The scope of war-making authorities and powers available to the Trump administration depends on decisions made by the Obama administration. Two recent news reports shed some troubling light on its approach to the coming transition.
The Obama administration’s present mindset reflects a departure from its approach in the fall of 2012. In anticipation of an election it believed Republican challenger Mitt Romney might win, the Obama White House accelerated the development and implementation of a “drone rule book” that codified the procedures for drone strikes in non-battlefield settings. As one official worried aloud in November 2012, “There was concern that the levers might no longer be in our hands.”
The latest reporting suggests that, rather than restraining and limiting Trump, the Obama administration, in its final weeks in office, is further expanding the geographic scope of airstrikes, the nature of combatants who can be targeted, and the legal justification underpinning such strikes. The incoming president-elect, who has previously pledged to “bomb the hell out of ISIS,” will have the capabilities and authorities to do just that — for the Islamic State and other terrorist and militant armies.