Ius Gentium

University of Baltimore School of Law's Center for International and Comparative Law Fellows discuss international and comparative legal issues

Leave a comment

“Let Girls Learn” – A U.S. and Japan Initiative Promoting Education for Girls Across the Globe

Suzanne de Deyne

Last year the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), launched a public engagement campaign entitled, “Let Girls Learn” to promote an increase in access to quality education and ensure successful empowerment for girls.[1]  To date, USAID has donated one billion dollars in education programs, over 35 million in textbooks and other teaching materials in a single year, and helped train over 300,000 teachers worldwide.[2]  The clear take-away message from this initiative is that when girls have the opportunity to gain the skills, knowledge, and confidence to break the cycle of poverty, raise healthier families, and help build their communities everyone benefits.

Let Girls Learn

Unfortunately, 62 million girls around the world are not in school.[3]  Half of these girls are adolescents.[4]  The gender gap among adolescents persists because it is at this age that girls are often first subject to the cultural values and practices that define and limit the prospects of women in their societies.[5]  Pressure to marry, dangerous commutes to school, education fees, lack of access to healthcare, and fear of speaking out are all factors contributing to the gender divide.  To address this concern, First Lady Michelle Obama recently announced a joint effort with Akie Abe, wife of Japan’s prime minister, to advance the “Let Girls Learn” initiative and help educate girls across the globe.[6]

To build momentum for the “Let Girls Learn” campaign, the First Lady teamed up with the Peace Corps.  The partnership will initially target eleven countries and focus on three main pillars – empowering leaders, working hand in hand, and increasing impact.[7]  A collaboration with multiple nations and an international service organization of the United States, is important for this campaign because it recognizes that the education gender gap is a global challenge, but its root causes are often local, and therefore call for local solutions.[8]  Because “Let Girls Learn” is a community-focused initiative, solutions to gender and girls’ education issues will be devised by local leaders, families, and girls themselves.[9]

Let Girls Learn 2

Peace Corps volunteers will work to develop locally based education programs, from leadership camps to mentoring projects.[10]  Research indicates that every additional year of education can increase a girl’s earning power by ten to twenty percent[11] and girls with secondary schooling are up to six times less likely to marry as children when compared to girls who have little to no education.[12]  In sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, almost 60% fewer girls would become pregnant if they had a secondary education.[13]  Furthermore, sending more girls to school leads to an overall boost in a country’s economy.”[14]

The programs built under the “Let Girls Learn” initiative address education in the broad sense of the word. Education includes more than just academic education; it focuses on empowerment and leadership, health and nutrition, gender-based violence, forced marriage, and the benefit of bilateral and multilateral partnerships. Below are some specific projects, which started under USAID and will continue to be promoted under the new comparative partnership between the U.S. and Japan, directly changing the lives of adolescent girls:

  • Advancing Youth Project (AYP): Young girls, mostly young mothers, in Liberia are given out-of-school opportunity to build a better life through quality alternative basic education services, such as social development and leadership training for those who are unschooled or have marginal literacy and numeracy skills. To date, the project has reached 500 adolescent girls and aims to reach 2,800 by the end of 2016.[15]
  • Girls Opportunities to Access Leaning Plus program (GOAL): Works to “improve the enrollment, attendance and retention of 7,000 primary school girls across 60 schools [in Liberia] through scholarship packages, school supplies, hygiene kits and parent-teacher capacity building.” In all 60 schools, mentoring, tutoring, gender responsiveness training, and library resources are also included in the program. The EQUAL Program takes this one step further because it piloted mother-tongue, English, and family literacy activities where gender based violence in schools is discussed to educate the community in identifying ways to make schools safer for learning.[16]
  • Girls Empowerment through Education and Health Activity (ASPIRE): Works with over 125,000 adolescent girls in Malawi to improve education and health outcomes by improving the reading skills of girls, providing clean water, toilet facilities, feminine hygiene products, and encourages the adoption of positive health behaviors.[17]
  • Best School for Girls: Helped a young girl in Bangladesh avoid an arranged marriage, in part because her parents could not afford her education, because when she informed her school of this campaign they offered to bring her back to school for free.[18]
  • Sisterhood is Global Institute: Program located in Jordan that assists civil society by reducing the number of discriminatory national laws and regulations that affect women and girls, specifically focusing on banning forced marriage under 18 and providing legal precedence to prosecute rape in the context of marriage.[19]

