Others considered, this president did…

January 5, 2020

The U.S. has been at odds with Iran for four decades, ever since the hostage crisis. Since then Iran has been a sponsor of terror and a supplier of deadly munitions, most notably roadside bombs, that killed and wounded thousands of American soldiers in the Middle East fighting what I will just put under the general heading of “the war on terror”.

I would be among the first to criticize and in fact distrust our current president. He has a terrible record for honesty and world knowledge (he confesses he hates to read). But let’s look at two responses:

Beginning in November of 1979, 52 American citizens were held hostage in Iran. They were held for 444 days. President Jimmy Carter spent much of that time in self-exile in the White House rose garden. About half way through their captivity there was a failed rescue attempt by the U.S. military. The hostages were not released until Carter lost re-election and Ronald Reagan took office (some claim Reagan made a secret deal with Iran, arms for hostages — don’t know about that one). So that’s the way one president, Carter, handled things with Iran.

Recently Iran has stepped up its program of inciting and supporting militias and other forces to attack U.S. forces in the Middle East and most recently orchestrated a demonstration and attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

While it is reported several administrations considered taking out Iran’s Gen. Qassim Suleimani, purported to be the master mind of terror and military actions outside Iran’s borders, the other presidents and their administrations apparently did not want to push the envelope, fearing the break out of all-out war with Iran or starting something they could not finish.

President Donald Trump decided to strike a target of opportunity. The General was in a vehicle at or near Baghdad Airport in Iraq. An American drone obliterated it with the general inside. Other personnel (as far as I know, all military or military related, some in other vehicles as I understand) were killed as well.

President Barack Obama ordered a lot of drone strikes against terrorists. In many, non-combatants were killed along with the bad guys. Have not heard of any collateral damage in this one.

So anyway, one president took action in the case of the general, while the others passed.

That is not to say that it was the right action or if it was prudent. Time may tell. He made a decision.

Was it legal? Well, it seems as if others considered it so, but passed on other grounds.

While I think it could be called an act of war by the U.S., so is all the support Iran has given to forces against the U.S.

Congress often objects that its war powers set forth in the constitution are being circumvented when a president takes military action without consulting it. But it is congress who over the years has let its war powers erode and who has given them over to the executive for fear of taking responsibility itself.

Someone or some body has to carry the burden of deciding how and when we go to war or if we go at all. Power abhors a vacuum.

Also, in an ongoing situation it is highly impractical to make tactical decisions by committee.

Still, it is up to congress to stand up and do something concerning its constitutional duties.

The president contends that there was an imminent threat and therefore the killing of the general purportedly planning specific attacks against U.S. soldiers was necessary. Others suggest the general was simply an ongoing threat with his actions.

(Ironically the president heretofore has expressed no confidence in the U.S. intelligence gathering apparatus.)

If the argument is that the president does not have the authority to direct forces in the Middle East, one wonders what they are doing there. Is it not congress who has authorized the funding for those forces?

There certainly is an ongoing dispute involving war powers and has been since Vietnam. But I suspect congress over the years has found it more politically convenient to pass the buck to the executive so that it can have cover if something goes wrong or the fickle fate of public opinion turns against it.

Meanwhile, presidents will do what they think needs to be done at the time.

There is the existential threat of a rogue president going too far, and although on a slightly different subject, that is being dealt with now in the impeachment of the president by congress (now awaiting for senate action). Exactly how this fits in or what its effect is, don’t know.

I just think that the congress, both houses, need to think more on overall war policy, rather than just passing it off to the president or even smugly saying “we stand by the president”.

There was a little ripple when the president pulled some troops out of Syria, unilatterlly changing previous policy there, and there needs to be more of that.

And I do think the president should have consulted with or notified key members of congress (from both parties, both houses) before the drone attack in question. He did not.

