When he greeted Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi at the White House last week, President Obama said that the Iraqis and their allies, including the United States, had made “serious progress” in pushing the Islamic State out of Iraqi territory.

That’s true, but the enemy is far from vanquished either in Iraq or in Syria. The most optimistic outlook is for a campaign that will continue well into next year and perhaps beyond.

Yet eight months after Obama promised to “degrade, and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State, Congress still has not voted to authorize the current military campaign.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration undermines the urgency of its own request for a resolution by insisting that it has all the authority it needs thanks to two previous congressional votes.

The first, approved in 2001, authorized the president to use force against those who “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the 9/11 attacks. The second authorization, from 2002, authorized President George W. Bush’s use of force against “the continuing threat posed by Iraq.”

Besides being responses to long-ago threats, these authorizations are extraordinarily broad and open-ended, potentially permitting everything from airstrikes and military advisers to the deployment of massive numbers of U.S. ground forces. By contrast, the proposed new three-year authorization submitted to Congress by the White House in February would rule out “enduring offensive ground combat operations.”

filed under: