EXIT AFGHANISTAN AND ENTER NOT IRAN
George Bush’s unconstitutional decision to go to war in Afghanistan was one of the most profound and costly blunders ever made by an American president. From the start, the rationale was a non-sequitur: go to war against the Taliban because we have been attacked by al-Qaeda with whom the Taliban are sympathetic and provide a safe haven. Why not just surgically obliterate al-Qaeda? The Bush Administration added to that non-sequitur when, musing, George Bush decided to place an army of occupation in Afghanistan, destroy the Taliban, and remake Afghanistan into a Western-style democracy, propping up a pro-West Hamid Karzai in the process. All of this was accomplished without a formal declaration of war from Congress.
We now have some 90,000 troops in Afghanistan. Events of the last few months have underscored a hatred for America among a significant segment of the Afghan population. An American soldier’s murderous rampage left sixteen Afghan villagers dead. A less than intelligent decision by the military to burn copies of the Quran, including ones with anti-American rhetoric written into them, also damaged an already negative image held by many Afghans for the occupying American military in their midst. Our forces will slowly be withdrawn and, while the slow withdrawal takes place, there will be periodic attacks on them, resulting in the loss of American lives. Once proclaiming the Taliban largely defunct, the military now increasingly admits that the Taliban is resurgent and gaining ground. Chances are, as we leave Afghanistan, or once we have departed from it, the Taliban will transform or overthrow the regime then in place and will become the dominant force in that country once again. The Taliban will continue to align themselves with opponents of the United States, including providing safe havens for al-Qaeda, and will continue to commit atrocities against the Afghan people. We will then be left with the same problem that erroneously resulted in our placing an army in Afghanistan: al-Qaeda and similar terrorist organizations using Afghanistan as a safe haven and for training. We will no doubt rely on Special Forces and unmanned systems to attack those identified as terrorists. We are thus left with the question: Why have we maintained an army of occupation in Afghanistan for eleven years?
America went to war in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, three months after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. By the time President Obama completes the withdrawal of American forces, the undeclared war in Afghanistan will be the longest war this nation has ever fought, longer even then the undeclared Vietnam War.
President Obama has only exacerbated the errors of the Bush Administration. When it comes to committing American troops overseas, there is no substitute for proof that those against whom we attack pose a direct threat to American lives, liberty, and property. While a clear case can be made against al-Qaeda on that basis, and I welcome use of American special forces and unmanned systems to ferret out and destroy those who are plotting and executing attacks on Americans, I have no sympathy for the argument that, predicated on that vital interest in self-defense, we should wage war against the Taliban and engage in nation building within Afghanistan. At present, there remains no sound justification for keeping an army of occupation in Afghanistan. We should not risk American lives on a prolonged withdrawal. We should remove ground forces from Afghanistan now with a message to the nation: If you harbor terrorists who plot the murder of Americans, we will kill them; if you threaten American lives, liberty, or property, we will kill you. Our interests go no further than that.
Our Founding Fathers understood the Commander-in-Chief to be vested with power to dispatch the military forthwith to defend against attacks on American lives, liberties and property. So it was that without a declaration of war, Thomas Jefferson dispatched the American navy and marines to sack the Barbary pirates who were capturing American vessels and holding American citizens hostage. While the President has plenary power to defend Americans, he has no unilateral power under the Constitution to wage war without a declaration of war. In the absence of a direct threat of attack on Americans or their property, the President must go to Congress and present his case for war. The American people may then witness their elected representatives debate the pros and cons. This process is more apt to expose the merits and demerits of any such venture, and to diminish the likelihood of wars of convenience over ones of necessity.
President Obama’s frolic into Libya with American forces was an unconstitutional venture, pursued without a congressional declaration of war. He now eyes Iran as it pursues its nuclear ambitions and appears more interested in gathering an international coalition to support a potential U.S. venture against that country than in gathering congressional support for any such venture. If the United States does strike Iran, it will likely be without a declaration of war and, yet, but for a chain of inferences long and tenuous there is no rational case that may presently be made that Americans’ lives, liberty, and property are directly threatened by Iran’s effort to get the bomb.
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Rather, the Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made his anti-semitism well known. Few seriously doubt he, the Revolutionary Guard, and the principal ayatollahs in Iran despise Israel and presently finance military and terrorist operations against Israel and Israelis. Of all parties in the line of fire, it would likely be Israel that experiences the greatest threat from an Iranian nuclear weapon. What should the United States do? We should, as President Obama has not done, make it abundantly clear to Israel that the United States has no objection whatsoever to an Israeli strike or war against Iran for the purpose of eliminating Iran’s capacity to destroy the state of Israel and that the decision of when to do it and how to do it is Israel’s. The matter is foremost a dispute between Iran and Israel. It is in Israel’s vital national interest to discern Iran’s capability to attack Israel and to eliminate that capability when Israel perceives the threat as imminent.
© 2012 Jonathan W. Emord - All Rights Reserved