Sunday, October 29, 2006

Histories Lessons on Intentions

I often marvel at the intellect of our forefathers.

The wisdom, foresight, and intelligence they displayed when writing our Constitution and the arguments they made to the people for acceptance never cease to capture my imagination and amaze me. They obviously had a vision for the endurance of that document and the applicability of those arguments, as both continue to guide our country and provide clarification to our nation’s direction.

In forging the future of our nation, they enumerated for us specific rights granted by what became known as The Bill of Rights.

But through The Federalist Papers, in arguing for a republic, for a federal government with individual state governments instead of individual sovereign state nations or small confederacies of states, they also provided some insight and caution which notes the existence of a line between individual rights and the needs of a nation.

In their time, the argument for individual sovereign states or small confederacies of states was being made, at least partially, on the grounds of the rights of individuals. It was proposed that a republic would deny the rights of individuals, and only through smaller entities would an individual’s rights be preserved. “Scare tactics” of the day were utilized to invoke fear that a republic would strip away the rights they’d just recently fought for.

In rebuttal, Alexander Hamilton pointed out where the true threat to their rights lay, “An over scrupulous jealousy of danger to the rights of the people…will be represented as mere pretence and artifice; the bait for popularity at the expense of public good.” And “…a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people, than under the forbidding appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government.”

He and John Jay went on to describe the “public good” and “firmness and efficiency of government” to include matters of national strength, or in today’s terms, national security.

In this light, their sentiments and observations are extremely applicable today, particularly as they relate to our current national security situation and the positions of the far left and their cohorts at the ACLU.

The radical left used an overly ambitious strategy based on “rights” when attacking the use of military tribunals for suspected terrorists caught on the field of battle and the methods used to obtain information from them. As a result, the courts demanded further legislation from Congress. The Administration then worked with Congress to develop and approve the legislation necessary to satisfy both the needs of the courts as well as the national security needs of the people. Yet Senators like Russ Feingold and his friends at the ACLU attacked this new legislation and poured out doom and gloom for the rights of all.

They continue to exploit the argument for civilian rights and trials of enemy combatants caught on the field of battle. They argue against the interrogation methods that have prevented attacks against us, accusing those who obtain the information and those who protect us of torturing prisoners. They try to make us imagine that our servicemen and public servants are physically harming prisoners, using the most heinous, harmful tactics our imaginations can summon. They argue that moral equivalency exists between stress positions and cutting, cold rooms and dismemberment, loud music and breaking of bones, water boarding and beheading. They do so to scare us into believing our individual liberties are at risk.

They also fought against The Patriot Act, even boasting when they thought they’d killed it. They fight against domestic phone surveillance of Al Qaeda. They argue against tracking the financial transactions of our known enemies. They do so all in the name of guarding our rights and freedoms.

All the while they fulfill the words of Alexander Hamilton. His words are nearly prophetic in this case.

They’ve made vicious attack after vicious attack, disguising these attacks as in the best interest of our rights. Yet their intent is very clear. It is their will to power which drives their position. It is the “dangerous ambition” spoken of so long ago which drives them. All the while they attempt to hide it behind the “mask of zeal for the rights of the people.” The argument is simply “the bait for popularity” in trying to regain power in Washington.

Normally, all of us would be appreciative of someone arguing on our behalf, for the rights we believe are endowed upon us by our Creator. But not so in this case, where the intentions are obviously twisted. If it were for our protection, I would accept the position of Feingold and the ACLU. But the warning delivered to us so long ago allows us to recognize their true intentions. Because they argue against the security of our nation, they actually argue against our individual best interests and the longevity of our freedom.

And where do their positions lead? Where did our forefathers warn us their motives would take us? They tell us that theirs “has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism…and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics the greatest number have begun their career by paying obsequious court to the people, commencing Demagogues and ending Tyrants.”

