AUMF Laws Authorizing US Military Action Could Be Overturned

Lawmakers in the United States (US) have announced plans to repeal legislation that authorises the use of military force. Both Democrats and Republicans supported the plans and could have powerful implications for US external conflicts.

What is an AUMF?

AUMF is short for the authorisation for the use of military force. These laws were used to launch the global “War on Terror,” which led to the US invasion of Afghanistan. AUMFs subsequently led to the 2002 war in Iraq that toppled Saddam Hussein 20 years ago.

Within the US Constitution, Congress has the power to declare wars. However, lawmakers have passed several AUMFs to allow presidents to act on military operations without first consulting congress.

Two of the most controversial and recent AUMFs include:

  • Following 9/11 in 2001 lawmakers in the US passed an AUMF “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organisations, or persons he determines planned, authorised, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organisations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organisations or persons.”


  • Precluding the US Invasion of Iraq in 2003, lawmakers passed a 2002 AUMF, “to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq”

Neither authorisations had an expiry date nor sunset clause. Since their manifestation almost two decades ago, the AUMFs were used to authorise more than 40 military interventions across 19 countries.

Repeal of AUMFs intends to return authority to declare war to Congress and put an end to US involvement in ongoing conflicts.

In late March, the US House of representatives voted to repeal the AUMF that allowed war in Iraq. The repeal must now pass the US Senate to become law. The Senate is also undertaking a separate effort to repeal and replace past war authorisations.

Military power and the United States

Since World War II, the US had an extensive role in military matters and conflicts around the world.

Over that time the country’s military power expanded to include around 800 military bases in around 70 countries. In comparison, powerful countries such as Britain, France and Russia operate around 30 military bases combined.

The US ranks 121 on the 2020 Global Peace Index. This is the lowest of any member country of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

According to GPI data, the US scores highly in the militarisation domain. Further, the US ranked 4th out of the five countries with the highest militarisation domain scores.

The militarisation domain, one of three domains on the index, consists of a range of indicators that track:

  • The level of national military expenditure
  • Armed services personnel
  • The import and export of major weapons
  • Nuclear and heavy weapons capability
  • UN peacekeeping contributions
  • Ease of access to small and light arms

Countries with the highest militarisation in the world:

  • Israel leads the list of countries with the highest militarisation domain scores
  • followed by Russia in second place
  • then North Korea
  • France follows
  • The US takes fifth place

A report from the US Department of Defence, shows that more than two decades of conflict in Afghanistan and the Middle East following the 9/11 attacks has cost the US a total of US$1.55 trillion plus a further $44.8 billion in non-defence spending.

As of 2019, overseas military operations led to 6,967 US servicemen deaths and an additional 52,802 wounded.


Melinda Jones

Editorial Staff

Vision Of Humanity

Vision of Humanity is brought to you by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), by staff in our global offices in Sydney, New York, The Hague, Harare and Mexico. Alongside maps and global indices, we present fresh perspectives on current affairs reflecting our editorial philosophy.