My father in U.S. Army, during WWII, Pacific War, served under General MacArthur, deployed from Brisbane, Australia, to New Guinea and onto the Philippines; this photo is from the New Guinea Campaign, was by 1944, referred to as a “mop up of remaining Japanese,” as if that was easy extracting tenacious Japanese from holes and caves; which continued even as the war ended in August 1945. In ditches or where tents were pitched the primitive conditions included, more than Japanese, there were prevalent deadly snakes, insects, scorpions – gnats, ants and mosquitoes.
After the presidential election, the United States came Veteran’s day. I thought it may be of interest to write a brief essay of where we might be in terms of war and peace; but more specifically, what I have learned about the world at large and global nations and war, in the aftermath of U.S. presidential re-election; this isn’t about Obama, but, rather, some things never change in the way of the world, so, what are we to do:
The strong will prey on the weak, in nature and in society. Nations need a strong military, just as we need personal protection as you abide at home, or walk the streets. This might mean armed protection, non-corrupt police, and/or military; supported by an incorruptible Supreme Court that is not activist, but respects law and order and the nation’s Constitution. As for the deterrance of a strong military:
“It is much more secure to be feared than to be loved.” (Niccolo Machiavelli)
During my four years (1967-1971) at the USAF Strategic Air Command Headquarters (SAC), Vietnam era, I believed, and still do, the declared the SAC motto, accurately stated: “Peace is our Profession.” This is not a pejorative. No secure, true, military man wants war. I dare say not even Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831), who believed, “Defense is the stronger form of waging war.”
Although, I grant that Machiavelli thought war necessary to secure the Prince’s regime. Authority and power are coequal according to Machiavelli: Those that hold power have the right to command and goodness does not ensure power and the good person has no more authority by virtue of being good. Machiavelli asserts that the only real concern of the political ruler is the acquisition and maintenance of power, although his prime goal is maintaining security of the state.
That said, Sun Tzu, in “The Art of War” states more humanely the adage of a worthy goal,
“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
Still, a weak military invites attack, whether at sea or land. The reason Pakistan and India have not engaged in war since obtaining nuclear capability is MAD…that is, Mutually Assured Destruction; the same reason the U.S.S.R. never attacked the USA; both are/were so militarily formidable that they dare not fight despite their mutual distrust.
If we desire to protect our family, we must be prepared. This does not suggest paranoia. But, every young person should be taught that evil exists in the world. Terrorists the likes of al Qaeda and Taliban are now well-known world-wide, and yet the Muslim Brotherhood convinced many Americans of their new moderation, the U.S. unwittingly eased their transition into power in Egypt; Mubarak, ruthless as he was, the Muslim Brotherhood are now entrenched in Egypt as radical Islamist opportunists. The U.S., perpetually idealistic, was myopic in its view of this and the Arab Spring. The same move towards radical Islamist government is happening in Turkey.
The US will be criticized whether we involve ourselves in foreign affairs or not. The U.S is criticized for “leading from behind,” in Libya (post-civil war, radicals are now gaining ground); and the U.S. was criticized for not involving itself in Assad’s ruthless assault on his people in Syria. The blatant truth? The U.S. has had a muddy South Asian foreign policy for the last ten years, that shifted as the desert sands, the results of which required adjustment to alarming unintended consequences such as coalition soldiers in Afghan Army uniforms killing U.S. military personnel ostensibly training them.
Perhaps this lack of focus contributed to malaise in the field, where even top U.S. generals played around at the expense of the troops left vulnerable on the front lines: The resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus over affair with biographer Paula Broadwell (who has never written book), has since expanded to allegations that Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, exchanged “inappropriate” and sexually charged emails with a socialite, Jill Kelley. This currently overshadowing the possible White House cover-up of the Benghazi terror attack we are currently investigating in Libya.
To continue with consequences of post-election: evil persists in the world, but nations may likely face disappointment at the lack of future U.S. involvement in foreign affairs, despite platitudes of Obama speeches. Pakistan may still receive USAID, but the Jihadi-sectarian militants of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, i.e., Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat /ASWJ-SSP, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Taliban who are Wahhabi-Deobandi militants who massacre their own Muslim brothers as infidels, the Shiites, as well as Ahmadis, Sunni Barelvis, Christians, and Hindus, will remain unaddressed by the U.S. This is a global and local lesson in current evil in Syria, Bahrain, Egypt, Turkey, and Pakistan that is not going away, but will need to be dealt a blow from within their own countries, as America becomes less inclined to be involved globally.
