Beyond Humanity: How to Control America’s Use of Force

Summary of Study

Bottom Line: Rather than debating how war should be fought, Americans should debate whether war should be fought in the first place. Policymakers should focus on how to control the use of force and the rules for starting and continuing war.

The U.S. has all but abandoned constitutional constraints for going to war in the 21st century. This has had a major detrimental impact on the rule of law and on those on the receiving end of American force. Through its warmongering, the U.S. has overlooked a generation of soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress, the rise of the surveillance state, and the trillions of dollars spent to maintain endless war.

Foreign policy debate has focused on making war less brutal rather than discussing whether it's needed at all. As a result, the warfare state has only grown. Even President Trump has intensified many global conflicts.

Drone warfare has made war more deadly, clinical, and abstract. The debate has too often centered around whether civilians are dying, not whether the war itself is strategic, ethical, and moral. The debate has focused on torture, not war itself. Rather than debating how to fight, policymakers must consider whether, where, and how long to fight.

A conclusion among American thought leaders developed in the 21st century that war must only be purged of its worst excesses, not be questioned at face value. These scholars and activists only attacked the inhumanity of war, not war itself. In reality, America should return to its proud tradition of limiting the use of force, preventing most wars from having to be waged at all.

Congress should reclaim its constitutional authority to declare war. The judiciary may also have a role to play in ruling against executive overreach in war-making.

Read the full policy brief HERE