the submission by the president as the beginning of the process,” he added promising an “exhaustive series of congressional hearings.
“There will be a lot more discussion about this in the weeks ahead,” Boehner said.
Criticism from a Democrat
Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a top Democrat in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a recent interview Obama’s request that Congress approve a three-year authorization of military force specifically precludes “enduring offensive ground combat operations,” but what that means isn’t clear.
“The last thing we want to do is have an open-ended conflict without limitations,” said Menendez, who voted against the Iraq war resolution as a House member in 2002.
“That’s the challenge, to give the president the authority and the support to defeat ISIL but not to give him and the next president an open-ended ability to conduct a very prolonged war with combat troops on the ground and everything we saw in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said.
Menendez’s reservations about Obama’s proposed military-force resolution offer another example of his willingness to challenge — or even outright oppose — the administration on foreign policy.
Recently, he said the president struck a “bad deal for the Cuban people” in seeking to normalize relations with the Castro regime. And he accused administration officials of using talking points “straight out of Tehran” as they negotiate a deal aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
“He’s an independent person,” Sen. Bob Corker, Republican-Tennessee, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said of Menendez. “If he has a different point of view, he certainly expresses it, and I think he expresses it well,” Corker added.
Menendez led the fight in the last Congress for a new military-force authorization targeting ISIL. Under his chairmanship, the Foreign Relations Committee approved — without support from Republicans — a resolution that authorized military force but prohibited ground troop operations except in specifically defined circumstances.
The legislative proposal Obama sent to Congress last week uses elements of that resolution, including a three-year sunset, no geographical limitations and repeal of the 2002 Iraq War authorization. But Menendez said he has warned administration officials that the vague wording on combat operations would be problematic for Democrats.
“Does that mean you can have ‘enduring’ defensive combat troops?” he asked during the interview on Thursday. “What does ‘enduring’ mean?” Menendez added.
AFP AND TNS