Let Girls Learn 3

Education is one of the most critical areas of empowerment for women.  Education for girls is education for all because when girls are educated, public health concerns diminish and prosperity, especially to both national and global economies, thrives.  Education generates opportunity and independence.  Many of the adolescent girls where “Let Girls Learn” programs are in place have the spirit to learn. These programs simply provide them with the power to learn. When girls are educated, they lead healthier and more productive lives.  Some of these girls “walk miles each day to school, study for hours each night, and stand strong against those who say they are unworthy of an education.”[20]  If they are prepared to make these sacrifices, the global community must continue to provide the resources through this initiative and ensure adolescent girls get the education they deserve.  It is time to Let Girls Learn.

Suzanne De Deyne is a second year student at the University of Baltimore School of Law (candidate for J.D., May 2016) concentrating in International Law. Suzanne graduated cum laude from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in Economics. She also received a Honor’s International Relations Certificate from Mount Holyoke College.

Currently, Suzanne is a staff editor on the Journal of International Law and represents the International Law Society as the Alumni Relations Director. As a CICL Fellow, Suzanne conducts legal research for International Rights Advocates on human rights and corporate accountability. She is also a member of Phi Alpha Delta and the Women’s Bar Association. This summer she will be a legal intern at Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher in the firm’s Brussels office, which is focused on Competition Law practice in Europe.

[1] Let Girls Learn, USAID, http://www.usaid.gov/letgirlslearn [hereinafter USAID] (last visited Mar. 26, 2015).

[2] USAID, supra note 1.

[3] Let Girls Learn, White House, https://www.whitehouse.gov/letgirlslearn (last visited Mar. 26, 2015).

[4] Let Girls Learn, supra note 3.

[5] Michelle Obama, Let’s Ensure That Every Girl Can Learn, Wall St. J. , Mar. 15, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/michelle-obama-lets-ensure-that-every-girl-can-learn-1426458404.

[6] Obama, supra note 4.

[7] Let Girls Learn, Peace Corps, https://letgirlslearn.peacecorps.gov (last visited Mar. 26, 2015).

[8] Obama, supra note 4.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] USAID, supra note 1.

[13] Id.

[14] Obama, supra note 4.

[15] USAID, supra note 1.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Obama, supra note 4.

Leave a comment

Like a Girl – Yeah, So What!?

Ali Rickart

The “Like a Girl” was a campaign started by the company, Always, as a way to boost self-confidence, equality, and empowerment.[1] The campaign began as an advertisement depicting the term “like a girl” and showing various people (men, women, boys, and girls) explain what they think the phrase means. The powerful messages shows that young girls view “like a girl” as a representing strength and equality, yet all other persons meant or understood the phrase as indicating weakness, inequality, and even as an insult. Since this campaign launched, Always has begun other campaigns such as #BanBossy, another phrase directed at girls and women that is meant as an insult, even though their male counterparts are praised as leaders when they display similar attitude and behavior. Always has partnered with the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality through education around the globe.

International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on March 8. This year’s theme: Make It Happen.[2] We must make greater equality happen by having more women in senior leadership roles, equal recognition of women in the arts, growth of female owned businesses, increased financial independence of women, more women in science, technology and engineering, fairer recognition of women in sports. We must make wage equality amongst the sexes a reality instead of an aspiration. Just like the company, Always, organizations and women around the world are working to make equality happen. This day is celebrated as an official national holiday such countries as Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia.[3] The United States dedicates the entire month of March to Women’s History. As Gloria Steinem stated, “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”[4]


Feminism, also known as the women’s liberation movement, is a movement to support the equality of women. The movement began, primarily, with legal issues such as women’s suffrage and property rights. This movement soon spread to include things like equal pay, protection against domestic violence, reproductive rights, and more. Feminist scholars have divided the feminist movement into three ‘waves’, each wave gaining momentum in the fight for equality.[5] Each wave has started in the Western World, specifically the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, before spreading across the globe. The second and third waves of feminism deal with many more social, political and legal issues than the first wave of feminism. The third wave of feminism is slightly more nuanced and refers to the inclusion of sexuality as another category involving women that is lacking in equality.[6]

One of the most prevalent tools regarding women’s rights arose out of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The Convention was negotiated and adopted by the General Assembly (vote: 130 to 0, with only 10 abstentions) in 1979. Through special presentation at a world conference and subsequent fast state signing, CEDAW entered into force on September 3, 1981.[7] This was the fastest a human rights convention had ever entered into effect.[8] While CEDAW is widely ratified, it has one of the largest numbers of reservations. Although reservations are not allowed to be incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention, there are often conflicts between the reservations and the states own national constitutions or laws. A majority of reservations are made on grounds of potential conflict with national laws, traditions, religion or culture. Ironically, some states that are parties to CEDAW and have made reservations have not entered such reservations to corresponding provisions in other human rights treaties.