Pakistani Army and ISI along with the Supreme Court and some members of the civilian government (e.g., Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Balochistan CM Raisani, etc) are in fact in collusion with these Takfiri Salafist organizations in part due to fear of turning against the establishment, ultimately in its paranoia of India, and the perceived usefulness of Jihadi militants of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, i.e., Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat /ASWJ-SSP and its strategic depth Frankenstein, in Afghanistan, Kashmir and India allegedly under the control of Pakistani military national security. A strong case can be made that the Pak Army no longer can control these Jihadists. The Pakistan Army, fortunately, appears to have an iron grip on nuclear devices and we are not likely to see the terrorists obtaining them.
We all have a responsibility to be pragmatic first, as we cannot afford to be gullible or idealistic, personally or in your nation or mine, in the current dangerous world in which we live. The ideal that we will avoid conflict at any cost will cost us those things we hold dear.
The idealistic view, that if we could just talk to our enemies they will understand us, conform or cooperate, as Hilary Clinton originally planned with the Taliban and Haqqani Network, I believe has since been abandoned. This was gullible and dangerous. Just one embarrassing lesson need be cited to remember the point; that of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain being hailed as bringing “peace to Europe” after signing accords Adolf Hitler.
If the predatory-strong assess that they have sufficient power over us, they will eventually strike. This is not an argument in itself for pre-emptive strike. This might bring to mind Iran. Striking Iran is out of the question, and yet no U.S. candidate or military strategist would dare admit as much, or appear weak, and that all options are not in fact on the table. Iran may ruin its economy by sanctions getting its nuclear capability over the next one to five years, but will be faced with decimation if it were to use them, or block the Straits of Hormuz.
Some will take advantage of our weakness, personal, neighborhood, town, city, or nation. I am not suggesting it is imminent, but we must be cognizant that your family, your property, and your country may/will be seized and/or murdered for an adversary’s own selfish reasons. The Shias at the bloody hands of Salafists are enduring such horror as I write this. There are those who are prepared to confiscate everything you have and hold dear- your family, your freedoms, your land, and destroy, if at home- your protector, if nationally- your fighting force decimated, for one thing: control over you-under the concept of criminal logic- “what is yours, is also mine.” This can be true in your neighborhood, your town, your city, and between nations. Following this logic, the United States policy of past and continued supremacy over all the global sea routes has not been one for planned aggression; it is for strategic self-protection- ensuring free trade routes and oil access. Strength produces a stalemate. Forget the conspiracy theories that grew from Bush’s invasion of Iraq, the U.S. is not intent on attacking anyone. Further, no one has used the nuclear option since 1945. Strength, the nuclear weapon, is a deterrent, unless in the hands of the evil I cite above. There is no doubt the Taliban would use chemical weapons or the nuke, were they to gain this option.
Military fighting force: No new recruit, no youthful soldier, should ever be ordered to battle without sufficient time for training (this occurred during the draft in Vietnam), unless under surprise-attack. No young soldier, old soldier, no seasoned fighting force, should ever be ordered to battle without the agreement of society’s civilian government, or their elected representative officials, whether parliament or congress, and in consultation with its security establishment, military and elected leader.
[I asked my erudite friend, Joseph Collins, U.S. Colonel (retired), Professor, of the United States National War College, to review this essay prior to my post; I thank him for suggesting I add a paragraph about the president’s role and congress, which follows.]
The role of the U.S. president and congress may seem simple with the U.S. Constitution and War Powers Act- it is not. So I will attempt a dialectical approach that also is mindful of other nations’ foreign policies:
I believe that no single leader, the President, Prime Minister, Prince or King, nor any single general (CINC), General staff, nor military establishment should have the right to declare war, or, invade a sovereign nation, in order to bypass a nation’s constitutional legislation, or the People’s will by virtue of its representatives, or prior acknowledgement of necessity. Here the U.S. Founding Fathers engrained the American Constitutional framework with its balance of power. The Constitution gives to the Executive Branch the command of the nation’s armed forces, while Article I, Section 8 gives to the Legislative Branch the power to decide when the United States goes to war, further, congress has the power to cut off funds.