Right now there is a lot of hand wringing because Iran is threatening to take revenge. I don’t want to see war, and I hope there can be a peaceful resolution to our differences. But for one thing, Iran needs to quit shooting at us or having others do it. And if we are afraid of Iran, we are in worse shape than I thought.

It does look as if the president, though, has gone out on a limb on this one. But if he can get out without sawing himself off, geez, another four years maybe.

Time for Democrats to show their own hands on foreign policy.

p.s.

It’s always so complex when dealing with the Middle East. Some reports say young people, especially, in Iraq actually are against Iran’s influence in that country. Young people there are said to be on the side of the U.S. But you know, we tried nation building there and all we got was death of our own soldiers. Maybe we need to leave the Middle East to the Middle easterners.


In my previous post on the killing of the Iranian general I wrote that the president needs to address the American people. Since then, he has held a brief news conference and made a statement but it was not much. He has not relayed a coherent vision of overall strategy or even current foreign policy. Many suspect he has none of either.


The wrong-way armada; loose lips sink ships, but loose tongues start wars…

April 19, 2017

I know President Trump has said that he is giving the military a freer hand rather than micro managing its actions in our ongoing conflicts but according to reports Tuesday it would seem either he did not know what the Navy was really doing or he and his administration spokespeople just lied.

More than a week ago the president claimed he was dispatching an armada of ships to the waters off North Korea in reaction to that wayward nation’s missile tests and continued nuclear arms development.

Working off the official word, news outlets reported it like this excerpt out of a USA Today story of April 9:

………………The aircraft carrier and its accompanying ships had been scheduled to leave from Singapore for port visits to Australia on Saturday, but Adm. Harry Harris, head of U.S. Pacific Command, ordered the strike group to head north toward Korean waters instead.   ……………

But now we are being told there was some kind of confusion between the ships’ officers and the Pentagon and the administration and the press and therefore the American people (and the world) were misled. Instead the naval task force headed the other way, toward Australia after all, and only now is it headed toward North Korea.

If the ships really are headed there now I am not sure what difference it all makes but it makes one wonder how much control Trump has (and the president, a civilian, is at the top of the chain of command over the military by our constitution).

Now I realize it might not be a good tactical idea to broadcast the position of our ships but I think the American people have a right to know what is being done in our name and while I would generally applaud the idea of a president not micro managing the military as presidents have done since LBJ, I would like to think the president knows where our warships are going.

And if Trump just made that all up on the spur of the moment to put a scare into Kim Jong-Un — the totally savage and totally nutty leader of North Korea who is constantly threatening to send nuclear-tipped missiles our way — and risk war when really were not doing anything, we really have a problem. This is too serious. I mean even if North Korea’s last missile failed shortly after launching, going kerplop in the ocean, that nation has a tremendous conventional forces and might draw in China and Russia on its side.

Yeah, so maybe this having our ships go the wrong direction was a diversionary tactic and it was a good idea not to give the exact position — loose lips sink ships. But loose lips can cause war when the president makes am impromptu announcement he’s dispatching war ships to a country.

And if he dispatched the fleet in the name of a crisis of the moment that overrode congressional consideration then why did it apparently take a detour?

Now we know we cannot trust anything Trump says in this post-truth era and we know there is a problem of deliberate false reporting, and now we must suffer incorrect news coming out of our government either by design or incompetence.

Trump was lauded by many for his decisive action in the Syria bombing but now we find that it amounted to a tremendous waste of ordnance, at least I think, despite launching billions of dollars worth of Tomahawk missiles the airfield target was not rendered useless.

And then there was the mother of all bombs (short of nuclear bombs) dropped in Afghanistan this past week but are we supposed to believe it was worth it and civilian lives lost justified?

By all accounts the big bomb was a big success military wise, killing scores of the enemy — but then again the American people have been lied to before about how effective our military operations are.

And finally, congress needs to step up to the plate and reassert its constitutional authority on declaring war and presidents need to quit dispatching ships and drones and troops hither and yon like some geo-political board game.


