RNC's Steele: right or wrong on Afghanistan?

RNC Chair Michael Steele’s recent comments on Afghanistan – which he derisively called “Obama’s war” while questioning the potential for victory – found pockets of support across the political spectrum.  On the left, those who oppose the war on ideological grounds agreed with Steele’s conclusions (if not his logic) that this is not a war we should be fighting.  On the more libertarian right, many who believe that America’s foreign policy is “extraconstitutional” -- overly aggressive, idealistic and beyond what the Founder’s intended -- view the Afghan campaign as a case study in federal government overreach.   If it is true that politics make strange bedfellows, Steel’s unscripted comments found a nexus of agreement from elements on the left and the right: This is a war poorly conceived, without legitimacy, and with little chance of success. I disagree with this.  While I recognize fully the difficulty of the mission, and understand that Afghanistan has been the “graveyard of empires” for a millennium or more, I also believe that Barack Obama was correct in 2008 when he called Afghanistan a war “of necessity”.  Afghanistan was the birthplace of the 9/11 attacks; the Taliban regime provided sanctuary and material support to Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda and its global network of Jihadists. The initial invasion of Afghanistan in 2001-2002 was a critical blow to this network, and provided the United States with both a measure of revenge and security after 9/11.  It also replaced the Taliban, a brutal fundamentalist Islamic regime that demanded strict fealty to Islamic law with a secular, Western-facing government.  To be sure, the government of Hamid Karzai is no model of Jeffersonian democracy.  But let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good in this case – and Karzai is quite good when compared to the rule of his predecessor, the Taliban’s Mullah Omar.

More importantly, I reject the position taken by many libertarian-oriented conservatives that the war in Afghanistan is an example of government overreach and an unconstitutional exercise of executive power.  To be sure, there are ample grounds for a substantive debate on presidential war powers and the Constitution – a debate that has heated up significantly since 9/11.   Those who take a “strict constructionist” view see Congress’ power to declare war in Article I, Section 8 as a clear limit on the use of force: without a formal declaration of war against a defined enemy, the commitment of the U.S. military to combat is essentially proscribed.  However, the case for this is not as clear as it may seem.  During the debate on this topic at the Constitutional Convention, the Founders clearly intended for the executive as Commander in Chief to have the power to “repel sudden attacks” and, in the process of providing for the “common defense”, would be able to act swiftly and decisively in the case of a national emergency.  The Founders instinctively understood that while a check on the president’s ability to unilaterally wage war was desirable, it should not prohibit decisive action when the nation’s security was under threat.

It is my belief that not only does the executive have the power to wage war in Afghanistan without a formal declaration of war, he has the constitutional responsibility to do so.  The most important aspect of the president’s job description as found in Article II of the Constitution is in Section 2:  his role as the Commander in Chief of the armed forces.  As such, he is principally responsible for ensuring the nation’s security, and enjoys wide latitude in utilizing the military in the prosecution of U.S. foreign policy.  This has been particularly true in the latter half of the 20th century, where the U.S. has waged full-scale war in Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf without a formal declaration of war.  Today, the rise of transnational terror networks and so-called “asymmetrical” warfare which targets civilians without warning has made traditional forms of extended debate on foreign policy increasingly impractical.  Terrorism and global Jihad has made traditional declarations of war truly a relic of an earlier age.

Because of this new reality, the nature of Congressional consent to military action has changed. While presidents are waging war without formal declarations, they do so also with the consent (and political cover) of Congressional approval.  Recall that on September 14, 2001 – just days after the attacks on 9/11 – the Congress passed S.J. Res. 23, which authorized the president to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001”.   Later, in 2002, the Congress passed the Iraq War Resolution, which gave Congressional approval for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  While short of formal declarations of war, both of these resolutions provide ample authority for the president to wage war in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Contrary to the opinion of Michael Steele, this is not Obama’s war.  It is America’s war.  And the stakes could not be higher.  The elimination of a sanctuary for Al Qaeda in Afghanistan is a central national security issue for our future.  One of the few correct decisions that President Obama has made since taking office is recommitting the nation to the war in Afghanistan.  His recent appointment of General David Petraeus to take command is a good step in the right direction.  Now he must renounce any time tables for withdrawal and allow the U.S. military to destroy Al Qaeda and the Taliban once and for all.

