“Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint.” (Proverbs 29:18)
“…abandonment of strategic vision leads to policy decisions that damage the national security of the country.” (The USA- a special nation with special responsibilities)
The headline at newsmax.com says “Obama Moves to Muzzle Top Military Commanders.” The words call to mind the passage in the Plato’s Republic where Socrates compares the warriors who keep watch over the city to guard dogs. The image of America’s armed forces as guard dogs wearing muzzles can only give comfort to our enemies.
“The Administration’s primary target: top Afghanistan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal, whose speech in London last week apparently caught administration officials off guard….In his speech McChrystal defended his request for 40.000 more soldiers to wage a counter-insurgency campaign in Afghanistan, warning “a strategy that does not leave Afghanistan in a stable position is probably a shortsighted strategy….McChrystal said the vice-president’s proposal to scale back the objectives for the war would lead to “chaos-istan.”
Shallow pundits focus attention on Obama’s failure to win Chicago the Olympic committee’s nod as the location of the 2016 Olympic Games. Meanwhile, here’s evidence that he’s losing something far more crucial to the survival of the nation- the respect of the U.S. military. In the position he presently claims, he is supposed to represent civilian control of the military on behalf of the American people. Failure to do so competently raises the specter of chaos far closer to home than Afghanistan, as the United States enters the jungle of military disgust with civilian authority that has swallowed the governments and constitutions of many a “banana republic” in our neighborhood to the south.
So far, we can be thankful that U.S. military personnel do not treat their oath to uphold the Constitution with the same contempt Obama exemplifies. His casual disregard for its requirements begins with withholding the best evidence that he meets the Constitution’s eligibility requirements for the office he claims, and includes, just for starters, the exercise of executive power through so-called “czars” intended to circumvent Congressional oversight; efforts to usurp control of the decennial census in order to subvert the independence of the legislative branch; the abuse of public monies for openly partisan political pay-offs; unconstitutional disregard for the property rights of individuals and private enterprises; and disregard for the rights of conscience medical workers derive from the first amendment.
But his abandonment of the Constitution goes well beyond mere disregard of its provisions. He has abandoned as well the vision of liberty, founded upon respect for unalienable human rights, in light of which its provisions were made. Its correspondence with the requirements of just government casts the anchor of allegiance to the Constitution in the deep waters of the American heart, assuring a loyalty that transcends the vicissitudes of personalities and power politics. Respect for this anchoring vision has been a hallmark of the honorable tradition of Constitutional loyalty that has distinguished the U.S. military’s service to the American people.
In exchange for this allegiance to the vision of justice that undergirds America’s freedom, civilian leaders of the U.S. government owe it to our military personnel to accept their proffered dedication and sacrifice in the context of a strategic vision based on the goal of securing liberty that our military personnel have in common with the whole people they serve. When the U.S. took military action in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, there could be little doubt that this was the strategic context. Terrorism substitutes a de facto regime of violence and fear for legitimate government based on the consent of the governed. Those who attacked the U.S. acted with the support of an infrastructure of terrorist groups and states whose concerted actions posed a comprehensive challenge to the American way of life, and in particular the lives and sovereign liberty of the American people. That comprehensive challenge required and justified a comprehensive response to restore and defend the national security of the United States. The military action in Afghanistan was one element of that response.
Obama has explicitly abandoned the concept of strategic action against terrorism (the so-called war on terrorism.) Pursuant to this change, he has curtailed U.S. efforts to attack and weaken the infrastructure of terror, including signals of dead-lined U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, the cessation of extraordinary pressure against terrorist cadre (signaled by the closure of the Guantanamo detention facility) and the possible pursuit of vindictive prosecutions against U.S. intelligence personnel directly responsible for implementing that extraordinary pressure.
Yet despite the collapse of the strategic vision that alone could make sense of it, Obama emphasized the intention to continue U.S. military action in Afghanistan. Isolated from any connection with the comprehensive goal of forestalling successful terrorist assaults against the territory or people of the United States, this intention has no justification except a vague and open ended commitment to “nation-building.”
As a side benefit of actions that serve and strengthen the security of the United States, efforts to stabilize strategically relevant countries, and help their people develop and maintain just institutions of government can make sense. But military action sustained for the sole purpose of such nation-building serves neither the security of American liberty, nor the development of constitutional government elsewhere. The assertion of a people’s liberty must sometimes be defended by the sword, but military force can never be the source or mainstay of that assertion. Government by force and government based upon consent are self-evidently in contradiction.
It is also self-defeating to remove pressure from the regional and even global infrastructure that supports our enemy so that he may freely concentrate all his resources on defeating our forces on the one front that remains open. This actually creates conditions ideally suited to achieve his victory, and substantially raise the death toll among our troops along the way, especially if our rear areas remain vulnerable to his assaults. (Given Obama’s intensified neglect of America’s border security, this vulnerability has been heightened rather than reduced by his abandonment of the strategic concept of the war on terrorism.) By design or incompetence Obama appears to be intent on creating a quagmire in which to dissipate America’s military strength and resources. Most Americans have no objection to seeing their loved ones in the military risk and give their lives to fulfill the oaths that preserve the liberty of our people. It is deeply wrong to ask that they do so when the strategy that makes moral and military sense of their sacrifice has been cast side.
Finally it makes no sense to articulate an understanding of our global position that discredits the motives of our military actions, apologizes for the defense of our interests and friends and generally undermines confidence in our good faith, our good intentions and our moral capacity to sustain the difficulties involved in the course we undertake.
At best, Obama’s actions smack of egregious incompetence. At worst, they foster the suspicion that he regards the ultimate goal the Constitution sets for the U.S. government―to “secure the blessing of liberty”― with the same contempt he has shown for its provisions regarding the prerequisites for the office he purports to occupy by its authority. If this is not the case, why has he abandoned the strategy that reflects the simple truth that a de facto regime of global terror and our national regime of liberty cannot peacefully coexist?