In this campaign season, one of the questions on voters' minds is how much longer will the Iraq war continue? Senator John McCain has voiced support for the possibility of maintaining military troops in Iraq for as long as a century. Both Senators Obama and Clinton would withdraw our troops as rapidly as prudence allows after taking the Oval Office, with some minor variations of what that means between the two of them. What none of them are talking about is that the time is actually much more cut and dried than any of them would want you to know.
President Bush acquired his authority to invade Iraq under the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq. Remember it? That's the one both Senators Clinton and McCain voted in favor of in 2002.
What the resolution says is that congress supports the president to "strictly enforce through the United Nations Security Council all relevant Security Council resolutions applicable to Iraq and encourages him in those efforts." It's not as though Bush needed any encouragement but he does need the relevant Security Council resolution. There is a series of them which approves the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), the last of which was the Security Council resolution dated December 18, 2007. With it, the council "decides to extend the [UNAMI] mandate as set forth in that resolution until 31 December 2008." Finally it decides to remain "seized of the matter."
Whether the council remains seized or not, the administration is not requesting an extension of the resolution for 2009. That leaves the UN multinational forces, led by the US military, less than seven months to wrap up the war in Iraq. Considering Bush makes it crystal clear that the American forces will not be withdrawn from Iraq while he's commander in chief, it's unclear what authority he will use to perpetuate the war into 2009. If he follows his standard operating procedures, his authority is certain to be some grotesque contortion of US and international law.