In an effort to gain more unity between the sexes, UN Women has launched the HeForShe campaign. This campaign promotes feminism generally and is intended to bridge the gap between women and men activism for women’s rights. The campaign describes itself as “bring[ing] together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all.”[9] Men from all over the world have agreed to take a stand for gender equality. An interactive map on the HeForShe website shows the number of men in each country that have signed the pledge, totaling 232,188. The only states that didn’t seem to have any men that signed the pledge was French Guinea in South America and the autonomous province of Kosovo.[10] Some of the African countries such as Guinea, Lesotho, Chad, Burkina Faso, Congo, and a few others have fewer than ten men that have signed. Yet, that’s still a start.

Another important movement occurring in women’s rights is the Girl Rising movement. This movement is attempting to establish education for women around the world, as many countries either do not allow girls to attend school or may not have sufficient resources for them to attend school.[11] In 2013, the movement released a powerful film, titled “Girl Rising”, which documented the lives of nine different girls in nine different areas of the world. The movie is a powerful representation of the inequality of something that seems so open to developed countries yet so inaccessible in most of the world – education. The facts that the film brings to light are astounding, including the fact that educating girls can break cycles of poverty in just one generation.[12]

One person cannot fix the world, but as Girl Rising states, “one girl with courage is a revolution.”[13] Yet, women cannot do it alone. I challenge men to have courage and help further the momentum of the revolution by joining the HeforShe movement. Everyone should get involved to fight for both equality and the right of access to education. If we start small and work towards attainable solutions within our own country, when we ban together we can gain enough momentum that we can change the world. Let’s make it happen in 2015.

Alexandra Rickart is a second-year student at the University of Baltimore School of Law, planning to graduate in May 2016 with a concentration in International Law. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2013 with a B.A. in Communication and a minor in Business. Her primary interests include international law, international criminal law, and domestic criminal law.
In addition to being a CICL Fellows, she is the Secretary of the International Law Society and a Staff Editor for the University of Baltimore Journal of International Law. She competed in the 2014-15 Jessup International Moot Court Competition, Mid-Atlantic Region. During her first year of law school, she was a tutor for Baltimore elementary students as part of the Truancy Court program through the Center for Families, Children and the Courts. Alexandra is currently a law clerk for a criminal defense firm in Baltimore.

[1] Like a Girl: Boost Your Self-Confidence #likeagirl, Always, http://www.always.com/en-us/likeagirl.aspx.

[2] About International Women’s Day, http://www.internationalwomensday.com/about.asp#.VPyYiUKTRUQ.

[3] About International Women’s Day, http://www.internationalwomensday.com/about.asp#.VPyYiUKTRUQ (China, Madagascar, and Nepal have this national holiday for women only).

[4] About International Women’s Day, http://www.internationalwomensday.com/about.asp#.VPyYiUKTRUQ.

[5] Linda Nicholson, Feminism in “Waves”: Useful Metaphor or Not?, New Politics (Winter 2010), http://newpol.org/content/feminism-waves-useful-metaphor-or-not.

[6] Rebecca Walker, Becoming the Third Wave, Ms. (January/February 1992).

[7] Short History of CEDAW Convention, United Nations, http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/history.htm.

[8] Id.

[9] HeForShe Campaign, UN Women, http://www.heforshe.org.

[10] Id.

[11] Girl Rising, Girl Rising, http://girlrising.com.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.


