The hunt for Osama bin Laden culminated dramatically on May 1, but the future of the post-9/11 War on Terror remains up in the air. In the House Republicans' draft defense bill unveiled Monday, Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) proposes to update the central legal basis for the war on al Qaeda — the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). McKeon wants to affirm, apparently indefinitely, our "armed conflict with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces," and broaden the list of legit enemies beyond those directly responsible for the 9/11 attacks. It is a good idea to expand the War on Terror?
No, let's declare victory: "Some of us naive folk thought that the death of Osama bin Laden, combined with the supposedly crippled state of al Qaeda," might prompt "an actual plan to end the War on Terror," says Jim Newell at Gawker. Nope. The GOP just wants to untether it from 9/11, so the president can unilaterally go after "anyone, you know, 'over there.'" This is a terrible idea.
"Bin Laden's dead, but the War on Terror expands"
This is a "very healthy" nod to reality: Any expansion of presidential anti-terrorism authority "is sure to come under fire from the political Left," says Benjamin Wittes at Lawfare. But tying that opposition to bin Laden's death "is silly." McKeon's proposal still needs work, but it basically just "enshrines in law" what the Obama team is already doing. And getting Congress on board with updated legislation "seems to me very healthy."
"McKeon II: A quick and dirty analysis"
What's the big rush? There's a difference between tweaking the law to acknowledge that terrorism is broader than bin Laden, and endorsing "terrorism creep," says New York University's Karen Greenberg, as quoted by Wired. "We need to absorb first what the death of bin Laden means" before we ramp up the War on Terror, and that will take time. "The idea that we're going to keep reacting and not have a thoughtful time out is just unacceptable."
"Osama's dead, but Congress wants a wider war"
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