To fight too many wars not to win or to fight too many to win…

April 26, 2015

Sometimes I read something and think — Wow! Amen! I could not have said it better — this writer is right on. Or at least he makes an awful good case and excellent observations.

Ross Douthat in the New York Times tells us about how on the one hand president Obama has us in a bunch of wars where the object seems not to win but to keep the enemies at bay and our friends, such as they are, in power, and on the other hand Republican presidential hopefuls, with maybe one exception, would have us in too many wars with the object of going all out (or at least they can criticize until they had to make the decision and see our limits).

But he says all this much better than I could. So I give you a link. It might not work, but you can check it out on your own in the NYT under the headline of Too Many Viennas:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/26/opinion/sunday/ross-douthat-a-case-of-too-many-viennas.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=c-column-top-span-region&region=c-column-top-span-region&WT.nav=c-column-top-span-region

 

 

 

 


Tactics have no place in war authorizations…

February 15, 2015

BLOGGER’S NOTE: The following is the declaration of war against Nazi Germany congress adopted and President Franklin Roosevelt signed. It essentially reads the same as the one against Japan adopted after the surprise attack by that nation on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941:

 

Whereas the Government of Germany has formally declared war against the government and the people of the United States of America:

Therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that the state of war between the United States and the Government of Germany which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and the President is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the government to carry on war against the Government of Germany; and to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.

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That’s what a declaration of war looks like.

That does not look like what President Obama has proposed to fight ISIS.

Mr. Obama seems to be of the mind that you can and should spell out your policy, tactics, and methods within such a declaration, even including provisions to limit warfare.

Nonsense!

I mean I realize this is not 1941, and we don’t seem to fight ultra large-scale wars as in the past (and I imagine we should be somewhat thankful for that), and I realize one size does not fit all in war resolutions, but when you limit yourself from the git go in the war resolution itself, as is done in Obama’s draft of a requested authorization to use military force against ISIS, how can you hope to have any military success?

We lost Vietnam for a variety of reasons, but number one was that we limited ourselves, in the terribly misguided notion that we could preserve lives of American soldiers — instead it turned out to be the opposite. Of course in that one it could be argued we never should have gone there. But we did, and the only honorable and moral course after committing so many of our children to battle would have been to use everything we had to win and get it done.

And I am not saying that every time we get into a dispute we have to immediately deploy large scale landings and combine air and ground assaults and put the public on war rationing, I’m just saying we have to be willing to do what needs to be done. And it would sure help if we did not telegraph what we plan or can do to the enemy.

As I understand it, the president is still using military forces in the Middle East under the authorization to use military force passed by congress as the result of the 9/11 attacks. And he says in reality that is all he needs, he just wants to clean things up and be a little more specific. He also says he would like to rescind the 2001 resolution.

I can see an argument for doing just that — I mean the 2001 declaration asked for and received by George W. Bush seems to allow for open-ended war forever.

So yes, there ought to be some specificity, but there is language in Obama’s draft that prohibits the president from deploying ground troops. But what if that becomes necessary? Better to just say we will use necessary force to get the job done — in the correct language of course, not verbatim as I just put it, maybe.

In the 1941 declaration the president was authorized to use the total resources of the military and the nation. That should always be left open. Just because a president can does not mean he will or should, he just needs to have all options open (well not nuclear war I don’t think — that would be a doomsday approach, but we should just keep mum on it and leave them wondering).

One thing, when we use military force, the president, the congress, and the American people should be on board. Confusion just costs lives and hinders success.

 

 

 


Was George W. Bush right after all with his war on terror?

October 11, 2014

I almost choke while asking this question but: could George W. Bush have been right all along to declare a war on terror? With the threat of what seems like the most diabolical enemy ever, at least in modern times, that is ISIS, with its beheadings and mass killings, it seems we need to confront this and do it now. I’m beginning to miss the good old days of the Cold War when it seemed there was less violence.