The Constitution requires the federal government to provide for the common defense of the nation and its interests – principally the protection of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.  It is hard to imagine pursuing much happiness in the aftermath of a nuclear or biological attack in Times Square carried out by radical Islamists from a base in Afghanistan.

Obama forgets why Danny Pearl died

Much has been made of the irony of President Obama, refusing to take questions from the press while signing the "Press Freedom Act." The murder of Daniel Pearl has been sited as the reason for this new law which expands the State Department's annual human rights reports to include a description of press freedoms in each country. What appears to have been ignored is the attempt to redefine the pertinent facts in this case. Daniel Pearl was not killed because he was a journalist. He was killed because he was a Jew and an American. The moment before he was beheaded and decapitated, he wasn't asked what he did for a living. He was asked his religion.

One can only wonder why the current party in power, whose stock-in-trade is racial and ethnic politics, would go out of its way to ignore a true and most egregious hate crime.

Why won't GOP call jihad by name?

David Petteys of Act for America, Denver chapter, and Michael Del Rosso of the Claremont Institute recently compared notes on the strange reluctance of Republicans running for office to identify our jihadist enemy in plain language. Here is their exchange: PETTEYS: Our friend Michael Del Rosso recommended that the following question be asked of every candidate: “In your opinion, what is the greatest threat to our country and what would you do about it?”

Recently I had the opportunity to actually ask this question of Jane Norton, the front running GOP Senatorial candidate here in Colorado. I am happy to say her response was this:

“Islamic Terrorism, and we need to get over this idea that the rights of terrorists have priority over the lives of American citizens.”

Although I would prefer the term “Islamic Jihad” as opposed to Terrorism, it is a step forward. Certainly preferable to the answer you’d get from most Democrats who would talking needing to "save the planet from climate catastrophe by cracking down on the evil oil companies”.

I’m also happy to report my Congressman Mike Coffman’s office notified me today that he was joining Sue Myrick of North Carolina’s “Counter Terrorism Caucus” as a result of my suggestion.

DEL ROSSO: Dave, I would NOT accept Terrorism as an answer from this candidate.

A couple of weeks ago I put the following query to three of the seven Republican candidates attempting to reclaim Virginia's 5th District US House of Representatives seat for the GOP: "America has been in a shooting war for over 8 years with over 5,000 KIA, tens of thousands wounded, and a trillion dollars spent, with no end in sight. Who is our Enemy, what is their Doctrine, and what is their Objective?" Each time the exchange went generally this way:

Candidate: “We’re fighting Terrorists.”

Me: That makes as much sense as saying “Our Enemy is Tanks.” Terrorism is a tactic, not an enemy.

Candidate: “We’re fighting Muslim Extremists.”

Me: “How do you know their Extremists? How do you know they are not actual Mainstream Muslims?”

Encountering a bewildered look and no response I further asked “Have you ever read the Quran? Any book on Islamic jurisprudence and doctrines? Have you read the 9-11 Report?”

Every time, the candidate's answers to all three were “No.”

So I informed each of them: “You just admitted that you have no basis in fact, you have no knowledge, in making any claim about who are enemies are. How can you presume to ask me to vote for you to be my Representative when you have not even taken the trouble to identify our enemy 8 years into a war?”

Christmas bomber: BHO still doesn't get it

When the President vows to “get to the bottom of all this and bring these violent extremists to justice”, he is telegraphing the following: 1. He is NOT connecting the violence to Islamic Jihad, which IS the main ideological threat to the United States. Islamic Jihadists generate markers that fit the facts on the ground. With these markers, we can proceed to watch the Mosques where Jihadist groups are formed, we can read their literature and understand their doctrine, we can listen to the Imams and anticipate their actions. But “violent extremists” generate nothing! How do you define one? You can’t! The media continues their apologist approach, describing the million and first “disturbed young man”, and of course Islam has nothing to do with it. They also strive for “balance” and are sure to mention “right wing extremists” in the same breath, even though there has been a weekly Islamic Jihad incident since July of this year, and nothing from “right wing extremists” since Oklahoma City.

