Friday, February 23, 2007

It's About Victory, Not a Man

In response to the request for renewing my membership in the Nebraska Republican Party, I politely voiced my displeasure with Chuck Hagel’s stand on the war on terror. I wasn’t rude to the nice young lady on the other end of the line, no need to shoot the messenger, nor was I going to dismiss myself from the GOP. But it was an opportune time to share my views.

The young lady, likely armed with provided talking points, replied that no other Senator was more conservative than Senator Hagel. She pointed to his voting with the President 98% of the time last year as proof. No other Senator could boast such a thing.

I had to pause and quickly recall what I had just told her moments earlier. Nope, I hadn’t said anything about voting with or against the President, but that’s where the talking points trained her to go.

I had only shared my disappointment with Senator Hagel’s unwillingness to fight for victory, nothing more. But a nearly irrelevant response was given from an errantly based set of talking points.

I should have started back in, Marine Corps style, with a “What in the wide, wide world of sports does that have to do with the Senator accepting defeat in Iraq? I wasn’t talking about every other issue….”

But I let her off the hook and simply restated “that on the most important issue of our time, he’s on the wrong side of the argument.” I didn’t have the heart to shoot the messenger.

Not only was her response off-base, but its validity was questionable depending upon how one defines “conservative.” Anyone who received that response could have asked her how conservative it’s been to let federal spending spiral out of control with the approval of the Senate and no veto from the President. There could have been arguments about illegal immigration or “No Child Left Behind” which some on the right are fanatically opposed to. A neo-conservative would have argued that we should have bombed Iran and North Korea quite some time ago and that both George Bush and Chuck Hagel were not “conservative” in that regard.

But none of those topics implied in her answer were relevant to my point. I hadn’t shared disappointment in him not voting with the President 100% of the time, I don’t expect him, or any other Senator to. I was stating my disappointment with our state’s Republican Senator not arguing for victory.

Because, when laid bare, that’s what the argument is. Are you willing to fight for victory against terrorists or not? The question is not “do you vote or agree with the President, how often, and on what issues?” It is whether or not you are willing to accept, or even argue for defeat, and then be willing to face the guaranteed consequences of doing so.

What’s at stake here is much more important than how often one agrees with George W. Bush on all the issues. The same would hold true for any other President during war-time. At stake here is the long-term security of our country which directly affects our freedoms, thus it supersedes the argument about any one man because it affects all of us.

This President, and every other President, is only a temporary care-taker, charged with preserving the freedoms endowed upon us by our Creator to which we are all obligated to defend.

But somehow this argument about the challenge to those rights posed by terrorists has become focused on supporting or not supporting George W. Bush, the man. It has mutated into a debate about him personally. It should be about leading our country to victory over Islamic extremists intent on destroying our nation, but sadly it is not.

Take a stroll through leftist websites and you’ll find the argument is a personal one about George W. Bush, first, foremost, and quite often the only one made. Read the comments on discussion boards intended for debate on the war, and you’ll find many comments that are not actually about the war, but are personal attacks against George Bush. You’ll be hard pressed to find arguments for our nation, but find no shortage of arguments against that one man.

The debates in the House and Senate last week noticeably lacked rhetoric reflecting a desire for victory in Iraq and the rest of the war on terror. They represented the path our country has taken. We have lost our way, searching for personal answers about a man instead of our nation, its security or its future.

Many on the left lost their way and gave up the cause for victory over terrorists quite some time ago. They’ve since then made their stand, arguing against Bush, not for American victory.

But now it seems that some on the right have become confused about what the argument should be. It should be about the security and future of the nation, not whether you vote with this President on pork barrel spending.

Young party workers armed with talking points about the congruency of a politician’s voting record with that of George W. Bush’s indicates political leadership which has missed the point.

It’s time for all of us to get back on track and then focus on what this is truly about.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ignoring Iranian Attacks

If our Marines in Iraq caught a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Brigade (those responsible for training Shiite terrorists), caught him red-handed killing Americans, escorted him back to Washington, and planted him on Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd’s desk, do you think he might believe the Iranians were involved in attacks on our armed forces?

No, I didn’t think so either.

If the Marines guarding the Iranian operative were to show up at the Senator’s office while still wearing full combat gear with the blood of a fallen brother, their own sweat, and desert dust caked to their utilities, the operative kissed Mr. Dodd on both cheeks, and then confessed his guilt, might the Senator suspect something at that point?

Maybe. But as the aftermath of 9/11 proves, the whole thing would likely be forgotten when it came time for the tough task of actually confronting Iran on the subject, even if the confrontation were limited to actions inside Iraq.

As has been the case with so many politicians, he would most likely and conveniently let the incident slip from his mind, or at least remove himself to a position lacking responsibility where he felt free to criticize without taking decisive action. He would likely go back to appeasing his base when it became politically necessary to do so, rather than acting in accordance with the gravity of the situation.

After all, there are no political points to be scored right now for believing, or even suspecting Iranian complicity in the attacks on our troops. The political advantage seems to lie with taking the side of those who have called for the end of the United States.

