When It Comes to War, “The Blank Check Just Got Bigger”

Silhouettes of Marines conducting a dawn patrol in Nawa District, Afghanistan.
(Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga)

Congress’s failure to debate and vote on our current wars has led to a total abdication of its duties to declare war. As a result, many Americans are unclear about our objectives, and the 2001 authorization following 9/11 has been used to justify military operations in 14 different countries at least 37 times. Questions surrounding U.S. actions in Yemen—currently being challenged in Congress by Senators Mike Lee (R-UT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Chris Murphy (D-CT)—are raising additional questions about how the White House and the Department of Defense are using that authorization for endless war. “The blank check just got bigger,” Center for Defense Information Military Advisory Board Member and Defense Priorities Senior Fellow Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, USA (Ret.) recently told Members of Congress.

Leadership in both parties have continually resisted calls to hold a vote on our current wars. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the need to revise the authority for our current wars—known as the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF)—last year, but there’s been no similar debate in House. So for the first time that I can remember the Progressive Caucus and the Liberty Caucus, led by Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Justin Amash (R-MI) respectively, held a joint ad-hoc hearing on whether the 2001 AUMF needs to repealed or revised.

Lt. Col. Davis was deployed into combat zones four times in his career, beginning with Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and then to Iraq in 2009 and Afghanistan twice (2005, 2011). In 2012 he published a report showing that military leaders were misleading Congress and the American public about conditions on the ground in Afghanistan. His testimony about the need for Congress to have the integrity to do their job and vote on our current wars is compelling, and I hope you’ll watch it in full below.

The full hearing can be viewed here.

Photograph of Mandy Smithberger

By: Mandy Smithberger, Director, CDI Straus Military Reform Project

Mandy Smithberger is the Director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight.

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