So, one would think the president may not do as he pleases with the forces under his command. However, a U.S. President may order a quick in-and-out mission by virtue of the War Powers Act. But, a President may not commit the nation to a long war (for example 10 years in Afghanistan) unless Congress agrees. The War Powers Act of 1973 states that if the President sends U.S. forces into combat he has sixty days to pull those forces out. Only Congress may extend that time. Nonetheless, Presidents have through our history regularly done just that, perhaps of perceived necessity at the time, fought undeclared wars. Congress always had the right to challenge this, but hasn’t yet (except once, President Gerald R. Ford in 1975 Congress stopped troops from deployment to Angola to stop a communist group). When public opinion turned on President Johnson, the new President Nixon brought home the troops, after 58,000 American lives were lost in this undeclared war. When politically motivated criticism is leveled at a sitting president’s decision of invading a country, it is useful to see how the congressman or Congress voted.
Truman, Johnson, Bush’s undeclared wars were also congressional Democrat and Republican wars. Iraq the most troubling, as neither Bush nor Rumsfeld in their recent memoirs apologized for misleading the public on WMD, or for sending our brave troops serving their country by believing their leaders were acting righteously, into harm’s way or death, without sufficient planning, nor a real strategy or exit plan. In fact, there is much about American foreign policy in Bush and Obama that is myopic ( Benghazi, Libya, where the Embassy was denied protection the Ambassador requested, then the administration obfuscating the terrorist attack by Susan Rice, Ambassador to the U.N., going on American TV with misleading talking points about the anti-Muslim tape, instead of admitting the reality of knowing through the CIA that it was al Qaeda from the beginning)- in fact, spinning the incident, which was White House negligence showing a lack of principled judgment and focus.
Going back, with benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I think retribution for 9/11 should not have been a full on Afghan invasion, but rather a smaller, but substantial elite rangers operation targeting al Qaeda in cooperation with local assistance, even enlisting the CIA working with ISI if necessary. But, none of us got to choose. Taliban was a grim factor, but only concerning Afghanistan at the time, less so, Pakistan; and still small enough for the Pakistan Army to handle.
A War Powers Act case in point is President Clinton, who conducted the bombing campaign in Kosovo past the sixty day deadline, argued that Congress had implicitly approved the mission when it approved funding for it. So, circumventing the Founder’s requirement of a balance of power is possible. But, what is the definition of “is?” Historically the President has waged war in the absence of any specific congressional objection. So, regardless of where “the buck stops,” also blame Congress if you have an issue with transgressions of a president. And, of course, we have the right to vote them out. Worth noting is, the use in the War Powers Act of the phrase “United States Armed Forces,” as it omits CIA covert military operations, or Predator drones.
U.S. Drones: In the past it must be remembered that war routinely killed civilians in large numbers. The indiscriminate bombing of London by the Germany, the U.S. retaliatory bombing of Berlin; Case in point, the Atomic bomb over Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed less than the Tokyo conventional bombing campaign; but, its terror convinced the Japanese to surrender, and ultimately saved 200,000 lives or more and a projected four more years of fighting. Drones have been a method of asymmetrical war that spares civilians like no other technology before it, and is a better alternative than American boots in your country. There may be a question of breaching soverignty over the use of drones over foreign nations, however, there is often mutual military general-to-general approval behind the scenes to which we are not privy. For example, the private agreement of the top generals of the Pakistan Military with the U.S. military to use drones, all the while, General Kayani publically denying they approve of drones, reminds us of the unspoken Machiavellian code of nations’ political, public face and duplicitous self-interest behind the scenes. We rarely get the complete picture, as anyone who has had a top secret clearance knows, and the breach of security, Wikileaks reminds us.