Acting for Self Interest

“But if we are to be told by a foreign Power... what we shall do, and what we shall not do, we have Independence yet to seek, and have contended hitherto for very little.” George Washington
Makes me wonder why in the world we put so much stock in the European Union and United Nations when it comes to the national security interests of our country.
When did we lose sight of those ideals which adamantly insistent upon our retention of independence and liberty above all else? When did we lose sight of what was in the best interest of our country and demand its submission to the whims of the international community?
The day politics and the will to power trumped national security in America, that’s when. Although not a uniquely American problem, it is a predicament which appears to have only become a problem in America.
Other countries don’t appear to have let politics trump their own national interests or national security the way we have.
Through the course of all the negotiations and diplomacy which have taken place at the United Nations and European Union concerning Iraq and Iran, and the six parties involved with the North Korea situation, other countries have acted in their own best interest.
Concerning Iraq, France worked vigorously against us. They had much to hide in the “U.N. Oil for Food Scandal” and much to preserve economically in regard to their trade with Iraq. I understand why they worked against us. They were acting in their own best interests.
But, when we acted in the interest of our national security, others abroad didn’t like it. Our actions were contrary to the future plans they had for their countries, they were looking out for themselves while demanding that we shouldn’t.
North Korea has acted in what it considers to be its own best interest, shielded at every turn by China who is doing the same. After voting for sanctions they are now considering not enforcing them. But why shouldn’t both these countries act as such and why is it a surprise that they have? Sure I think Kim Jong Il is an absolute mad-man with nothing to offer the world but instability and nuclear fallout. But, he’s acting in what he considers his own best interests. No U.S. administration, of either party, was going to stop him from doing what he was intent on doing. Clinton failed and so did Bush. Not because they were ineffective, but because Kim Jong Il was going to move forward with a nuclear program either way.
We also have a tough situation in Iran. They’ve repeatedly thumbed their nose at the entire international community. But why shouldn’t they? They’re acting in what they feel are their own best interests. I don’t like it or agree with it, but I get it.
Russia and China are assisting Iran, because they obviously feel it’s in their best interests to do so. So, why does it come as a surprise that the European Union and United Nations have been ineffective at dealing with Iran? After all, Iran is going to do what Iran thinks it needs to do, regardless of international carrots and sticks, American administration in place, or diplomacy intended to change their minds.
These may be seemingly insurmountable obstacles, but they don’t leave us in an untenable situation. That is until America is not also allowed to act in its best interest because at every turn liberals here put their own interests ahead of America’s, demand their right to hypocrisy and a resolute need for following the United Nations when politically expedient, and then throw tantrums demanding that all of us submit our security to their political interests.
Their politics and their will to power trump all else. They take positions opposite of what is right, simply for the sake of doing so. Their division of America for these reasons decreases the power America is capable of wielding in the world.
The liberals howled because we were “going it alone” in Iraq. And now they howl because we aren’t going it alone on Iran and are bellowing about failures because we didn’t go it alone with North Korea in pursuit of a Bill Clinton proven path to failure.
The actions of liberals here parallel the actions of those who work so aggressively against our country. Their own interests trump the national security of our country. Their will to political power comes ahead of all else as evidenced by their hypocritical, inconsistent positions on Iraq, Iran, and North Korea.
Sometimes our best interests intersect with the interests of other countries and it is right to pursue multi-lateral options and solutions. I understand that our interests are often the same as another countries and working toward common goals is a necessity. However, our words and deeds must remain focused and unified on our own security when pursuing such goals. None of us should be so willing to subject our security to politics and the will to power.
So until liberals lose their obsession with the United Nations, can honestly stand on a position of America first politics second, and place their own interests and will to power behind national security, America will remain divided and weakened with respect to its status on the world stage.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Shifting Mentality

A very good friend of mine is back in Iraq now. He’s leading a team of Marines who are training Iraqi soldiers. Not only am I happy for my friend because he’s doing what he loves to do, but I’m proud of his being part of the future of Iraq.

