More Can Be Done to End Forever Wars
And Achieve Authentic Security
Kelsey Coolidge / War Prevention Initiative
PORTLAND, OR (June 21, 2021) — In a bipartisan vote, the US House of Representatives repealed the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Iraq. We acknowledge the role of peace activists who disputed the need for the AUMF in the first place, who have worked for years to repeal the AUMF, and have built a coalition to end forever wars. As the US Senate considers this bill, the War Prevention Initiative (WPI) believes that more can be done to end forever wars and achieve authentic security rooted in the daily, lived experiences of Americans.
1. Repealing the 2002 AUMF helps to reassert Congressional powers over military action. Its largely recognized that the 2002 AUMF has outlived its intended purpose, chiefly giving Congressional authorization for military invasion of Iraq, and was abused by the Trump Administration to justify the assassination of Iran’s military official Qassem Soleimani in early 2020.
2. However, this repeal does not address the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force which continues to justify covert US military action around the world against vaguely defined “terrorist threats”. The current Presidential administration calls for the 2001 AUMF to be updated by a more “narrow and specific framework that will ensure we can protect Americans from terrorist threats while ending forever wars”. Anything short of Congressional authorization of military action, pursuant to the War Powers Act, is unacceptable.
Consider drone warfare. The 2001 AUMF offers the legal basis for which the US carries out drones strikes in countries with which it has never declared war nor publicly justified hostile action, including in Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Syria, and Pakistan. According to data from the Bureau for Investigative Journalism and Airwars, civilians overwhelmingly bear the costs of drone strikes.
3. Decrease and right-size military spending to invest in much-needed healthcare, infrastructure, energy, education, and other social service spending. In the past year, over 600,000 American have died from COVID-19 due to leadership failure and wide negligence. Millions more have lost their jobs as result of the pandemic with many unwilling to re-enter the workforce. Significant racial and gendered disparities persist in COVID deaths and the labor market that effect the race to get back to “normal”.
At the same time, cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure, like the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline in May 2020, or the failure to update energy grids, like in Texas, threaten the well-being of American livelihoods. With this context, the largest threats to Americans’ security come from the long-term underinvestment of social services–not from vaguely defined “security threats” from aboard.
4. Climate change is the world’s preeminent security threat and right-sizing military spending as well as the global impact of the US military is critical to addressing climate change. The Department of Defense (DoD) has identified climate change as a threat to national security and rightly so: a recent joint study between NASA and NOAA found that the earth has doubled the amount of heat trapped in the atmosphere in just 15 years. The planet is inching closer to reaching the 1.5 C increase in global temperature identified by the IPCC expected to result in catastrophic environmental and human consequences.
The US is already experiencing the effects of climate change. Yet, the DoD, as result of its global military activity, is “the world’s largest institutional user of petroleum and…the single largest institutional producer of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the world,” according to research by Neta C. Crawford at Brown University. We cannot combat climate change without addressing military spending and the direct impact of the US military on the environment.
5. Adopting a feminist foreign policy offers an alternative to the politics of domination and oppression that guide. US national security thinking. According to the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy, a feminist foreign policy moves away from “traditional foreign policy thinking and it focus on military force, violence, and domination by offering an alternative and intersectional rethinking of security from the viewpoint of the most vulnerable.”
This alternative focuses our attention to direct and indirect harm experienced by the most vulnerable resulting from our national security policy both at home and aboard. It offers a meaningful way to end forever wars and move toward authentic national security. Several countries have adopted or plan to adopt this approach, including Sweden, Canada, France, Luxembourg, and Mexico.
 The existence of nuclear weapons and the catastrophic consequences for humans and life on the planet if used is another existential threat. We do not discuss it further in this context since it is removed from the focus on the AUMF.
The War Prevention Initiative aims to is to transform the global peace and security paradigm to one that is built around viable alternatives to war and all forms of political violence.
For further comment or questions, please contact Kelsey Coolidge, War Prevention Initiative’s Director at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Organizations to Follow
Win Without War
Friends Committee on National Legislation
American Friends Service Committee
Centre for a Feminist Foreign Policy
Costs of War Project
Bureau for Investigative Journalism
World BEYOND War