Foreign & Domestic Policy: With Obama in office, there will be less involvement into other nations’ affairs, good or bad. There will be his usual articulate and charming platitudes and speechmaking, but less action abroad. The domestic economy is the first order of business. The U.S. economy will be restored, but, not by the Democratic claims of brilliance of this president. It will be America’s natural resources and human innovation that will allow deficit reduction, in time- not Democratic or Republican self-perceived political genius. Unless the impossible occurs and the two parties each make concessions, and actually work together.
The United States of America does not allow any global organization, supremacy over its own Law of the Land or governmental Constitution; that means no oversight by the unreliable U.N., the faltering EU, or slow-response, almost criminally non-responsive NATO. The highest court in the land is the U.S. Supreme Court, not the U.N. Are you wary of these statements? Consider if YOUR country is under scrutiny, whether lawless Somalia, Pakistan’s 1971 atrocities in Bangladesh, or current oppressive China, the potential of abuse of power – UN vs. a nation- it runs both ways. So, like it or not, the well-intentioned International Law, and the Geneva Convention while clearly worthy ideals, remain a consent-based governance. The value of bringing justice to war crimes such as the Nuremberg Trials has not escaped me; nor, the more controversial International Military Tribunal for the Far East, the “Tokyo Trials” post WWII, or, the rightful prosecution of Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb political leader and Mladic’s former boss, tried in The Hague on charges of genocide, as was, Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic, responsible for the massacre of over 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995. Those accused of the worst crimes should be brought to justice by the United Nations-based war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
Nevertheless, powerful nations, and those who lead them, the greatest serial killers of all-time were not brought to justice: Stalin 35 million murdered; Mao’s 75 million of his own people massacred. The powerful nations, regardless of how you or I may vigorously object, are not obliged to abide by international law, due to their unique power in the world, and perhaps more reasonable concept of claimed state sovereignty. Whether right or wrong, this is reality. The United States, a Super Power, is no exception; that is, only the U.S. internal justice system will hold trials against U.S. abuses in war of its own.
This is not to suggest that a nation should not attempt to work with and alongside other nations, global organizations, allies, human rights groups, or adversaries for mutual interest. All political speeches aside, though, and all promises of President Obama notwithstanding, let us not be naive about an idealistic notion of any global system that purports to contain unruly nations. Only the weaker nations will be the ones subjected to United Nations-based war crimes tribunal such as The Hague. Just as most of us do not like politicians, oppressive governments, or invading nations – it’s a grim scenario at best. I do not make a value judgment on this. I am merely stating the facts people often resist; such is the uncomfortable reality of Realpolitik
That said, my belief based on witnessing past failure of U.S. policy in wars after 1945, undeclared or not, there must be a consensus of agreement between leaders of a nation, whether United States, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, et. al., your own civil society, that elected government and military should act together, in consent. If a nation is attacked we have the right to respond, or declare war out of necessity due to national security, existential threat, or strategic necessity using constitutionally sanctioned action. We have a right to protect ourselves. But, involvement in foreign wars or invasion, must be a matter of national existential threat, not hasty use of power for power’s sake.
The United States receives violent criticism for involving itself in foreign civil wars (Libya) and yet receives equal criticism when not involving ourselves in uprisings (Iran and Arab Spring), or foreign civil wars (Bahrain and Syria). The United States no longer will have the means or self-interest to “police” the world; Foreign Aid one hopes will be more carefully distributed to enrich education, agriculture, trade and infrastructure of allies if the U.S. is to gain any credibility. The civilian government represented by the people, and for the people must control the “industrial military complex,” of which Eisenhower spoke; and no country any longer has the right of adventurism- the age of colonialism is as outdated as is our notion that the United States can influence through aid or otherwise other nations to become capitalist democracies, or, that we, the U.S. can police the world, or, regime change without wasteful loss of human life, egregious harm to the invaded country’s infrastructure. This does not assume isolationism. The U.S. needs trade agreements, as much as China needs our business; It is within our self-interest to take the United States from its adolescent stage to maturity.
Rusty Walker is an educator, author, political analyst, ex-military, from a military family, retired college professor, former Provost (Collins College, U.S.A.), artist, musician and family man. Rusty Walker is an ardent supporter of Pakistan. Here is a link to Mr. Walker’s other articles published on LUBP: https://lubpak.com/archives/tag/rusty-walker