The future of Iraq is not just about standing up their army and rebuilding roads, schools, or hospitals. It’s about rebuilding the Iraqi people as a people. And that’s what my friend is doing, as much as helping to stand up their army.

In the documentary “My Country, Iraq” there is an interview with what appears to be a local Sheik whose words are rather insightful into his country’s situation. He speaks to the fact that the biggest casualty of Saddam Hussein’s era and the war which ended it was not the local cement factories or other infrastructure. He said the biggest casualty of Saddam Hussein was the mentality of the Iraqi people. It would take much longer to rebuild the mentality of the Iraqi people than it would any of the physical structures.

I agree. The biggest challenge we and the Iraqi people have faced is getting an entire generation (my generational counterparts in Iraq) to step to the plate, lead, administrate, and be free citizens in a new form of government which serves their best interest, but in which no one has any experience implementing or operating. After 30 years of Saddam Hussein’s oppression, there was a huge vacuum of refined leadership capability and a lack of the concepts for leadership.

Enter the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). According to Multi-National Forces Iraq spokesman, Major General Caldwell, “the Provincial Reconstruction Teams teach, coach, mentor Iraqi civil leaders at all levels in the methods and means for developing governance capacity, promoting increased security, rule of law, political and economic development, and assisting provincial administrations to meet the basic needs or essential services of their populations.”

It was announced this week that 7 of the 10 planned PRTs are now in place to accomplish the tasks detailed by Major General Caldwell and move the Iraqi people forward; to help overcome that which has been the biggest obstacle to rebuilding Iraq.

The PRTs also represent a light at the end of the tunnel for our being able to leave a stable Iraq because “PRTs also transition the rebuilding efforts from us to the Iraqi’s…and leverage the Iraqi’s ability to build their future.” They are not only an essential step to rebuilding the mentality of the Iraqi people and providing the skills for self governance, but essential to empowering the Iraqi’s to rebuild their own country.

But of course security is critical to self-governance and that’s where my friend comes in again, training Iraqi soldiers. At this point, there are, according to Major General Caldwell, “a total of six Iraqi army division headquarters, 30 brigades, 89 battalions that are in the lead in their respective areas of operation.” Even though the Iraqi soldiers continue to be prime targets themselves, there has obviously been a shift in mentality of many Iraqi’s to forego the risk and join the army.

We also see a shift of attitude in the Al Anbar province. A report by the L.A. Times this week shows how the preference for action and initiative has taken hold and is growing. They reported that an agreement among tribal leaders there has held together. The tribal leaders had pledged to “clean out Al Qaeda insurgents” and were “as good as their word.” After the Iraqi’s had suffered “more than 8,000” casualties at the hands of the terrorists and facing “insurgents' demands for adherence to strict Islamic law,” they went after the Jihadists and have been capturing or in some cases killing them.

But, Baghdad is said by some to be the key for success in Iraq. Obviously it’s been an explosive place the last month or so. However, we’ve also focused much effort in Baghdad and comments by retired Major General Robert Scales in a Washington Times article this week show the degree of our success. He explained that the situation in some ways “in Baghdad is classic insurgency warfare…The enemy believes it is losing control of regions or neighborhoods and tries to reverse the trend with a spike in violence.” Obviously our efforts are working if the enemy is reacting as such.

But the real hope for Baghdad comes again with what appears to be a shift in mentality of the Iraqi’s for action. The leadership of the country has joined with local tribal, religious, military, and political leaders and formed a coalition to confront the problems there. An almost unheard of proposition and practice in a country which seems so fractured when viewed through our nightly news reports. There is hope in action such as this.

It is right that Condoleezza Rice flew to Iraq this week to push the process forward and assert a new sense of urgency into it. Combining this new sense of urgency with what is becoming a pattern of preference for action among the Iraqi’s are mindsets that can merge into a powerful new synergy for hope all of us can have for the future of Iraq.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Who Should Lead?