But then again, there was Korea and Vietnam and other hot wars. There is always war. But the Cold War with the two super powers did seem to keep some things in check.

Mostly it was just two super powers, the U.S. and the now defunct Soviet Union, threatening to annihilate each other with nuclear missiles, meanwhile each controlling or having hegemony over their respective halves of the world.

But America has grown soft in its wealth and luxury (financial crises notwithstanding).

Presidents cannot even think of asking or urging Americans to really sacrifice.

In a previous post I said something to the effect that there is no value in shedding any more American blood in Iraq, or did I say the whole Middle East? No difference. I don’t think there is, either way, especially since this nation quit fighting wars to win after World War II.

Well actually I would consider Korea a sort of win in that we did push the communist forces back across the 38th parallel.

I don’t believe in the concept of “limited war”. I don’t think you can limit war. You either fight to win or you end up losing. But fighting to win can be a major investment and a major risk. Victory is not guaranteed. So you have to pick your battles.

Right now the forces of ISIS do indeed seem to pose a threat to the whole world. So it would seem that it would be worth it to go at it with them head on. But President Obama is fighting back only reluctantly and in a limited fashion for now.

He has committed air power in Iraq and finally into Syria, after initially backing down from his promise to not let the Assad regime cross a red line — and actually that is separate from the current threat by ISIS, except related in that all of it has to do with an ongoing civil war in that nation that pits disparate forces against Syrian strong man Assad and each other — all very complicated.  Meanwhile ISIS takes advantage of the power vacuum and confusion in Syria, and of the weakness and internal struggles in Iraq. ISIS (a split-off from the more familiar Al Qaeda) is the real threat now (and I guess there are other similar factions, but let’s not get into that). This group of thugs appears to want to take over the Middle East and then maybe the whole world. And with modern transportation and technology this is a serious threat.

Obama seems to think that only our air power alone in some limited fashion is the best way to go, and let indigenous forces, on our side (do they even exist?), do the ground work. We tried letting the South Vietnamese ground forces do the dirty work once upon a time, but they wisely decided that it was better to live and let the other guys die (that is Americans). And I apologize to the families of any South Vietnamese soldiers who did give up their lives. I’m just talking the big picture. But we soon found out we had to commit our own forces in Vietnam, for it was really our war (we had chosen to make it our war already).

I doubt the American public, although spooked no doubt by the beheadings and massacres inflicted by ISIS, is in the mood to commit large numbers of troops in the fight at this time. And the public is never asked outright to pay for war, it is all but hidden in special appropriations. I think it must be hard to wage a successful war when you have to almost secretly fund it.

Enemies of the free Western world have only to look to the history of the past few decades to see that America has lost its resolve to fight battles and win.  An example. In the first Iraq War we did not defeat Saddam Hussein in that we did not go all the way to Baghdad and arrest and hang him then and there. In the second war with that nation, we finally just left without actually finishing the whole job (although the Iraqis themselves did hang Hussein), only to have problems flare up all over again.

And, according to Wikipedia, we lost almost 5,000 American troops between 2003 and 2014 in Iraq, and of course thousands were severely maimed or wounded. And still we left without finishing the job it seems. It could well be argued that we should not have gone in there in the first place, but the fact is we did and we put a major investment into the job. Talking dollars and cents, what is the figure? More than a trillion dollars spent on the project over the past decade.

I think it is a crime to commit any forces, be they air or ground or both, if you do not have the resolve to do what is necessary to win. I think that is more of a crime than choosing to go to war for questionable reasons. The justification of wars can always be debated. But there is no justification for asking or forcing people to die or be maimed for life for no reason.

We need to confront the threat of ISIS (and other such groups). Military strikes might not be the answer or only part of the answer. We need to go after the economies or economic entities or people who support our enemies.