Right now the political advantage lies in taking the exact opposite position of the White House, regardless of how short-sighted or irresponsible it might be, and no matter how closely it aligns your position to that of a country whose leader has called for the destruction of ours.

By accusing the Administration of making up the whole thing to start a war with Iran, Senator Dodd trivialized the fact that 170 of our troops have been killed and another 620 wounded by molten balls of metal, usually copper, hurtled at them from explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) because the origin of these weapons is still in doubt.

So we should now expect media watchdog Jane Fonda and her friends who recently gathered at the National Conference for Media Reform to call on the media to investigate these attacks on their fellow Americans and to verify the accuracy of the intelligence and origin of the weapons, right?

No, I didn’t think so either.

After all, their meeting in Memphis was a gathering of the anti-military, “blame America first crowd” assembled to chastise our media and put them on notice for not being liberal enough. They informed our press that they’d failed by encouraging the war on terror when they should have been stopping it.

Expecting a group like that to support an investigation which might ultimately reveal their heroes as villains and their villains are heroes is unrealistic.

So what are fair expectations for the Senator and Jane’s blame America first crowd?

What would be a fair position for the Senator to take is one that focuses on concern for the troops whose lives the reports referred to. It would be a fair position to express concern that intelligence failures of the past dictate further verification into the involvement of the Iranians. It would be fair to demand answers as soon as possible because the lives of America’s young men and women are potentially being threatened by Iran.

However, what he delivered was disregard for those who bear the brunt of those attacks and complete dismissal of the information on Iranian weapons that was likely gathered by the very forces confronting Iranian operatives in Iraq. What is inexcusable is the willingness to neglect the effect on our troops in order to make a political statement.

As for the Media Reformers, little can be expected from a group comprised of so many members who seem to exist solely for the purpose of undermining and abolishing the very rights which allow them to exist. I would expect nothing but continued hypocrisy from them with regard to the kind of investigative reporting they demand except when that reporting could potentially benefit those they despise.

In the end, we should all be concerned, without conditions, for all of our fellow Americans when evidence suggests that an entity from abroad, whether they are an individual or nation, is threatening any of us. And then we should all have no doubts, no hesitation, in openly expressing concern for each other, for taking care of each other, and standing together to defend each other against any threat. Even when that means fighting for those with whom we disagree or who may despise us.

Ultimately we are all Americans and should be willing to fight for each other, not just with one another.

National Guard Equipment Shortages

The old adage about "doing more with less" has a corollary. The corollary is that at some point, when you've been given too little, you have no choice but to do less.

Today this corollary applies to the equipment shortages being experienced by our National Guard units. In the State of Nebraska alone, there currently exists an $80 million shortage of equipment. Nationwide, the National Guard Bureau estimates the total equipment shortfalls at $21 billion.

At the end of January, U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates demanding this problem be addressed and that the Fiscal Year 2008 budget include full funding for all equipment needs.

The letter noted equipment shortages for the Nebraska National Guard including everything from night vision goggles to tractor trailers. Correspondence I received from Sen. Nelson's office listed deficits including generators, flood lights, radios, night vision goggles, tents, welders, fire fighting and medical equipment, machine guns, grenade launchers, mortars, pistols, rifles, fork lifts, trucks, vans, trailers and complete semi trailer trucks.

These shortages have consequences for the training readiness of individual soldiers, the operational readiness of entire units, and the ability to deploy our Guard units for domestic contingencies or as a strategic reserve in armed conflict.

National Guard and Reserve units are typically short of equipment, even in peacetime, but always make due even though they're somewhat underequipped. It's not usually a readiness limiting scenario.

To address this, in theory, there is a mythical storehouse of equipment somewhere in the military supply system ready to fully equip a unit when it gets mobilized. To some degree that happens. But we've learned the limits of that system since mobilizing for the war on terror.
Because enough equipment does not exist within the military supply system to fully outfit each and every unit when mobilized, units rely on a system of "cross leveling" or "cross decking" to fulfill the needs of deploying units. Equipment is transferred from non-deploying to deploying units. This took place at the onset of the war and still occurs to some degree. This leaves the non-deploying units which are already short on equipment, even more so.

The problem is exacerbated under the process by which much of the equipment is then left in theatre under the plan for Theatre Provided Equipment. This is no more than leaving an entire unit's gear in the combat zone for a new unit to fall in on.

So, our National Guard units which were already underequipped were then further depleted by deploying units, who left the equipment in the combat zone, and have since then had very little, if any, of that equipment replaced. According to a Government Accountability Office report from last March, only three plans for replacement of National Guard equipment had been approved by the Defense Department with 33 others in various stages of approval. And even after approval, the estimates are two to three years before all the replacements become available.

This scenario generates an incredible disservice to those of whom we are asking to do more and more of the fighting. Without the equipment for training, drill weekends and annual trainings become a series of lectures about how to run a convoy rather than going out and conducting one. They become lectures on employing and firing heavy guns instead of live fire exercises. Radio operators are forced to read about their radios rather than actually use them. This shortage of equipment for training limits or denies their ability to hone the essential skills to "shoot, move, and communicate" which keep them alive in combat.

