Rand Paul’s 2016 presidential run was extremely disappointing. Rather than take it hard to the establishment, he seemed more interested in playing footsie with neocons and establishment Republicans. That strategy didn’t work and it never will. Rand Paul is best when he’s acting like a statesman and not a politician — that’s what people who like him, like about him. His campaign advisors were clearly incompetent, but at the end of the day the buck stops with him.
That being said, life is all about learning from your mistakes and Rand has truly started coming into his own in the age of Trump. With much of the party fractured and bickering, Paul seems to have found the space to push forward on key issues such as civil asset forfeiture, prison reform and endless war. He’s serving a very important function within a elitist and crony U.S. Congress and we should all take the time to thank him for his efforts.
His latest stand relates to the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), which has been consistently abused for 16 years by multiple presidents in order to start endless military interventions against new enemies without forcing Congress to uphold its constitutional duty to wage war.
As Senator Paul explained in a recent Rare opinion piece:
As Congress takes up the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), I will insist it vote on my amendment to sunset the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force.
Because these authorizations to use military force are inappropriately being used to justify American warfare in 7 different countries. Sunsetting both AUMFs will force a debate on whether we continue the Afghanistan war, the Libya war, the Yemen war, the Syria war, and other interventions.
Our military trains our soldiers to be focused and disciplined, yet the politicians who send them to fight have for years ignored those traits when developing our foreign policy.
The result? Trillions spent in seemingly endless conflicts in every corner of the globe, while we find ourselves 16 years into the war in Afghanistan wondering what our purpose there even is any more, or if we’ll ever bring our troops home.
If we don’t get this rudderless foreign policy under control now, we’ll still be asking the same questions another 16 years down the road.
It’s time to demand the policymakers take their own jobs as seriously as the men and women we ask to risk it all for our nation.
Doing so means restoring constitutional checks and balances. Congress has no greater responsibility than defending our country, and the Founders entrusted it with the power of declaring war because they wanted such a weighty decision to be thoroughly debated by the legislature instead of unilaterally made by the Executive branch.
Yet Congress has largely abdicated its role anyways, and its sidekick status was plainly evident when former President Obama proposed a new AUMF for the fight against ISIS while insisting he really had all the authority he needed – it being more of a “wouldn’t it be nice” afterthought than an acknowledgement of any required step.
For more on this very important issue, see: The New York Times Admits – Despite Going to Congress, Obama is Still Defending Unlimited War Powers
Repealing the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs would restore respect for the balance of power and reassert Congress’ voice by forcing legislators to specifically approve or disapprove the direction of our foreign policy. If my provision passes, the authorizations would sunset six months later, allowing Congress time for a thorough debate about how we will move forward.
I say this fully aware Congress could propose a blanket authorization I could never vote for, but that vote needs to at least happen.
Let’s hear from those who want that blanket authorization and wish to keep the policy of perpetual war going. Let’s give the American people a chance to see that case laid out and to make their voices known. Their representatives cannot continue to hide behind steps taken 16 years ago to avoid accountability and debating the tough issues now.
To further his point, Paul engaged in a senate floor sit-in. As Reasonreported yesterday:
“An attempt was made to run the clock on the bill overnight. I objected and am now sitting on the floor of the Senate to stop that,” he tweeted two hours ago, part of a long series of tweets today on the topic.
“The Senate is now in a quorum call, unable to act because of my protest. This is why I sit on the floor, in silent protest,” he further stated. “I will continue this protest and these objections for as long as needed to ensure Congress do its duty, and vote on ending these wars.”
About an hour ago as of this posting, Paul announced via tweet that he had a victory: “Senate leaders have agreed not to try to end debate early, and have agreed to four hours of debate under my control to debate these wars.”
“The Senate attempted to shorten debate [and] move forward without consideration [and] debate on my amendment to end our AUMF in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he began his series of tweeted critiques of his colleagues. “Where is the anti-war left demanding the wars end? Where is the constitutional conservative right demanding Congress reclaim its war powers?”
For the latter he had a special slam: “Hypocrites, they pretend concern over our constitutional duty to declare war and then block any vote on ending any of our 7 current wars.”
These are really important questions and I applaud Rand for asking them. While I hold no illusions about his ability to turn this unhinged imperial train wreck around, he’s doing his best to publicize how the U.S. Congress has unforgivably relinquished its constitutional duties to declare war to the executive branch.
Why would they do this you ask? I happen to have some thoughts about that…