The resolution, which Graham plans to officially introduce after the Thanksgiving recess, is being shaped and shopped around to senators on Wednesday. "No geographic limits are placed on American military or intelligence services in the fight against ISIL," reads the outline of the in-process legislation. "No expiration date. No prohibition on sending American forces on the ground to combat ISIL. No prohibitions on the ability of the United States to disrupt online terrorist recruitment activities, online terrorist propaganda, or terrorist communications."
All of that makes Graham's AUMF further-reaching than any comparable ones — none of which have gotten traction in Congress. The Obama administration has favored an authorization of force with a three-year limit, a non-starter among Republican hawks. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has drafted a war authorization that would also place limits on ground troops, and end the 2001 and 2002 authorizations of force against (respectively) al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussain's Iraq. Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), two freshmen who have campaigned for a new AUMF, wrote in Time magazine Wednesday that their own details need to be worked out. "Questions about whether to 'sunset' an ISIS-specific AUMF and what to do about the 14-year-old statute which currently serves as the administration’s legal underpinning for action against ISIS, remain," they acknowledged.
Graham, who like Paul is a candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, has no such questions. He called it "absurd" to suggest that the Islamic State was trying to bait America into more military action by endorsing attacks in places, such as Paris.
"President Obama is providing a half-a-sed response to a national security threat, an immediate threat to the homeland," he said. "I want to provide a response that is not constrained by geography. ISIL’s in eight countries, trying to project throughout the world. After 9/11 we created authorization to allow us to attack al-Qaeda anywhere, and we need the same thing now."
Democrats — and lawmakers skittish about a new war debate — have suggested that the 2001 and 2002 authorizations of force cover everything needed to fight the Islamic State. "We have an authorization to use military force against terrorists," said Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and current Democratic presidential front-runner, in a CBS News debate on Saturday. "We passed it after 9/11."
Graham saw that as insufficient. In the interview, he repeatedly said that the military needed to be free to operate absolutely anywhere that the Islamic State or ISIS reached. That, he noted was why he called the Islamic State ISIL, and not ISIS — the last letter of the acronym ISIL refers to the Levant, while the last two letters of ISIS refers to Iraq and Syria.
"They're seeking territory beyond Iraq and Syria," said Graham. "That’s what their ambitions are."
At the same time, Graham described the actual power of the Islamic State as something that would be relatively easy to destroy. "I want to destroy them, not 'fight' them," he said. "They’re lightly armed compared to a modern army. In Egypt, in other countries that would be allies here, you have modern air forces. You have navies. ISIS doesn't have an air force, and ISIS doesn't have a navy. This is not like going into Iraq. We’re talking about taking land back from 30,000-40,000 fighters."
"It helps enormously if you defeat ISIL," Graham said. "ISIL is seen as the winner on the Internet, as an inspiration. The day you take Raqqa back and give it to Syrians, the day you take Mosul and give it back to Iraqis, is the day the allure of ISIL fades. They become losers."
Victory in Iraq, in Graham's view, would also bring closure to the refugee crisis.
"What I keep telling senators is that the refugee lane is one of 20 lanes the terrorists can attack us from," he said. "What makes us safe is victory on the ground in Iraq and Syria."