A December 2006 report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) notes this impact on small unit readiness among our National Guard and Reserve forces. The CRS report also explains the implications for larger units and it addresses the problems equipment shortcomings have for the unique role of the National Guard in handling disaster and security situations here at home.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, National Guard units activated for rescue and recovery operations experienced shortages of equipment necessary to conduct those operations. Many units reported a lack of vehicles to transport personnel to the Gulf area and others had so many vehicles in various stages of disrepair from a lack of available replacement parts that their arrivals were delayed because of mechanical issues. Other reports address Guard units which could not communicate amongst themselves or with other units because of shortfalls in communication equipment.

This is a scenario which could easily be replayed anytime, anywhere in the U.S. should we suffer another large natural disaster or terrorist attack.

As of today, funding for reset (replacement equipment) has been requested, but much of it is either held up in some sort of bureaucratically influenced, red tape request for details, or has simply not been approved or allocated.

With concerns about future terrorist attacks, illegal immigration, natural disasters, and deployments in normal rotations or as a strategic reserve in support of the war on terror, the current equipment readiness state of our National Guard units is absolutely unacceptable. Sen. Nelson is right in demanding immediate action and full funding to correct the situation.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Questions, Messages, and Consequences

At a minimum, at least every six months or so, we should ask ourselves if Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists are right? Not in ideology, but in strategy. Do they pursue a proper strategy for victory over the United States?

Their strategy has always been to defeat America with “the death of a thousand cuts,” to defeat the will of the American people. They believe our nation is weak and that we can not sustain ourselves during a prolonged fight while suffering casualties. They often cite our actions, the defeat of the American will, in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia as examples.

So, are they right? Do we possess a weak national resolve? Are we unable to endure a tough, prolonged fight, even against an enemy whose stated goal is our destruction?

The war against terror is not over and the outcome undecided, but we give them no reason to doubt the potential success of their strategy.

The plethora of proposed Senate resolutions against the war on terror in Iraq, the weekend’s anti-war protest in Washington D.C., and the lopsided coverage of the war in the mainstream media with predictable, resultant poll numbers all lend credence to proving Al Qaeda right.

And while demonstrating to Al Qaeda that they are right, our actions send messages to the rest of the world.

We put the world on notice about our national resolve and we tell the world, once again, to question whether or not we can be counted on to stand with them when times get tough.

Don’t think we’ve sent that message before? Ask any of the South Vietnamese who watched in horror as our last helicopter pulled out in the ‘70’s. Ask a Lebanese Christian who has been fighting Hezbollah. Ask any Afghani who suffered under the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Ask any Somali we left holding an empty bag. Ask the Iraqi Kurds or Shiites after we abandoned them in the early 90’s.

We’re edging closer and closer to repeating this mistake in Iraq. We’re about to demonstrate to the world that the American public doesn’t have the resolve for a hard fight.

There was a time when America could always be counted on to fight through to victory. Time and again, up to and through World War II, we proved our mettle and our nation’s standing as a courageous leader through the most difficult of endeavors.

But since then we’ve given the world cause to question our resolve during arduous campaigns. We’ve not always shown the will to win because we’ve been more concerned with domestic political gains. We’ve not had the will because personal agendas have been placed ahead of the responsibility to ask tough questions about the consequences of pursuing defeat.

What impact do our actions have on those groups or nations seeking freedom and democracy? All we’ve shown them are the weaknesses of democracy, possible when diligent and courageous souls fail to step forward and execute the mandates of liberty.

Why will others want to ally with us in the future if we add to a track record of not being a reliable partner?

What are the consequences of letting Iran fill the void, the vacuum that’s sure to be left after surrendering in Iraq? Do we really want Iran to fill that void, only to have the Sunni Muslim world object, and then have them fight it out when Iran continues its belligerence? Do we choose sides then then? Are we prepared for the impact on our economy with that much of the oil producing world engaged in all out war?

How will we handle the calls for international intervention when rampant genocide develops after we leave Iraq before the job’s done? Will the world demand our leadership and action in Iraq the same as they now do in Darfur? Or will they not care about the Iraqi’s, the same way they didn’t care about them when Saddam Hussein was murdering them en masse?

What are the long term costs for being so willing to let others suffer the consequences of our actions?

Do we quit fighting Al Qaeda in Afghanistan? After all, our Marines battle Al Qaeda every day in Iraq. But if the members of Al Qaeda fighting in Iraq are not a threat worth pursuing, why worry about them in Afghanistan, or any other place in the world for that matter?

What is the price for putting domestic political agendas ahead of victory for our nation?

Buried somewhere in our nation’s soul is the resolve to fight and the will to win. Hidden behind a veil of selfish politics is a beacon of freedom ready to once again light the way for the world. But who among us can step forward to unearth the treasure of courageous victory and unveil the light of liberty?

In a nation built upon “We the people,” futility and tyranny await those who seek one person to lead them to greatness. The answer, our nation’s future, lies in the coming together of many who love the promise and exercise of freedom. The answer lies in “We the people” who are willing to sacrifice, to persevere, and stand resolute in pursuit of victory, as was done through the fires which forged our nation.