A guy can hope

President Trump sent word this afternoon he will make a major announcement from the White House tomorrow at 3 p.m. Eastern Time.  Were I his speech writer, my draft would look something like this:

My fellow Americans,

For the past 29 days, parts of your Federal Government have been shut down due to the lack of an authorized budget for 2019.  About 800,000 workers have been on furlough, uncertain when they will see their next paycheck.  Essential services like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, on which many Americans depend, are close to exhausting their resources and leaving citizens in danger of hunger and other financial hardships.

This intolerable situation exists for only one reason: the refusal of the Democratic leadership in Congress to approve funding our Border Patrol personnel have requested to secure our nation’s border and maintain our right to determine who may enter.  While the Democrats profess sympathy for those affected by these events, their actions show otherwise.  Last weekend many Congressmen were enjoying sunny Puerto Rico, in the company of over 100 lobbyists.  I was here, in the White House, waiting to discuss the issue.  This week, Speaker Pelosi and other Democrats planned to take a taxpayer-funded seven-day trip overseas, until I denied the use of our military resources for such travel at a time when portions of our government are without funding.  As I pointed out in my letter to Speaker Pelosi, our people are better served if she and Senator Schumer remain here in Washington so we can resolve this issue.

I campaigned in 2016 with a strong promise I would secure our border against illegal immigration and the flow of narcotics.  Our broken border and immigration processes have been political talking points for more than 30 years.  Now, the current opioid crisis and the documented number of violent crimes committed by those who break into our country prove the urgent need for action.  I was entrusted with this office by Americans who expected me to uphold my promise to act.  And I will.

As I speak, another caravan of migrants has been organized and is moving north through Mexico, seeking to enter our country without permission.  The defense of our nation is my greatest responsibility, and I have urged Congress for two years to provide the resources we need to meet these kinds of challenges.  But national security seems to be the only government spending program Democrats don’t like.  Therefore, I am declaring a National Emergency with regard to the illegal entry of persons and illegal substances into this country.  As part of this declaration, I have directed the Defense Department to provide all possible support that may be requested by the Customs and Border Patrol to enable them to detect, detain and quickly return to their country of origin anyone found crossing our border illegally.  I have also directed the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed immediately with the construction of additional physical barriers on our border, prioritizing locations and types of barriers as the Border Patrol believes will best secure our frontier.  I have directed the Defense Department to divert five percent of all previously approved operational funds for 2019 to enable the immediate start of this construction, and to support the agency’s assistance to the Border Patrol.

In addition, the State Department has been directed to cease processing of all immigration requests, including programs like the H-1B work visa, until the current impasse is resolved and the government restored to full funding.

To our hard working Customs and Border Patrol, I offer the thanks of a grateful America for the critical work you do. To our armed forces, I am confident in your ability to mobilize quickly the resources needed to aid our border agents.  To our furloughed Federal workers, I regret you have been placed in this position.  If Congress had passed their appropriation bills on time, and kept in mind my pleas not to leave out border funding yet again, we would not be where we are today.

A nation that cannot control its own borders loses control of its future.  If we cannot protect our sovereignty, nothing else we do will make or keep America great.  It is a blessing to have been born here, and we protect that blessing for our descendants by ensuring those who join us here show respect for the customs and laws that made our land attractive in the first place.  The actions I announced today are only a small start in solving the problem of our broken border and immigration policies.  I urge my counterparts in Congress to work with me in good faith to find long-lasting solutions for this and other issues facing our nation.  When you’re ready to do so, you know where to find me.  I urge you not to waste another 29 days.

Like I said, a guy can hope, right?

The power of one…

…or, “why America can’t use military force effectively anymore.”  I was recently asked my take on the resumption of airstrikes in Iraq, this time on ISIS forces.  I wish to put my thoughts–such as they are–in a broader context of how we decide to fight.

“The President is right to provide humanitarian relief to the Iraqi civilians stranded on Mount Sinjar and to authorize military strikes against ISIS forces that are threatening them, our Kurdish allies, and our own personnel in northern Iraq. However, these actions are far from sufficient to meet the growing threat that ISIS poses. We need a strategic approach, not just a humanitarian one,” [Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham] said in a statement. ““We need to get beyond a policy of half measures. The President needs to devise a comprehensive strategy to degrade ISIS.”