Unaccompanied Minors: Keep Them or Send Them Back? A Political Game

Annielle Makon

Tens of thousands of undocumented, unaccompanied immigrants under the age of 18 have crossed into the United States every year.[1] Since 2013, however, the United States has seen an unprecedented increase in the number of unaccompanied migrating children arriving to the country, predominately at the U.S./Mexico border.[2] The majority of the migrant children have come from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, three nations plagued by organized crime, drug trafficking, and widespread corruption.[3] Gang violence in El Salvador and in urban areas of Guatemala have escalated dramatically in recent months since a weak truce among rival gangs has evaporated.[4] Gang violence has plagued the youth, especially because the gangs are targeting schools and neighborhoods.[5] This massive influx of migrants is placing extra pressure on US lawmakers, spurring even more debate on how to reform immigration policy.[6] President Obama has even called the situation a humanitarian crisis and has sent federal officials to create temporary housing in three states for the migrant children.[7]

Migrant Surge

The Dangers of Migrating

Many flee to escape the horrors of their home country.  Unbeknownst to them, the horror of the migration journey is equally terrible. There have been stories of extreme danger and criminal mistreatment along their journey.[8] Child migrants have experienced abuse and violence at the hands of drug and human traffickers, and even law enforcement.[9] Women and girls are at a high risk for rape and sexual assault.[10] Minors who begin their journey to the United States sometimes find that what they had agreed to do in the US changed or they are required to work or provide sex to “clients” to pay off their debts.[11] Additionally, many of those who are accompanied by smugglers are abandoned at the first sign of trouble, left even more vulnerable than when they began their journey to the United States.[12] Even with these many dangers, migrants continue to make the journey because of the promise of freedom from violence motivates them.

U.S. Government (In)Action

The U.S. immigration system, as a whole, is long overdue for an overhaul. Republicans have passed legislation to force the Obama administration to quickly deport the undocumented immigrants.[13] Yet, the chances of that this legislation becomes a law are slim.


Currently, many of the unaccompanied minors are being sent to Arizona, though they will not stay there indefinitely.[14] The goal is to process each child within 72 hours and either turn them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for deportation proceedings or to the Health and Human Services Department (HHSD) to reunite them with their families or place them in foster homes (pending deportation proceedings).[15] In addition, the Obama administration has partnered with the Mexican, Guatemalan, and Honduran governments by placing a public service announcement regarding the dangers of sending unaccompanied minors across the border.[16] Additionally, the Obama administration has stated that the unaccompanied minors are not entitled to any kind of residency or protected status.[17] Yet, they still come.

Domestically, there needs to be reform within the court system. There are roughly 260 immigration judges in the United States and each judge hears about 1,500 cases annually.[18] The unaccompanied Mexican and Central American minors seeking asylum is not as simple as cases from other countries since they often take longer to adjudicate.[19] Whether asylum can be granted to the unaccompanied minor depends on the ability of the minor’s home country government to control non-state actors.[20] Backlog cases have not been this high since 1994, when there were nearly 425,000 cases pending.[21] Yet, they still come.


Internationally, the United States owes these children no legal duty. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (the Convention) is an international human rights treaty that sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health, and cultural rights of children.[22] The Convention defines a child as any individual under the age of eighteen and requires that the state act in the best interest of the child.[23] Article 19 of the Convention states that the parties must “take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence.”[24] Therefore, nations that ratify this convention are bound to it by international law.[25]  Although, the United States played an active role in drafting the Convention they have yet to ratify it.[26]  The Convention is unlikely to be ratified in the near future because it forbids both the death penalty and life imprisonment for children.[27] Therefore, by not ratifying the treaty the United States owe no international obligations to the unaccompanied minors. Yet, they still come.

This immigration problem is a complex issue with no easy answers. The main issue should be addressing the root causes of the flight and protecting the children in the process. The US and Central American governments need to address the economic and violence issues that cause these minors to flee. Most importantly, we need to stop treating child migration the same as adults. They should be treated and protected as children. The US government needs to focus its priorities on protection and less on enforcement. These children are in need of protection, not deportation.

Annielle Makon is a third year student at the University of Baltimore School of Law J.D. Candidate (’15). She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in Sociology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County. While studying Political Science, Annielle developed a passion for human rights and international relations. In addition to being a CICL Student Fellow, Annielle is an Associate Editor on the Journal of International Law. Annielle also interns at Amnesty International in the Sub-Saharan Africa unit.

[1] Jonathan Ernst, Record number of undocumented minors entering US – report, Reuters (January 31, 2014) http://rt.com/usa/record-undocumented-minors-entering-us-441/.

[2] Mark Seitz et al., Report of the Committee on Migration of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (November 2013) http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/upload/Mission-To-Central-America-FINAL-2.pdf.

