Obama Just Asked Congress To Authorize War On ISIS

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images.
President Obama asked Congress on Wednesday to authorize the "limited use" of force on ISIS — which is interesting, because A: it means we'd essentially be going to war, again and B: we've already been bombing them for six months.

The Obama administration called the terrorist organization "a grave threat" to the U.S., its allies, and global stability, and cited the deaths of ISIS hostages, including Kayla Mueller, in draft language sent to Congress. Mueller, a 26-year-old aid worker, was taken hostage by ISIS more than a year ago, and her death was announced officially on Tuesday.

In a letter to Congress, Obama said he's not looking to authorize "long-term, large-scale ground combat operations like those … conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan." He asked Congress to limit the authorization against ISIS to three years. 

If Congress approves the measure, it will be less of a new war than a continuation of one that is really old, stretching back to at least 2001 (or earlier, depending on which historical viewpoint you take).

But, since the 9/11 attacks, after which the U.S. entered the War on Terror in Afghanistan, the U.S. has been involved in terrorism-related military conflicts in at least 10 countries. The operations often last years or — as is the case with Iraq and Afghanistan — more than a decade.

Since 2001, the U.S. has been involved in the following actions: 
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— Operation Enduring Freedom, the first operation in the war on terror, which was authorized in October 2001 after the September 11 attacks.
— Operation Iraqi Freedom, which began with a bombing campaign in March 2003 without a declaration of war.
— Anti-terror operations in at least six other countries as part of the War on Terror, including Yemen and Kenya.
— Drone strikes in many countries, including Pakistan.
— Bombings in Libya in 2011.
— Airstrikes in Syria and again in Iraq.

Democrats and Republicans will likely fight over the resolution. Though both parties are generally supportive, Republicans are hoping to grant broader powers for a military operation, while Democrats are wary of giving the president too much power in the measure.

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat who's been pushing for a military move against ISIS, said he supported Obama's proposal but was "concerned about the breadth and vagueness" of some of its language.

On the other end of the spectrum, Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner criticized the limited proposal: "If we are going to defeat this enemy, we need a comprehensive military strategy and a robust authorization, not one that limits our options."

In any case, the decision to go to war is a serious one, and it seems worth giving Congress their constitutionally granted powers to weigh in before we start another one (or ramp up the one we're already in).
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