But again, as to military action, we need to have the resolve to fight to win. If we can get by with a limited response, well good. But we have to be willing and able to be in for the long haul.

P.s.

And whatever action we take it should be in our own interest. I mean we lead the free world, but we always have to look out for ourselves first.


Iraq crisis is shades of Vietnam…

June 19, 2014

 

UPDATE: Since first posting this it has now been announced that the U.S. will be sending in 300 military advisors in the current Iraqi crisis, and it looks like it has been concluded by the Obama administration that the current Iraqi leader, Maliki, cannot be the person to head a new unity government.

Also, President Obama now has repeated that he has no intention of sending in combat troops (beyond the advisors). But President Lyndon Johnson vowed not to send in American boys to do what Vietnamese boys should be doing. And then he sent in a half million troops. We have already lost 4,500 of our own in the Iraq War and thousands more were gravely wounded. We had declared it over (for us). The pressure will be intense on Obama not to make it a lost cause.

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Shades of Vietnam, kind of. We have a corrupt and non-representative government in Iraq we have supported. Meanwhile, the enemy is at the gates, and we don’t want to send in ground troops but it looks like we will send in military advisors. And what comes next? Well of course the enemy will shoot back and we will then send in more troops. Unlike Vietnam we have already fought this war. We just did not finish it — oh, like Vietnam. Over simplistic analysis and not right on I know. But on enough I think. I’ll try to write more later.

…Well jus time to add this: now there are reports that some factions within the Iraqi government have asked U.S. support to oust their present leader Maliki. Hope this does not turn out to be like the time we backed the murder of the head of the South Vietnamese government, Diem. But on the other hand, Maliki needs to go. He seems to be the cause of the current crisis.

The United States should have not got into the mess of nation building but we did, we just did not stick with it. What to do now? Whatever we do, half measures will not work. We either need to write the whole thing off or on the other hand be prepared to do it right.

Geesh terrorists taking over a major oil supply. That is not good.


Is Iran on our side now? This is all crazy…

June 13, 2014

UPDATE: The news since I first posted all of this is that now President Obama has ruled out sending in U.S. ground troops but other options remain under consideration.

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This is all crazy. Iraq is disintegrating in sectarian fighting and now there is the prospect of Iran taking part and actually being on our (U.S.) side to protect the Shiite government they back, as opposed to the Sunni militants (who are the old Saddam Hussein people, arch enemy of Iran). You may recall the U.S. at one time backed Iraq (Saddam Hussein) in its war against Iran. Maybe we were on the wrong side. Whatever, mixed up in all of this are the Islamic terrorists who would impose harsh Sharia law on all — no rights for women, and no individual rights for anyone really. Whether we should have ever got mixed up in all of this is one thing, but mixed up we got. We spent millions of dollars and suffered much loss of human life with thousands killed and severely wounded (for life) and then walked away with nothing.

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Are we going back to Iraq?

The US’s war in Iraq was supposed to be over and now it was on to winding down our involvement in Afghanistan.

But militants are taking over, threatening the government there we helped create (albeit the one who for all intents and purposes kicked us out). But secretly it asked us recently for some air support against the militants.

And now after declaring our involvement Iraq over President Barack Obama says nothing is off the table, all options are being considered, in the crisis there.

Let’s see: Vietnam, Iraq (two times, now three?), and Afghanistan (where the Taliban is just waiting for us to leave in order to take over).

Is there something similar in all of these?

When you don’t fight a war to win you lose.

Don’t get into war unless you have the stomach to win.

How can our leaders look into the eyes on the faces of the loved ones of those who have died in these wars?

So much sacrifice. For what?

P.s.

It seems to me that the only sensible way to have handled things was to go for all-out victory and then impose rule by a transition government of our creation and stay engaged. If that was not practical then we should have not been involved in the first place. If we go back now I doubt half measures will work. It’s a tough decision. Do we have leadership here in the United States capable of handling it? Not sure of that at all…