[3] Ernst, supra  note 1.



[6] Ernst, supra note 1.

[7]Bob Ortega, 5 answers: Why the surge in migrant children at border?, The Republic (June 10, 2014) http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/immigration/2014/06/09/immigrant-children-arizona-border-answers/10246771/.

[8] Seitz, supra note 2.

[9] Seitz, supra note 2.

[10] Seitz, supra note 2.

[11] Seitz, supra note 2.

[12] Seitz, supra note 2.

[13] Evan Perez, Number of unaccompanied minors crossing into U.S. tops 60,000, CNN (August 2, 2014) http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/02/us/border-crisis-milestone/index.html.

[14] Ortega, supra  note 7.

[15] Ortega, supra  note 7.

[16] Ortega, supra  note 7.

[17] Ortega, supra  note 7.

[18] Hayley Munguia, The Unaccompanied Minor Crisis Has Moved From The Border To The Courts, Fivethirtyeight (October 2013) http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/the-unaccompanied-minor-crisis-has-moved-from-the-border-to-the-courts/

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Convention on the Rights of the Child, Sept. 2, 1990, A/RES/44/25.

[23] Id.

[24] Id.

[25] Id.

[26] Id.

[27] Id.

Leave a comment

Authorization to Use Military Force Against ISIL: What the President Wants and Why it Doesn’t Matter

Matt Matechik

What did President Obama “ask” Congress?

On February 11, 2015 President Obama formally approached Congress and implicitly sought their approval to use American military force against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Specifically, the President submitted a draft joint resolution Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) and encouraged Congress in a formal letter to pass it.[i]

If passed in its current draft form (highly unlikely), the AUMF would grant the President Congressional approval to use American military forces against ISIL “and associated persons or forces” for a period of up to three years. The draft does not impose any geographic restrictions. Therefore, the President would be authorized to conduct military operations against ISIL in Iraq, Syria, Libya (where ISIL appears to have gained a foothold[ii]) and absolutely anywhere else in the world he deems “necessary and appropriate.”[iii] (NOTE: The AUMF only gives the President the domestic legal authority to enter into either Iraq, Syria, Libya, or other states. This blog will not deal with the international authority the President has to do so.)

Although the draft AUMF would not limit the location of military operations, it does purport to limit their scope. The draft prohibits activity that rises to the level of “enduring offensive ground combat operations.”[iv] The administration claims that this phrase prohibits large-scale long-term military campaigns such as those recently conducted by the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, the stipulation would not prohibit the use of ground forces for less involved purposes such as rescue operations and pursuit of ISIL leadership. Additionally, the AUMF would allow “the use of U.S. forces in situations where ground combat operations are not expected or intended, such as intelligence collection and sharing, missions to enable kinetic strikes, or… other forms of… assistance to partner forces.[v]

This draft language, even with the limitation, is actually very broad, despite what some members of Congress are claiming. The draft intentionally uses open-ended phrasing that President Obama could potentially cite in committing American forces to ground combat.


Why did the President reach out to Congress?

President Obama approached Congress as part of his “commitment to working with Congress… to authoriz[e] the continued use of military force to degrade and defeat ISIL.” The President urged Congress to “join [him] in supporting our Nation’s security… which would show the world we are united in our resolve to counter the threat posed by ISIL.”[vi]

Did the President really “ask” Congress for anything?

No! The language of President Obama’s letter to Congress is extremely precise. A careful reading reveals that the President is not actually asking Congress for anything at all. To the contrary, the letter explicitly states that he already has all the authority he needs.[vii] The President is simply inviting Congress to provide their stamp of approval for military action that he is already undertaking and presumably will continue to undertake with or without Congress.

President Obama’s posture is not surprising. Historically, the sitting President, no matter his party, and Congress have performed a delicate dance around the subject of who controls the use of American military force abroad. The tension between the executive and legislative branches stems from the Constitution, which confers upon the President unspecified powers commensurate with the title “Commander in Chief” while endowing Congress with numerous specific war powers including, but not limited to, the power to “declare war” and “organize, fund, and maintain the nation’s armed forces.”[viii]

What about the War Powers Resolution?

