Defining al-Qaida and the Authorization for the Use of Military Force

Slate's blog on legal issues.
May 1 2008 10:01 AM

Defining al-Qaida and the Authorization for the Use of Military Force

A predawn American  cruise-missile strike against the central Somalia town of Dhusamareb killed between 10 and 30 persons today. Military officials said publicly that the target was "a known al-Qaida target." Confidentially, military officials told the New York Times that the target was Aden Hashi Ayro, reportedly one of al-Qaida's top operatives in Africa and the leader of an Islamist group in Somalia called the Shebab.

On a listserv this morning, one expert on armed conflict and international law questioned whether this strike portended yet another broadening September 2001 " authorization for the use of military force ." I think it does, and I'm at a loss to articulate any limiting principle on the geographic, spatial, temporal, or political scope of this nation's military efforts against al-Qaida. 

Advertisement

I'm hardly the first to say it, but this highlights an important contrast between wars against states and wars against entities like al-Qaida. With the former, there is a limiting principle on the conflict. If the state ceases to be (such as Germany or Japan at the end of WWII), the war does, too. With the latter, there seems to be no limit. As al-Qaida evolves , morphs , grows , and franchises itself, so does the war, and so does any authorization for the use of force that is tied to the definition of al-Qaida.

Phillip Carter is an Iraq veteran who now directs the veterans research program at the Center for a New American Security.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Dear Prudence
Oct. 23 2014 6:00 AM Monster Kids from poorer neighborhoods keep coming to trick-or-treat in mine. Do I have to give them candy?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 22 2014 11:54 PM The Actual World “Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.