During my interview on last week’s Frontlines of Freedom show with Marine vet Chipp Naylon the topic came up—what is our military’s goal in Afghanistan. In an interview a few months ago with former Army JAG David “Bo” Bolgiano—Bo mentioned that he had taught at the Army War College and that a very common question of the Army colonels who are students there—questions addressed to senior generals who spoke there—was, why are our forces there—what’s our goal. Bo noted that there was never a clear answer.
So, the question is, why would our nation send our brave service men and women into harm’s way without a clear, achievable mission or goal? Why do we Americans tolerate it? Yes, the president must be able to commit our troops on little notice in cases of a crisis—of which there are many. But, after a fixed period of time, say one to three months, they should have to be withdrawn unless…unless what?
The Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war. The last time Congress declared war was in December 1941, right after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. We declared war on Japan, Germany, and Italy. And we fought until all three surrendered. Mission accomplished.
We fought the Korean War as agents of the United Nations, which perhaps provides some legitimacy. The only other time the UN got involved was the First Gulf War when Iraq invaded Kuwait; then, like in Korea, the UN asked us to run the war on their behalf—and we did.
In the Korean War we were literally destroying the North Korean army until China got involved and started killing our troops. Why didn’t we declare war on China?
I’m a Vietnam vet. We knew who we were fighting, the Viet Cong—south Vietnamese communists–and the North Vietnamese. We won virtually every battle but lost the war as there was no stated goal so once Congress got tired of funding the war, we just quit.
By the way, when our pilots got shot down over North Vietnam and captured and sought to claim status as Prisoners of War, the question from their torturers was—what war? Did your congress declare war? No, you’re just terrorists. How do you respond to that?
While the first Gulf War was under UN auspices, we ran it; yes, Iraq surrendered, but, unlike WWII where we took over the surrendered nation and adjusted their culture and guided them into democracy, we let the current dictator keep control and do their thing. And that led to the current war we’re still in.
When we defeated Iraq at the start of the current war, did we take over and help the nation get settled—nope. We created the endless war we’re currently in.
Solutions? Well, how about the criteria for committing our troops to combat—or keeping them there beyond a temporary commitment by the president in response to a crisis—is that Congress declares war. This makes Congress actually do their job. And, yes, it’s going to be a lot harder these days. As hard as defeating Japan was, for example, Japan was a nation with an army and defeating their military and taking over the country was an easy to understand goal—and it was achievable.
Today, terrorists aren’t a nation. Okay, Iran is the major supporter of terror in the world—so, yes, we could, if Congress wants to, declare war on Iran. But how about ISIS? And Hezbollah. And whatever the next evil group calls itself.
When 9-11 happened President George W Bush said we were going after the bad guys and any nation that supported them in any way would be dealt with. Good response—sounds like an act of war. Problem, we did none of that. Lots of regional nations supported the bad guys, and we took virtually no action against them.
Congress has to define what the goal is, what victory looks like, as a part of their declaration of war.
So, like in WWII, an act of war means that our entire nation goes to war; we have a draft and mobilize industry, and go get the job done. Today it’s common to say that our military is at war, the American people are at the mall, and Congress is at lunch. Let’s no longer have some troops with back-to-back-to-back combat tours while other folks are at the beach or protesting something.
Congress has pretended that by funding the wars our presidents have gotten us into they are doing their job. Baloney. They are the representatives of the American people. Going to war should be a decision of the American people manifested through their elected representatives, the Congress–implemented by the President and the Executive Branch. It’s time for we the people to make Congress do their job. And it’s time to stop sending our great military to fight endless wars with no indentifiable, achievable objectives.