Newspaper Publish Date of 5 October 06

The rhetoric leading up to this year’s election clearly portrays a difference between the Republican and Democratic views of what it takes to defend this nation. It leads to the often asked “who is more capable of leading America during a time of war?”

When asked this “more capable” question my conservative attitudes made the answer obvious and easy for me. But I also pondered the question from a military view and wondered if military service were used as a barometer, an indicator of propensity for action and a willingness to fight an enemy, would it give any insight for answering the question. Specifically, did the beliefs of the Republican populace, not politicians in D.C., move them to “put up” more when it came time to actually fight, or did the Democratic populace “put up” more, or were they equal?

If we use the typical standard of red states (those who voted for President Bush in 2004) representing Republican America, while blue states represent Democratic America, the percentage of military recruits among equal numbers of youth from each state is illustrative of the difference in views about the defense of this nation.

Research from the National Priorities Project released in September indicates that of the top 24 states who gave the highest ratios of sons and daughters for military service in 2005 per 1000 of their youth ages 15-24, 8 of the top 10 and 21 of the top 24 were red states.

An analysis of Defense Department and Census Bureau data collected by the Heritage Foundation revealed that of the states who gave the highest percentages of sons and daughters for military service in 2003 per 1000 of their youth ages 18-24, 15 of the top 20 were red states. Of the 20 states which gave a disproportionately low number of their youth to the service in 2003, 13 were blue states. Their study also confirmed a “strong Southern military tradition” (red states) and “found an exceptional tendency for lower than average military participation in New England” (blue states).

But does that necessarily mean those states have sons and daughters who tend to have a red state mentality themselves? Although not completely scientific, but still the most comprehensive representation of military attitudes available, the most recent Military Times polling of military members showed 60% of respondents identified themselves as Republican and 13% identified themselves as Democrats. Additionally, pre-election Army Times polls in 2004 showed 73% of members planning to vote for President Bush and 18% planning to vote for Democratic challenger John Kerry.

The Heritage Foundation study did not discuss an unwillingness to serve under a Commander in Chief of a different political stripe, as it looked at data from 1999 and 2003.

The object of these observations is not to portray the political leanings of the military. Nor is it an attempt to segregate military members based on their backgrounds. I firmly believe my brothers and sisters in arms serve their country equally well and with the same spirit regardless of background or political persuasion.

But these observations do help us understand manifestations of the philosophies and ideologies about our national defense held by different groups. It’s the philosophies and ideologies of the places where military members come from we are interested in because they bring clarity to the differences between actions Democrats and Republicans are willing to take for the defense of this nation.

Many distinctions can be made about attitudes and beliefs throughout the country. One way to solicit the differences could be illustrated by the responses given when asked to choose between fighting for Constitutional protections for terrorists or fighting against the terrorists in defense of the country the Constitution represents. When confronted, do they choose to fight first for the rights of the terrorists or fight against the terrorists? Chances are New Englanders will tend to answer the question differently than Southerners. The military service decisions of our youth from different states or areas can then be used as a barometer for war time leadership preference because they are the manifestation, the reflection of the same values and beliefs which drive our answers to these types of questions.

There are differences in attitude toward service to the country and how much is willingly sacrificed to insure our safety. Again, I’m not talking about the military members themselves; all who join must be willing to make every sacrifice, even the ultimate sacrifice when called upon to do so. But the prevailing attitudes that exist in areas where military service is encouraged and supported indicate a heightened recognition of the need and willingness to defend our country. In order for youth to take action and be willing to make the sacrifices required of military service, the predominant atmosphere among the families, neighborhoods, and hometowns which urge and support their service must include recognition of the threats to our country and a penchant for action against them.

When given the choice between leadership derived from a philosophy which lacks understanding of the threats we face and is reluctant or even unwilling to take action when confronted by these threats or leadership that recognizes danger and willingly takes decisive action against these threats as needed, I’ll choose the latter.