RANCHO SANTA FE, Ca., November 11, 2014 – On Veteran’s Day, it is appropriate to reflect upon the current state of affairs as they pertain to our ability to maintain peace. With the largely unreported turmoil that continues to brew across the world (other than whatever conflict is fashionable to feature at any given moment in time), peace seems to be as elusive today as it was when the holiday first began to take shape. Our lack of a defined defense policy doesn’t particularly improve the situation, and we need to address it.
Historically, the ceasefire that essentially ended World War I was entered into on November 11, 1918. The next year, then-President Woodrow Wilson commemorated the date as Armistice Day. Congress, moving at its normal glacial pace, reinforced President Wilson’s words in 1926 and, in 1938, proclaimed the date to be a national holiday to recognize those who fought in the “war to end all wars.” Unfortunately, World War II began one year later.
Since that time, we have experienced a relatively wide array of wars and military actions. Our progress towards peace has become more of a token element of political rhetoric than a plausible reality. We seem to have found new ways to distrust and even hate each other on a global basis, and as George Santayana warned us, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (Vol.1 of Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason.)
This is particularly poignant given the 900 or so bases the United States maintains across the world, its tendency to insert itself into other countries’ cultural conflicts, and President Obama’s recently announced order to send 1,500 additional military advisors to Vietnam. Pardon the mistake; that should have read “Iraq.”
The President is too young to remember Vietnam and wasn’t even living in the United States at the time, so he should be excused for not being familiar with the parallels.
Without a clear defense policy, he sent 300 “military advisors” to Iraq in June of this year. Now, just five months later, he has announced his intent to send 1,500 more. Compare this to Vietnam:
- 1954: US pledged $100 million in aid to South Vietnam’s then-President Ngo Dihn Diem
- 1955: US agreed to send US military advisors to train President Diem’s forces
- 1956: President Diem began arresting anyone suspected of being in the Vietminh (opposing Diem)
- 1957: Vietminh initiated guerrilla warfare in South Vietnam
- 1959: First US military advisors were killed
- 1961: US escalated its assistance
- 1962: US increased the presence of US military advisors from 700 to 12,000
- 1963: President Diem was killed in a coup as US military advisors rose to 15,000
- 1965: 200,000 US troops were deployed in Vietnam
- 1966: 400,000 US troops were deployed in Vietnam
- 1967: 490,000 US troops were deployed in Vietnam
- 1968: 540,000 US troops were deployed in Vietnam (peak deployment)
- 1973: Ceasefire agreement was signed and last US troops were brought home
Note that our involvement in Vietnam spanned 19 years, while the current Administration has projected that our engagement with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) may take 30 years.
Is it slightly more obvious why a cogent defense policy might be in our best interests? Let’s use The FREEDOM Process™ to create one.
As we have with our Foreign, Resource, Education and Economic policies, we need to approach the development of a Defense policy from a pragmatic perspective rather than a political one. It must conform to the Constitution of the United States and be clearly articulated, viably executed, and consistently applied. It must also be a policy that reflects the values of our Republic while protecting us.
The Defense Policy statement of The FREEDOM PROCESS™
Consistent with the responsibilities and authority granted to it under the Constitution, the United States shall develop and maintain a globally effective and efficient system of defense; one that protects this Nation’s citizens at home and abroad and contributes to the maintenance of peace throughout the world. It must be resourced properly rather than profligately and be predicated upon establishing and sustaining technological superiority to minimize the physical and emotional threats to which those who serve our Nation are often exposed.
What would happen if we complied with this simple statement?
Article I, Section 8 provides Congress with the “Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to… provide for the common Defence (sic)… of the United States.” No other countries are mentioned.
Our responsibilities are fundamentally limited to protecting our Nation’s interests at home and abroad. Serving as the world’s police force, pursuing nation building initiatives, and trying to force democracy on other countries are beyond the scope of our military’s responsibilities. Yet, we routinely place our soldiers, pilots and sailors in harm’s way for just such purposes.