2. The President, by avoiding the mention of Islam, is also letting us know he buys into the false narrative about Islam perpetrated by the Muslim Brotherhood and its front organizations such as CAIR, ISNA, MPAC, MAS, and all the rest. This false narrative would have us believe that Islam is the “religion of peace”, that all Muslims are moderate, and only a “fringe” are violent, owing to our policies. The reality is, Jihad is built into the faith. Jihad is the solemn duty of ALL believers. Jihad can be waged four ways: with the mouth, the pen, the money and the sword. Note that our misdirected “War on Terror” only deals with Jihad by the sword, leaving the other three modes unattended!

3. Also, to “bring violent extremists to justice” reveals a view that the war with Islamic Jihad is a police problem. A question: how to you deter suicide attacks with the threat of fines and imprisonment? The legal straitjacket we have put ourselves in is this: everything is legal until a crime has been committed. What happens when this “crime” is the detonation of nuclear weapons in a half dozen cities? Also, we see Jamaa’t al-Fukra training thousands of soldiers for Jihad in the United States. A steady stream of young men are going to the Middle East to the battlefields of jihad and are gaining combat experience. They are returning to the United States as seasoned combat veterans and trained killers. They are becoming the training cadre and the backbone of a Muslim Jihad Army being built before our eyes right here in the United States! And we are turning a legalistic blind eye lest we “offend the Muslims”?

“Zero Hour” arrives, (and this is their term, not mine), and these thousands of combatants rise up in armed insurrection, what will the government do then? Threaten to file suit? Threaten to pull their 503c status?

When will we wise up?

I was first inspired to start blogging back in the summer of  2005 in the wake of the July 7 terror attack in London I had lived in London during the late 1980s, and I was concerned then that Britain's penchant towards "multiculturalism" was creating an environment that was all too accommodating of radical Islam.  Indeed, the mosques and Imams in Finsbury -- not far from where I lived  -- were the source of the radical students who set off the bombs on the London transport system. Britain has sown the seeds of its radicalism by allowing the hate mongers to preach their venom without fear of retribution, and indeed with many legal protections. In the interest of being "open" the Brits have actually enabled an enemy to thrive inside its borders. It seems that at least some in the UK have gotten the message. From the Telegraph UK comes this piece entitled Detroit Terror Attack: A murderous ideology tolerated for too long. Its primary thesis is that the murderous ideology of radical Islam is tolerated in a way that other radical beliefs are not -- and that we do so at our own peril.  The most pertinent passage is as follows:

Is it time for a fundamental rethink of Britain's attitude towards domestic Islamism? Consider this analogy. Suppose that, in several London universities, Right‑wing student societies were allowed to invite neo-Nazi speakers to address teenagers. Meanwhile, churches in poor white neighbourhoods handed over their pulpits to Jew-hating admirers of Adolf Hitler, called for the execution of homosexuals, preached the intellectual inferiority of women, and blessed the murder of civilians. What would the Government do? It would bring the full might of the criminal law against activists indoctrinating young Britons with an inhuman Nazi ideology – and the authorities that let them. Any public servants complicit in this evil would be hounded from their jobs.

So, somehow preaching the murder of innocents is tolerated when it is done by Muslims, but not when it is being done by Nazis. Why? Because of the fear of being labled a racist. It is why so many things go unsaid in our culture today: it is too dangerous for people to speak the truth. It is more important to be sensitive and tolerant than it is to be right. We have dumbed ourselves down to the lowest possible common denominator.

Hear no evil.  See no evil.  Speak no evil.

The radical Imams who preach this hatred to young, middle class students in British university understand this all too well. They are gaming us -- and preying on our desire to be politically perfect in our sensibilities. It is a weakness from within that they are exploiting mercilessly.

By the way, lest you think this only happens in Europe: This is exactly what happened at Fort Hood, when Major Hasan was tolerated by his peers and promoted by his superiors even though he was openly preaching hatred. He wasn't stopped because even in the military we've been chilled by political correctness and a desire to be open.

When will we wake up and start to understand that our tolerance is being used against us?  When will we conclude that profiling and proactive security measures is needed to keep air travel safe?

When will we wise up?