May 25, 2014

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) is right to call attention to the outdated legal framework by which the United States combats extremist groups [“Updating the war on terror,” Washington Forum, May 23]. Rather than updating the 2001 Authorization on the Use of Military Force, as Mr. Corker suggested, Congress should scrap it and have a clear debate on where, if anywhere, any such armed-conflict authorization is the right approach to combating terrorism.

The president already has authority under Article II of the Constitution to pursue imminent and direct threats to the United States, including perpetrators of the Benghazi attack. When dealing with al-Qaeda affiliates with limited means and regional goals, we should focus on building the capacity of partner states through security cooperation, development and security assistance and democratization. Terrorism is a tactic, and wars cannot be waged against tactics; instead of relying on military strength, we should employ strategies that ensure extremists have no resources, no friends and no legitimacy.

Congressional debate on updating the 2001 AUMF risks placing more war-making powers in the hands of the president. The administration should follow up on promises to relinquish this legal authority by relying on it less and less. Only this will prevent such expanded military authority from becoming a birthright of the executive office.

Michael J. Quigley, Arlington

The writer is a senior fellow of national security at Human Rights First.