The only legitimate basis for such action lies within the context of treaties established under Article II, Section 2. While that same Article and Section states that “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States,” it does not grant that individual with the authority to discharge such responsibilities unilaterally.
Treaties themselves require that “two thirds of the Senators present concur,” and Article I, Section 8, specifically reserves the right “To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water” to the Legislative Branch of our Government. Even the War Powers Act of 1973 limits a President’s discretion to act in response to an immediate or impending threat to a 90-day window; thereafter, legislative consent is required. We need to stop acting as if these limitations do not exist.
To administer a defense policy that is “Consistent with the responsibilities and authority granted to (the United States) under the Constitution,” we must first implement and comply with a foreign policy like the one we discussed in in Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of that series. In the interim, our military will continue to be misused.
Assuming that we can overcome the temptation to use our military for political purposes, how differently might we deploy its personnel and other resources in a manner that “protects this Nation’s citizens at home and abroad and contributes to the maintenance of peace throughout the world”?
- What if we were to limit the commitment of combat troops (including our euphemistically described “military advisors”) to scenarios in which there is an immediate or impending threat to the security and interests of the United States that is supported by substantive and corroborated evidence or when it is required to fulfill our Nation’s obligations under approved treaties and alliances (e.g., NATO, etc.)?
- What if we were to orchestrate the withdrawal of United States military personnel, under the guidance of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, from foreign countries that have not requested our presence as well as from those countries that ostensibly approve of our presence but have failed to demonstrate a concern for the safety of our troops?
- What if we were only to maintain military personnel in countries that are receptive to our presence if no other strategic alternative is available to fulfill our associated obligations?
- What if we were to relocate returning military personnel to bases established on existing or acquired federal property residing on our Nation’s northern and southern borders and allow such assets to set up a perimeter within which they could perform exercises that would not only maintain their state of readiness but also serve to protect our borders?
- What if our Legislative Branch focused upon funding programs that maintain and enhance the technological superiority of our Nation’s defense capabilities to lower the risk military personnel in traditional war-fighting environments as well as to address emerging threats, such as cyber-terrorism, that threaten our economy and vital infrastructure (e.g., utilities, secured information systems, etc.)?
How much more effective and efficient might our military become?
Additionally, what if we expanded the use of our military’s advanced logistics capabilities to support even more humanitarian relief initiatives than we currently do? How might that mitigate civil unrest?
It certainly appears to offer a more rational alternative than sending weapons or money to other countries to maintain and improve their military capabilities. This is particularly true of the tens of billions of dollars in “aid” that we provide to countries that are openly hostile to our interests or that are chronically at war with their neighbors.
It is amazing to witness the “gun control” movement in the United States while simultaneously observing the way our Nation arms the world in a relatively indiscriminate manner. While the related defense contracts may buy favor with the lobbies and PACs that fund election campaigns, they do little to contribute to global stability or to our safety at home or abroad.
Finally, what would happen if we redirected some of the enormous savings these suggestions might create toward four special programs for those who retire or receive an honorable discharge from the service? Specifically:
- A reintegration program that provides an incentive for companies, charities and agencies that demonstrate a preference for hiring, training and retaining veterans;
- Expanded educational opportunities, including transition assistance and tutoring, for veterans who need it;
- Exceptional (rather than merely adequate) medical and psychological assistance for those who are suffering as the result of their service; and
- An effective housing program to address the disproportional issue of homelessness among discharged veterans.
We have the capability of radically changing our defense policy… or perhaps we should say, “to create one.” There is no excuse for continuing to over-fund the failing aspects of our defense efforts while under-funding the legitimate ones. Our veterans deserve better; and even for those who are too selfish to care, a suppression of political egos along with an intelligent investment of money and effort will result in far greater protection and a safer world as well. Think about it.
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TJ O’Hara provides nonpartisan political commentary every other Monday on The Daily Ledger, one of One America News Network’s featured shows (check local cable listings for the channel in your area or watch online at 8:00 PM and Midnight PM Eastern / 5:00 and 9:00 PM Pacific. His segment appears about 35 minutes into the program.