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With ISIS defeated, it’s time to bring the troops home

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With ISIS defeated its time to bring the troops home

In the lead up to the 2016 presidential election, much was made of the threat of ISIS.  Wild threats abounded as candidates fought each other over who would come down harder on the then-thriving Islamic State.

Sen. Ted Cruz threatened to “carpet bomb (ISIS) into oblivion”.

Now-President Trump promised to “bomb the (expletive) out of ‘em.”

Former Secretary of State and presidential participation trophy winner Hillary Clinton added the possibility of war with Russia by insisting on a no-fly zone over Syria.

And who could forget neocon mascot Senators Rick Santorum and Lindsey Graham engaging in what amounted to a bidding war over who would dump more American ground troops into the Middle East?

But since the Trump administration clunked into gear a year ago, news about ISIS has grown more and more sparse, with the latest revelation buried under coverage of the President’s latest Twitter meltdown:

ISIS is gone.

Over the course of the last year, ISIS has been destroyed by increased airstrikes, and coalition armies have systematically liberated ISIS-held territory across Iraq, to the point that both the Iraqi and Iranian governments have declared victory over the self-appointed caliphate.

Of course this is wonderful news for Iraqis, Iranians, Kurds, and everyone else oppressed by the brutal black-flagged regime.

But will it mean good news for American families?

Out of 1.3 million active US military personnel, about 450,000 are deployed overseas.  That’s right – nearly half a million Americans are deployed at over 600 bases in at least 130 different countries, at a time when we have exactly zero declared wars.

When are they coming home?

The victory over ISIS, while encouraging, doesn’t remotely put the War on Terror to bed.  Aside from the thousands of soldiers still fighting America’s longest war in Afghanistan and mopping up ISIS in Iraq and Syria, we have hundreds of even thousands of American troops in places like Norway and Poland, and a large Air Force presence in Somalia.  

The last time the United States actually fought a Congressionally-declared war was in WWII, and that’s important because in the absence of a congressional declaration, we have slowly built up a perpetual military presence around the world, with no end in sight.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

The Constitution vested the power to declare war with Congress alone, so that the people’s representatives would get a say in our decision to send Americans to die. A quick review of the last sixty years will show that, as Congress has deferred that power to the President via authorizations for use of military force (AUMFs), conflicts have started more frequently and dragged on much longer, with no defined scope or condition of victory.  As I pointed out in a recent column about Presidential Emergency Powers, ceaseless foreign conflicts and undefined potential threats have removed virtually all accountability from executive power. If the President wants a war, the President gets a war – Congress be damned.

As much as we have been conditioned to accept the presupposition that a persistent, global American military presence is necessary for our security, that’s really not the case at all. President Eisenhower’s famous warning about the “military-industrial complex” has been largely unheeded, and it’s undeniable at this point that there are a lot of folks in both the public and private sectors who profit, either directly or indirectly, from the massive and perpetual show of American force. That profit is at least part of the reason that the United States currently spends more on defense than the next seven countries combined, nearly three times the second-place nation on the list, China.

But the $610 billion we spend for defense each year pales in comparison to the cost in human life and limb precipitated by our consistent propensity for foreign adventurism.  Since 2001, 6,930 Americans have died fighting the War on Terror, and over 52,566 have been wounded.

And that’s without factoring in the tragic epidemic of veteran suicide.

Outside the states, the death toll has been exponentially greater, with estimates ranging between one and two million dead in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan alone.

The longer a war drags on, the greater the danger that these numbers will become mere statistics, and that’s why the defeat of ISIS presents a great opportunity to change course on our reckless foreign policy. With the rise of antiwar sentiment on the conservatarian right and its slow integration into the pro-life movement there should be plenty of common ground and political will to draw down our foreign involvement.

It’s time to take advantage of the opportunity to bring our people home, before more Americans come home in body bags.

____________________________________________________________

 Article originally published in the Des Moines Register.

Foreign Affairs

J.J. McCullough tells the grim truth about Saudi Arabia

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JJ McCollough tells the grim truth about Saudi Arabia

America needs Saudi Arabia just as Saudi Arabia needs America. Few can argue that the symbiotic relationship is based solely on need and not any genuine goodwill towards each other. Quietly, they think we’re evil and that we meddle too much in other nations’ affairs. A little less quietly, we think their traditions are antiquated and their human rights violations are only tolerable because of the source.

We both see each other as evils. The problem is we both know we’re each other’s necessary evils.

I would contend that the relationship, as fruitful as it has been for decades, is so wrought with contention today that it can no longer be viewed as necessary.

The disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi is getting journalists such as National Review’s J.J. McCullough to speak out against the Kingdom.

Jamal Khashoggi Disappearance & Saudi Arabian Society’s Immaturity

https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/10/saudi-arabia-jamal-khashoggi-disappearance/The sad reality is that Saudi Arabia will remain a U.S. ally regardless of how deep and disturbing Riyadh’s involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is ultimately revealed to be. As Matthew Continetti recently emphasized, there are certain geopolitical realities — in particular the cold war with Iran — that make the Saudi–American alliance a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy, no matter how appalling the Saudi human-rights record gets.

What the alleged murder of Khashoggi does do, however, is rapidly eliminate any possibility that the Saudi alliance could be seen as something defensible and positive on its own terms, rather than a necessary evil.

Our long-standing relationship with Saudi Arabia is like a favorite old chair that’s tattered and starting to smell bad. It’s time to get our butts off it and push it to the curb.

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Foreign Affairs

White House plan to kick Iran from Syria leaked

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White House plan to kick Iran from Syria leaked

Syria has been in a state of disarray for nearly a decade now. Ever since the infamous “red line” that President Obama failed to enforce, the Middle Eastern nation has been suffering through war, poverty, and occupation by hostile forces ranging from the Islamic State to Russia and Iran.

The Islamic State may no longer be an occupying threat in Syria, but Iran and Russia are. The White House has a plan to push them out of the country. It does not involve military engagement, though U.S. military personnel may engage if they feel threatened. Instead, the plan is to offer aid to the Syrians wherever they need help, except where Iran and Russia have a presence.

This represents a huge chunk of the crumbling nation.

Trump administration has new plan to drive Iran out of Syria

“There’s a real opportunity for the U.S. and its allies to make the Iranian regime pay for its continued occupation of Syria,” said Mark Dubowitz, chief executive at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank strongly opposed to the Iranian regime.

Driving Iran out of Syria would be one prong in an approach that would also involve continuing to destroy remaining pockets of Islamic State fighters and finding a political transition after the exit of both ISIS and Iran that does not call for Syrian President Bashar al Assad to step aside.

My Take

Any measure that does not put Americans in harms way is worth pursuing. As long as Syria is as vulnerable as it is, there are risks to both American and Israeli interests in the region. The war-torn nation needs help rebuilding so they can rightly remove Iran’s and Russia’s presence.

Perhaps more importantly is the need to rejuvenate a homeland for millions of refugees. They are already causing major problems in countries throughout Europe and Asia. If we can expedite the renewal of their homeland, it will prompt many to return.

We have no business fighting battles in Syria. The White House plan would use diplomacy and economic pressure to rid Syria of their occupying forces. It’s a long shot, but it’s better than further military conflicts.

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Foreign Affairs

President dispatches Pompeo after talking to Saudi King

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President dispatches Pompeo after talking to Saudi King

President Trump is sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia to discuss the disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Turkey claims to have ample evidence that the Saudis murdered Khashoggi at their consulate in Istanbul.

The situation is tense as pressure mounts for actions to be taken against Saudi Arabia. The Saudis fired back with threats of their own if such actions are taken. All of this is happening against a backdrop of increased engagement between Saudi Arabia and the United States as they work to put together a Middle East peace agreement.

Turkey claims to have a recording of Khashoggi’s murder captured on his Apple Watch. They also have the identities of a 15-man “kill team” that was allegedly sent to the consulate to capture and torture Khashoggi. Video shows him going into the consulate with his fiancee remaining outside, but no footage has been released of him leaving the consulate and his fiancee hasn’t seen him since. Turkey claims Saudi Arabia has sufficient surveillance cameras at the consulate that could prove he left, but the Saudis claim the equipment was not recording during his visit.

My Take

The White House is trying to sweep this under the rug. As obtuse as the Saudi government has been for decades, their strategic and economic importance to the United States is great. The last thing the White House wants is to be forced to choose between their close ally and public outcry, most of which is demanding repercussions in light of the alleged evidence.

Turkey has been adamant that their theory is correct.

At some point, we’re going to have to cut ties with Saudi Arabia unless drastic changes are made. Changes are underway, but they seem too slow to compensate for the backwards nature of the country. It’s time to just cut them loose now.

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