Human Rights First Applauds Biden Administration’s Commitment to Ending Forever Wars, But Calls for Concrete Steps

Human Rights First welcomed interim national security strategic guidance released by the Biden administration signaling its commitment to end America’s “forever wars” that have cost thousands of lives and billions of dollars, and urged the administration to take concrete steps to bring our forever wars to a permanent end.

“We’re pleased to see the Biden administration name ending America’s endless wars as a strategic goal, but actions speak louder than words,” said Human Rights First President and CEO Mike Breen. “For nearly 20 years, administrations have adopted a costly war-based approach to national security that has led to a cascade of human rights violations and destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives. The Biden administration should take concrete actions to actually end forever wars and set the United States on a more rights-respecting course.”

As the Biden administration shifts the U.S. toward a rights-respecting national security strategy, Human Rights First recommends it:

  • Cease all military operations under the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which have resulted in mission creep, relieved Congress of its responsibility to take hard votes regarding military engagements, eroded public support for the operations, and siphoned limited resources from other national priorities;
  • Shift away from war-based detention, trial, and lethal force, and instead prioritize the use of diplomatic, law enforcement, intelligence, development, and other resources to mitigate security concerns, including the threat of terrorism;
  • Use military force only with authorization from Congress, and only when all non-military means have been exhausted and military force is lawful under international law and strategically effective; and,
  • Insist on essential safeguards and sunsets in any future AUMFs that apply the hard lessons learned from overbroad, harmful interpretations of the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs.

Beyond a move away from the counterproductive and costly state that has defined military policy in the post-9/11 era, Human Rights First also welcomes the Biden administration’s focus on the rise of violent extremism in the United States and abroad. Now the administration must use existing laws and statutes to address its root causes.

Human Rights First outlined our recommendations on ending America’s endless wars in Walking the Talk, our blueprint for the incoming administration. We also joined partners this month in calling on Congress to sunset the 2001 AUMF and repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF, which have driven two decades of military engagement in the region.

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