This “dance” took on its modern form in 1973 when Congress passed the War Powers Resolution (WPR) to “to insure that the collective judgment of both the Congress and the President will apply to the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, and to the continued use of such forces in hostilities or in such situations.”[ix] The WPR, at least on paper, requires the President to involve Congress at various points before, during, and after his decision to use force. One of its most controversial provisions requires the President to terminate military action within sixty days of its initiation unless Congress has declared war, extended the sixty-day period, is physically unable to meet, or provided statutory authorization.[x]

In practice, the WPR has done little to prevent the President from unilaterally committing American forces to foreign theatres. The sitting President, no matter his party, typically finds some way to circumvent the WPR’s purpose of involving Congress while still purporting to be consistent with the WPR. The President usually claims he already has all the authority he needs by virtue of his title as Commander in Chief and/or he interprets a statute in a particular way to find the Congressional approval he needs.


Sixty Days?! Haven’t we been fighting ISIL for months?!

Yes! The present scenario illustrates the WPR’s questionable influence. President Obama initiated a sustained air campaign against ISIL targets in Syria on September 22, 2015.[xi] Since that time there has been no declaration of war, no extension of the sixty-day period, and no problems with Congress meeting. Under the WPR, President Obama therefore has two choices: obtain Congressional statutory approval for the military action sixty days after initiation or terminate the mission. And yet, only now, 142 days later, far past the sixty-day deadline, is the President seeking statutory authorization and, as noted above, he is not truly even asking for it.[xii]

It should be noted that President Obama’s apparent disregard for the WPR is not unique to his administration. President George H.W. Bush ordered thousands of American servicemen to Somalia during December 1992 without explicit approval from Congress. He “found” statutory approval for the military deployment by broadly interpreting a statute that supported a US humanitarian mission in Somalia. President Bill Clinton ordered over 20,000 American troops to invade Haiti during September 1994 without explicit approval from Congress. His primary argument for nixing Congress was that the operation did not rise to the level of “war” requiring a declaration and therefore Congress need not be involved. These are only a few examples of many.

What happens now?

War (at least the political kind)! Congress must debate the draft AUMF and then either pass it as written, pass it with changes, or pass no AUMF at all. Ultimately, whatever Congress decides will not matter. If they pass any AUMF, the granted authority will be largely for symbolic purposes only. If they do not pass an AUMF, it is all but certain that President Obama will continue to commit American forces to the fight anyway. For the President, it’s a win-win. He will either by a wartime Commander-in-Chief enjoying the support of Congress as he battles America’s enemies abroad or he will be the President who was willing to stand up to the evil that is ISIL when Congress seemingly refused.


The political game surrounding the draft AUMF is likely to continue for some time. Politicians will squabble and legal scholars will debate the legal powers of he executive and legislative branches. Meanwhile, the United States is already at war with ISIL, regardless of who formally signs off on it, and will be for the foreseeable future.

Matthew Matechik is an Evening J.D. student at the University of Baltimore School of Law (Class of 2016). He currently works full-time for the U.S. Federal Government as a Counterterrorism Analyst. He has a Bachelors of Arts (Magna Cum Laude, 2008) from Florida State University. All views in this blog post are Matthew’s own views and do not represent that of the U.S. Government. 

[i] http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/02/11/letter-president-authorization-use-united-states-armed-forces-connection

[ii] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/islamic-state/11418966/Islamic-State-planning-to-use-Libya-as-gateway-to-Europe.html

[iii] http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/aumf_02112015.pdf

[iv] http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/aumf_02112015.pdf

[v] http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/02/11/letter-president-authorization-use-united-states-armed-forces-connection

[vi] http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/02/11/letter-president-authorization-use-united-states-armed-forces-connection

[vii] http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/02/11/letter-president-authorization-use-united-states-armed-forces-connection

[viii]  U.S. Const., art. II, § 2, cl. 1, U.S. Const., art. I, § 8, cls. 1114.

[ix] 50 U.S.C.A. § 1541.

[x] 50 U.S.C.A. § 1544.

[xi] http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/09/23/statement-president-airstrikes-syria

[xii] President Obama seems to be keeping the 2001 AUMF in his back pocket to claim Congressional authorization even if Congress does not pass an ISIL-specific AUMF. The 2001 AUMF authorized the President to use force against “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11,  2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any  future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.” The Obama administration suggested as early as September 2014 that they could rely on the 2001 AUMF. See http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/09/23/background-conference-call-airstrikes-syria. This position is problematic given that ISIL, a new group distinct from al-Qaida, had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks.