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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.

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Foreign Affairs

Would the White House pressure Benjamin Netanyahu to form government with left-leaning parties?

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Would the White House pressure Benjamin Netanyahu to form government with left-leaning parties

On the surface, it may be difficult to imagine President Trump, a Republican, quietly pressuring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form the next Israeli government in a coalition with left-leaning parties should he win the April elections. But dig a little deeper and the thought becomes plausible. Why? Because it’s very likely his much-touted Middle East peace plan includes provisions for the Palestinians that conservatives in Israel may not allow.

A pair of articles out of Israel hint at this possibility:

My Take

It isn’t just those supporting such a move who are talking about it. New Right candidate Caroline Glick told the Jerusalem Post in an interview: “It’s mystifying that [Trump administration officials] think there’s a deal to be made when there so obviously isn’t one from the Palestinian perspective.”

Just as President Obama wanted to make his mark with the Iranian nuclear deal, so too would President Trump want to do what no world leader has been able to truly accomplish in history: a negotiated and firm peace in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians. It would be a crowning achievement if that was the only thing in his legacy. It would be truly historic.

Of course, most experts on Middle East affairs agree that there’s no chance for such a deal or a lasting peace without a two-state solution on the table, which is almost certainly what the Trump administration is going to push on Israel. The left in the Jewish state seem amicable to the idea, but conservatives are generally opposed. Doing so would weaken them militarily, forcing them to cover areas they currently control and bringing the potential for attacks against Israel nearly impossible to repel.

It’s the hope of any American leader to bring peace to the Middle East because it’s never been done before. Unfortunately, the path to peace is one that would eventually be covered with Israeli blood. That’s the nature of the hatred towards the Jews.

 


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Losers all around: Untangling the border bill that benefits literally zero Americans

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Losers all around Untangling the border bill that benefits literally zero Americans

The Senate and House just put a bill on the President’s desk that he intends to sign. This bill will keep the government funded for most of the year and has many components worth discussing within its 1200 pages. For this discussion, let’s look specifically at the border security components because there seems to be losers across the board without a single winner in sight… at least not from this country.

First, let’s look at the two parties.

Democrats lose the political clout that would have come from a bipartisan agreement to fund the border wall. While most on the left see it as a win that they were able to put together a bill that snuck in so many atrocious immigration loopholes (which we’ll cover below), those loopholes will be used to demonstrate how bad their border policy really is.

But it would all be worth it to them if the wall never got built, at least politically speaking for 2020. The wall is President Trump’s post-midterm achievement if he can get a good chunk of it built, so stopping him from doing so would have been a win. There’s still a chance it can be a win for the Democrats if the White House doesn’t play their cards right. The national emergency declaration may or may not get the wall started before the election, so they’ll need to invoke 10 U.S.C. 284 to get it going sooner rather than later.

Of course, the biggest loss for Democrats is their own policies. It may not have the immediate negative impact necessary to affect them in 2020, but it will have a negative impact nonetheless. As drug cartels and criminal illegal immigrants benefit from the insane policies they put in the bill, the only defense the Democrats will have is that a majority of Republicans backed it as well.

Republicans lose because this deal demonstrates their weakness. They were too weak to fight the border wall battle when they had control of the House, Senate, and White House simultaneously. There’s no reason to expect them to have grown a backbone since the midterms, and this bill proves they did not.

They folded on the border wall dollars. They folded on the restrictions placed on the border wall itself. They folded on the number of beds set aside for detained illegal immigrants. They folded on the allowance of what can only be construed as amnesty for future illegal border crossing unaccompanied minor sponsors (it’s a mouthful, but we’ll get into those protections a bit later).

In short, they folded on nearly everything and put the President in a position where his only viable option was to declare the national emergency. Sadly, it means the GOP not only accomplished nothing since the shutdown began, but also demonstrated the shutdown could have easily been avoided by simply caving then instead of waiting two months to cave.

Now, let’s look at everyone other than the parties themselves.

President Trump loses because this deal makes the shutdown look meaningless. It also exposes him to the wrath of conservatives who are both unhappy with the deal itself and infuriated by the massive overreach the national emergency declaration represents.

The only possible way for him to make it out of this mess with chances still intact for a reelection win are if three very specific things happen:

  1. He has to get a good chunk of the wall built before the election.
  2. Crime and illegal immigration numbers must go down before the election.
  3. Somehow, the negative components of this deal cannot come back to haunt him, though that seems unlikely at this point because the negatives are so numerous and utterly horrendous.

But the worst loss of all for the President is that it will be very hard for him to spin the use of a national emergency and creative appropriations to build a wall when he said literally hundreds of times that Mexico was going to pay for it. Yes, this catchy line helped him win the primaries and possibly even the general election, but it’s turning into such an inaccurate campaign promise that it can’t even be called a broken promise anymore. At this point, it appears to be a bald-faced campaign lie.

Most of all, the American people lose, This will be demonstrated on so many levels over the next couple of years that it will be hard to keep track of every instance that this bill makes us less safe, wastes our money, steals from our prosperity potential, and undercuts our sovereignty.

I’ll let Twitter explain this even further:

And the winner is…

Drug cartels, criminal illegal immigrants, and anyone willing and able to take advantage of Washington DC’s stupidity are the only winners from the border omnibus deal. National emergency declarations cannot take away from how bad this is. In fact, it may make it worse.

 


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As Benjamin Netanyahu meets with world leaders, focus centers on Iran in Syria

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As Benjamin Netanyahu meets with world leaders, focus centers on Iran in Syria

The threat represented by Iran in the war-torn nation of Syria manifests in multiple ways. Other Middle Eastern nations are concerned that if Iran’s military is allowed to get entrenched in Syria, they will have too much direct access to the region in ways that threaten the peace. The United States and western allies are concerned that exerting control over the Syrian regime will turn them into a puppet state that will not solve the problems faced by the Syrian people.

Meanwhile, Israel faces the greatest threat as the nation that wants to wipe them off the map would be next door neighbors if they continue to fortify themselves in Syria. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows this all too well and has not been shy about expressing these views to the world. In fact, he did it today in meetings with 60 world leaders and followed up by sharing his perspectives on Twitter.

Iran is not Israel’s problem alone. They are a problem for all freedom-loving countries in the region as well as powers throughout Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia. Israel needs our support as well as the support of others who realize the threat Iran poses to us all.

 


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