WASHINGTON, January 24, 2015 — The federal government is tasked with a handful of critical functions. The most important among these is to ensure national security. While voters have differing views on the centrality of government’s other functions, we are all on the same page when it comes to national security.
September 11, 2001 was the first time in almost 200 years that the American homeland was attacked by a foreign power. The perpetrators of that attack used unconventional methods that caught us by surprise, and they killed thousands of Americans. Most of them were working in the heart of our largest city. This was such a shocking security failure that the government took swift, decisive and necessary actions to ensure that it would not happen again.
More importantly, the government and the American people were united on the need to act. There were the differences of opinion that we always expect in a democracy, but the government created homeland security policies designed to enhance security in the face of a clear need.
Is the federal government keeping us secure today?
The President has the responsibility of setting foreign policy; he is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and the nation’s diplomatic, intelligence and national security agencies all answer to him. Members of Congress are charged with some oversight of those agencies and must approve any major military actions. Congress must also approve all treaties between other countries and the U.S., but they do not have to approve every agreement that the President signs.
When President Obama took over U.S. foreign policy in 2009, he switched from the Bush Administration’s approach of “peace through strength” to more of a “turn the other cheek” approach. After years of war, a war-weary public welcomed the change. Maybe if we use this “kinder and gentler” approach with our enemies, we reasoned, we can find common ground and eventually end hostilities.
It is not working.
Because of the divisive behavior of the federal government over the past six years, different branches of government and members of different parties seem to say things that are contradictory and not entirely true, making it difficult to tell exactly what the current national security situation is, both abroad and at home.
The President’s position on Middle Eastern conflicts is that the U.S. should assist elected governments in defending their own territory, rather than relying on us to fight their battles for them. In theory, this makes sense. The reality is coming up short.
The most serious threat to American security in the Middle East is Iran. The President and Congress are at odds about if and when to impose new sanctions. The President claims that Iran has halted enrichment of Uranium that could be used for weapons. At the same time there are photos of a newly developed Iranian ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads long distances, and an apparent increase in Iran’s capacity to enrich uranium.
It is crucial that Iran not get nuclear capability. American security would clearly be compromised. The first choice may be to resolve the problem through diplomacy, but if that does not work, other options must be considered.
Iran is trying to extend its influence in the Middle East, as in its support for the rebels who just overthrew the U.S.-friendly government in Yemen. This will allow terrorist groups based in Yemen to expand their activities, including attacks against western targets in other countries.
The second major threat involves ISIS. The information released to the public is puzzling. Administration sources claim that because of the U.S. lead airstrikes, more than 2,000 ISIS leaders and fighters have been killed. Other sources claim that ISIS is holding its ground in most areas and may even be expanding into new parts of Iraq.
ISIS represents a threat to American security; they have vowed to destroy the U.S. and have said that their flag will fly atop the White House someday. The threat they pose to our security agues in favor of aggressive tactics against them.
Regardless of vast differences on a number of issues, all Americans share an interest in national security. Our elected leaders must act to enhance that security, or they will have failed in their fundamental duty to America. On that, all Americans can agree.
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