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When Institutions Fail: A Thought Experiment

[Editors' NoteThe following post is the second installment of a new feature, "Monday Reflections," in which a different Just Security editor will take a longer view each Monday through a look back at the big stories from the previous week and/or a look ahead to key developments on the horizon.]

Is it ever appropriate for the United States to take unilateral military action to defend its vital national security interests when those public institutions that are designed to authorize the use of force are not working?…   continue »

ISIS/ISIL remains associated with Al-Qaida because the UN Security Council says so?

There is considerable disagreement whether President Obama has acted unconstitutionally or unlawfully when proceeding to military action against ISIL/ISIS without new Congressional authorization but instead legitimizing the airstrikes with the old 9/11 AUMF authorization related to Al-Qaida.

For purposes of the debate under US law, it should not go unnoticed that the United Nations Security Council applies its own “theory” concerning ISIL’s association with Al-Qaida.…   continue »

The Erosion of a Secret

Drone Timeline (Click to Enlarge)
Drone Timeline (Click to Enlarge)

In connection with an ACLU Freedom of Information Act lawsuit pending before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the CIA has agreed to “process” a set of records relating to the CIA’s use of armed drones to carry out “targeted killings,” “signature strikes,” “terrorist attack disruption strikes,” and other “premeditated killings.”  Here’s the substance of the agreement:

 [The CIA] will process:

1 – Any and all final legal memoranda (as well as the latest version of draft legal memoranda which were never finalized) concerning the U.S.

  continue »

Just Security’s One-Year Anniversary Event

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As this week’s developments underscore, national security issues are likely to play an increasingly prominent role in the upcoming midterm elections—and in shaping the agenda of both the remaining work of the 113th Congress and the Congress that the elections will return to Washington next January.…   continue »

Democracy’s Failure

A year ago, President Obama gave a major counterterrorism speech in which he promised to “refine, and ultimately repeal” the 2001 AUMF. Yesterday, his administration announced that it was relying on the 2001 AUMF to launch offensive attacks against ISIL.

The administration seems to be relying on one of two equally implausible theories in support: (i) The administration has long argued that the 2001 AUMF covers not just al Qaeda and the Taliban, as the entities responsible for September 11th attacks, but also their “associated forces.” Associated forces are now being re-defined as those organized armed groups that at some point joined al Qaeda or the Taliban in their fight against the United States, even if they joined after the September 11th attacks took place, even if they didn’t exist on September 11, 2001, and even if they have since formally split from al Qaeda or the Taliban, as ISIL did last year.…   continue »

The Guns of September

[Editors' Note: The following post is the first installment of a new feature, "Monday Reflections," in which a different Just Security editor will take a longer view each Monday through a look back at the big stories from the previous week and/or a look ahead to key developments on the horizon.]

In her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman famously unpacked how the German and French militaries effectively planned their way into the First World War–with the inflexibility of (and unshakable faith in) German’s Schlieffen Plan and France’s Plan XVII having a lot to do with why the foremost military minds of their generation both (1) were sure they would prevail in a short, decisive conflict; and (2) could not anticipate the bloody quagmire into which the Western Front quickly descended.…   continue »