Guest Opinion: Congress must debate use of force

The Orange County Register
June 30
Stock image

Once again, the world has been reminded of the global threat of Islamic extremism, as news came last week of yet another terrorist attack. Suicide bombers attacked the Istanbul Ataturk Airport, leaving at least 41 dead and more than 200 wounded. Our thoughts are with all those affected by such a senseless act of violence.

In recent years these scenes are becoming all too common. In just the past eight months, the cities of Brussels, Orlando, Paris and San Bernardino have been shaken by vicious acts of terrorism motivated by a distinct ideology and carried out by those claiming allegiance to the Islamic State. Though it is not confirmed at this time that the attack in Istanbul follows this directly, it is clearly driven by the same level of disregard for human life and the desire to terrorize innocent people.

Regrettably, the recurrence of such incidents has done little to spark coherent, focused national discussion about what to do about these acts of terror. The attacks here at home only spurred a predictably partisan agenda and the attacks in Europe have done little to push policymakers into developing an actual set of objectives.

The inability of our political leaders to move beyond poll-tested, knee-jerk reactions and to thoughtfully engage on what is a matter of life and death for people around the world comes to the detriment of national and international security. Contrary to the wishes of Donald Trump, who wants to “fight fire with fire,” banning groups of people from entering the United States or relying on the use of torture does not constitute serious contributions to what is an extremely serious matter.

In the 15 years since the 9/11 attacks, we have learned that the wholesale sacrificing of civil liberties does little to make us safer and even less to undermine the threat of Islamic extremism. If anything, our push for regime change in nations like Libya, Iraq and Syria, without a clear strategy or vision of what comes next, has only made us less safe.

What is desperately needed is a clear set of objectives for combating those who pose a threat to our national security. To this end, Congress has abdicated its responsibility to hold substantive discussions about how to deal with the threat of Islamic terrorism. Instead, Congress has been content to allow President Barack Obama to rely on the 2001 authorization for use of military force against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks to justify seemingly any and all military commitments, without clearly delineated aims or limits.

“If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, authorize the use of military force against ISIL,” directed President Obama of the Congress during his last State of the Union Address. “Take a vote.”

Today, that request seems more reasonable than ever. Congress must fulfill its constitutional obligations and vote to authorize the use of force against the Islamic State. In so doing, a strategy for defeating this terrorist nation must be mindful of American values and place American national security first. But the time is now. Let’s not wait for things to get worse.