The article quoted above (the entirety of which I recommend for your consideration) points out that even before World War II, presidents committed American forces to a series of “small wars” in many nations.  That doesn’t mean they were right (or had the right) to do so.  Those same ‘small wars’ were the backdrop that drove Marine Major General Smedley Butler, a two-time recipient of the Medal of Honor, to conclude in 1935 that “war is a racket.”  I would argue that our tendency for overseas meddling has only grown since 1945, as has a highly unconstitutional–and dangerous–deference to the President’s role as “Commander in Chief.”  That role is an executive one, not a legislative one.  No one person should be able to commit the nation to a war of choice.  It is one thing to repel an invasion (something else we seem to be having trouble with these days).  It’s quite another to launch one.  Consider the fact that President Obama is the fourth president in a row to commence a new round of military actions in Iraq!

As currently conducted by the United States, I have to conclude Smedley Butler has a key point about war.  And as much as I highly disdain the tendency of McCain and Graham to cheerlead overseas adventurism they, too, make a point: that America does not pursue long-term strategy.  Instead, we as a nation tend to knee-jerk our way through the violent side of foreign policy, from “firing a $2 million missile at a $10 tent” to “hit a camel in the butt,” to targeted “regime change actions” (Libya, 2011), to full-scale invasions of other countries (Afghanistan, 2001; Iraq, 2003).  In these cases, Congress either stood by or unconstitutionally deferred its powers to the President to commit the nation to force without a solid understanding, much less discussion or public acknowledgement of what is required of the full range of national power in order to achieve sustained results worth the cost in lives, material and national reputation.

In short, we’re really good at “release the hounds.”  We have lost the ability, however, to tie that choice of violence and death to long-term gains in national security.  America has lost much of its moral standing in the world because of this.  The makers of those $2 million missiles, or the enormously expensive platforms used to deliver them, are the real winners in this chaos.  They need not worry about whether the use of their product results in a more just peace.  Quite the opposite — they benefit most when things are kept at a slow boil, requiring a relatively stable demand of such gadgets.  What’s not to like about the business model?  The public gets to cheer at the 6 o’clock news that “America is doing something;” military and civilian leaders get to look “strong;” the defense contractors earn more money, and life goes on.

Except for those who have to live with the realities our policies create.

I’m not an America-hater or a pacifist–in fact, I’m as far from them as one can be.  What I am is extremely distressed by our casual approach to war, as though it were some sort of professional spectator sport that happens to be covered by Fox and CNN instead of ESPN.  Because of that, what I’m about to say next will take a moment to digest.  Stay with me.  It’s simply this:

Commit or quit.

What do I mean by that?  I mean our nation needs to have a serious, broad discussion about what we see as our role in the world and what we’re willing to do to perform it.  And we  need to pay attention to the issues for a longer period than that required by NFL Sunday Ticket.  Stop looking only at the individual instances of marketplaces being shelled (Yugoslavia, 1990s), the constant eruptions of ethnic and religious groups abusing and killing each other, or other emotionally heartbreaking headlines.  These evil events are endemic to the fallen human nature–they have raged since the beginning of time, and will do so until the end of it.  That means any nation has to pick and choose its battles.  What is the desired result of getting involved in a particular issue?  Are we committed to pay the price to see things through to that conclusion?  For instance, did the American people decide for themselves that defending Taiwan against mainland China is worth the potential loss of American cities?  If so, by what process was that decision reached?  Before you say “Congress,” ask yourself: if push comes to shove, will the American people back the defense guarantees “Congress” has handed out like candy to countries around the world?  Many potential adversaries are starting to ask that very question.

This isn’t a game, people.  We spent eight years in Iraq.  Are they better off?  Are we?  It seems we had just enough national will to make both countries miserable, but not enough commitment to see something productive result from that mess.  If we go all “Rolling Thunder” on ISIS now, what will be the impact after the news has turned its attention to whatever Miley Cyrus or the Kardashians are doing these days?  Given our short attention span it’s not unlikely that, after dropping bombs for a couple weeks (and more importantly, ordering replacements), we’ll declare success, go home, and ignore a more slow-motion slaughter of the same people we originally said we’d intervened to protect.  On top of that, what is the long-term outlook for that small percentage of Americans called upon to do the fighting and dying in these situations, for policies that are increasingly incoherent?

Until and unless we as a people decide what is worth killing and dying for, and our leaders devise full visions (including defined end states) for how to pursue those agreed-upon objectives, we need to reign in our trigger-happy fingers.  Given the effects of decades of massive immigration from all over the world, multiculturalism and a dumbing down of the citizenry’s understanding of the world and its history, I’m not sure we can even have that conversation, much less reach a consensus.

Regardless, we definitely need–right now–to constrain the ability of any one person, regardless of their party affiliation, to ‘send in the troops’ first and consult Congress later.

That’s the mark of an Empire, not a Republic.  Sadly, it’s not the only mark evident these days.  And remember, it was the bumbling, colliding ambitions of several Empires–British, German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman–that brought on the insanity of the First World War.  Do we really think, only a century later, that we’re so much smarter?