Category Archives: “War on Terror”

Rules of Engagement are killing Americans

The military’s self-sacrificial Rules of Engagement are costing American lives andthreatening the success of the war against Islamic Fundamentalism. This is not to say that the rules present a potential threat,but a real and concrete one. When you send your military to war, but do not allow them to safeguard their own lives, you make a mockery of the principles upon which that war is being fought. How can you claim to fight for individual rights,yet sacrifice the livesofthose who defend our liberties in the name of those who threaten them?

Yet that’s what the rules do. Marcus Luttrell, the only survivorin a group ofNavy SEALS fighting in Afghanistan in 2005 recounts the events in Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of Seal Team 10. Diana West of The Washington Times summarizes:

Dropped behind enemy lines to kill or capture a Taliban kingpin who commanded between 150-200 fighters, the SEAL team was unexpectedly discovered in the early stages of a mission whose success, of course, depended on secrecy. Three unarmed Afghan goatherds, one a teenager, had stumbled across the Americans’ position.

This presented the soldiers with an urgent dilemma: What should they do? If they let the Afghans go, they would probably alert the Taliban to the their whereabouts. This would mean a battle in which the Americans were outnumbered by at least 35 to 1…If the Americans didn’t let the goatherds go — if they killed them, there being no way to hold them — the Americans would avoid detection and, most likely, leave the area safely. On a treeless mountainscape far from home, four of our bravest patriots came to the ghastly conclusion that the only way to save themselves was forbidden by the rules of engagement. Such an action would set off a media firestorm, and lead to murder charges for all.

The SEALs sent the goatherds on their way. One hour later, a sizeable Taliban force attacked, beginning a horrendous battle that resulted not only in the deaths of Mr. Luttrell’s three SEAL teammates, but also the deaths of 16 would-be rescuers — eight additional SEALS and eight Army special operations soldiers whose helicopter was shot down by a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade.

The first chapter of Luttrell’s book can be found here. Of the Rules of Engagement (ROE), he says:

[From] the standpoint of the U.S. combat soldier, Ranger, SEAL, Green Beret, or whatever, those ROE represent a very serious conundrum. We understand we must obey them because they happen to come under the laws of the country we are sworn to serve. But they represent a danger to us; they undermine our confidence on the battlefield in the fight against world terror. Worse yet, they make us concerned, disheartened, and sometimes hesitant.

I can say from firsthand experience that those rules of engagement cost the lives of three of the finest U.S. Navy SEALs who have ever served.

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President Putin, we don’t really care what you think

As I covered last month, Vladamir Putin of Russia has expressed his concerns about Bush’s plan to install a missile defense system in Europe to protect against possible attacks from Iran, accusing Bush of resuming the Cold War.

However according to a press release from the Missile Defense Advocacy AllianceBush isn’t the only one in this country who doesn’t give a hoot what Russia thinks about our right to self-defense:

The United States Senate passed an amendment yesterday 90-5 declaring the threat from Iran both in ballistic missiles and nuclear proliferation and put forward a policy to develop and deploy missile defense as soon as technically feasible to defend NATO, our deployed forces and the United States from Iran.

As grim as the war is, and as grim as the political climate is for launching a real military offensive to secure a victory against Islamists, it is comforting to know that there are some lows we have not reached.

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Lieberman leads the charge, however weak.

To follow-up on a previous post, Sen Joe Lieberman is continuing to outdo his Republican comrades by taking a stand against Islamic Totalitarianism in all its forms, and not merely Al Qaeda. The Senate approved his amendment proposing to confront Iran on its attacks on American soldiers in Iraq.

This is the beginning of a longer conversation that I hope we will have here in Washington about Iran and the deadly and destabilizing role it is playing in Iraq, the Middle East, and the world,” said Senator Lieberman. “The threat posed by Iran to our soldiers, to our allies, and to our national security is a truth that cannot be wished or waved away. Congress today began the process of confronting it.

Read the news release here.

The question I pose to Democrats and Republicans alike is this: We know what ideology and what people threaten our nation’s security. The time of denial anddiplomacy has passed. After decades of half-measures and compromise, our enemy has not been disuaded, and their resolve to kill us is as strong as ever. Now what are you going to do about it?

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Embargo on Palestinian State lifted – concrete-bound pragmatism in action

Following the expulsion of the Hamas movement from the Palestinian Authority by President Mahmoud Abbas, the Bush Administration lifted its embargo and pledged its support for this “moderate” Islamic government in forging a peace with Israel.

What makes Abbas “moderate” and worthy of US support? According to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice,

We intend to lift our financial restrictions on the Palestinian government, which has accepted previous agreements with Israel and rejects the path of violence.

What does this mean, that Abbas has “reject[ed] the path of violence”? According to Abbas himself, peaceful compromise is the answer because the Palestinians are outgunned. In ’05 when he was elected, he was quoted as saying,

The only way is the choice of peace. It is impossible to liberate Palestine with the use of weapons because the balance of power is not with us.

What’s to say that when he receives the financial backing to shift that balance of power (such as from lifting embargoes?), he won’tgo from “moderate” to “extremist”?

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Lieberman is a step in the right direction, but is the step big enough?

[photopress:160px_Joelieb.jpg,full,alignleft]Senator Joe Lieberman said recently that if Iran continues to arm groups fighting Americans in Iraq, we should bomb them. Although I think their ideological and financial support of terrorism should have made them a primary target from the start, it’s nice to see the heat pointed in the right direction for once.

Lieberman said on “Face The Nation”:

I think we’ve got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq…And to me, that would include a strike into… over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers.

So, pretty good, right?

It should be noted, however, that Lieberman has been a huge supporter of Bush’s war in Iraq, which has had as its goal to “sacrifice for the liberty of strangers”. Bush’s policies have lead to the unnecessary deaths of American soldiers fighting not for our nation’s security, but for Iraq’s right to establish its own Islamic theocracy.

The Senator in a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition recalled a conversation he had with a colonel in Iraq, who told him that “we believe in why we are fighting here, we want to finish this fight. And we know we can win it.” Lieberman argued throughout the speech that US presence in Iraq was essential to winning the war, and that pulling out would be a victory for Al Qaeda.

But what exactly does “winning” mean, according to the goals of this war?

To achieve victory means to accomplish some objective. What is the objective of the war in Iraq? To “sacrifice for the liberty of strangers”, to put our soldiers in harm’s way for the benefit of Iraqis. The question is, how does this make us safer, and at what point will we have “won”?

I will give Sen Lieberman some credit for strong words. He seems committed to fighting and defeating Islamic terrorism, and his rhetoric is not burdened with the altruistic baggage that Bush’s is. In other words, his implicit goal is just. However because he does not distinguish between a war to defeat an enemy and a war to “spread democracy”, he supports Bush and so supports the immoral principles upon which Bush’s war is based.

I am both encouraged by Lieberman’s committment to defend our freedoms, and cautious about what this means to him. He may be a step in the right direction, though.

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Fight the Boycott

[photopress:400000_darfur.jpg,full,alignleft] The Anti-Defamation League has launched a website called Fight the Boycottto protest British calls for boycotts against Israel and claims that Israel is an apartheid state. The site argues that,

While the anti-Israel activists point to the divestment campaign against South African apartheid as an example of how such a campaign can achieve dramatic results, most recognize that the Israeli-Palestinian situation is distinctly different. First and foremost, pro-Palestinian advocates of divestment cannot offer the same moral clarity as the 80’s anti-apartheid campaigners did. The treatment of Arabs by the State of Israel can in no way be compared to the treatment of the Blacks of South Africa under apartheid.

There is no Israeli ideology, policy or plan to segregate, persecute or mistreat its Israeli Arab citizens, nor Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank (Israel already unilaterally disengaged from the Gaza Strip in August 2005). Apartheid South Africa was extraordinarily repressive, regulating every detail of the lives of its subjects – 90 percent of whom were non-white – on the basis of their skin color. By contrast, Israel is a democracy which encourages vibrant debate, which has a flourishing free press and which shares with other liberal democracies a core value: the equality of all its citizens before the law. [italics mine]

As the website’s ads succinctly point out, free press and equality before the law are not political values that Israel’s enemies (who are not the subject of this boycott) share.

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Ron Paul, and thou shalt obey the Constitution

[photopress:160px_Ron_paul1.jpg,full,alignleft]In a recent Dennis Miller interview, House Representative Ron Paul further illustrated for me exactly what it is that I find so bothersome about the Libertarian Party. Paul ran as the Libertarian candidate in the ’88 Presidential election, and is now a member of the Republican Liberty Caucus (RLC), a group within the Republican party that seeks to elect Libertarians to office.

In the interview, explaining why he believes in limited government, Paul says, “I think you follow the Constitution; that is virtually what we were instructed to do.”

The problem with Libertarianism is that it treats liberty as an axiom. The movement has no philosophic grounding with which to present a case for government’s primary function, to protect individual liberties. Instead, it accepts liberty without definition, and for that reason cannot offer a true defense of this principle. Rather than explain why government should be restricted to protecting our freedoms, what those freedoms consist of, Ron Paul takes this duty as a commandment passed down by the Founders. That is an example of the failure to think in principle.

When asked about his opposition to the Iraq War, Paul gives two reasons. First he explains that Iraq is the wrong target, which I agree with. However he goes on to say that Islamic terrorism is misunderstood. Radical Islam is not the cause, but US aggression in the Middle East:

If you understand what motivates suicide terrorism, you’ll realize it’s not radical Islam. The most motivating factor is that fact they are being occupied by a foreign force. They cannot mobilize, they cannot recruit. So we are serving the interests of Osama Bin Laden by him getting more recruits than ever before. Yes, there would be problems in the Middle East when we leave. Everybody knows we’re gonna leave because we’re gonna go broke; we won’t be able to afford it! All empires end because they eventually go broke. But who knows, there may be a tremendous incentive for them to settle their disputes. Already there’s a large number, it’s not the majority of them, of the members serving in the Parliament, Sunni’s and Shiites, that are talking to each other! And they’re getting ready to vote to ask us to leave. The Arab League could fill the vacuum; and they offered some peace treaties with Israel that are very attractive; by recognizing Israel. All kinds of good things can happen.

This is exactly the kind of evasion that is possible when you do not define your terms. Radical Islam is not behind the terrorism? Why, then, are there no atheists or Christians or Hindus in al Qaeda? Why is it Muslims who are bombing our embassies, kidnapping and killing our citizens and who ran two commercial airliners into our World Trade Center and Pentagon? The attacks are a response to US occupation? Then why have Germany and Japan not gone to war with us, since we have retained bases in their countries since WW2? It is Islamic fundamentalism that is telling Muslims to die for Allah, to kill the American infidels, and to reap the rewards in the afterlife.

The Islamic world in the Middle East has adopted a culture of death. There is no such thing as freedom of religion under an Islamic state, or even in so-called “secular” states such as Syria. To be Muslim in that region of the world means to live under an Islamic law, to practice the madates of the holy book or be punished. Libertarians like Ron Paul would have us believe that United States occupation has violated the rights of those living insuch aculture, and that what we are experiencing now is a righteous backlash that only a general retreat can cure. However to say that a country whose code is “live our way or die” is being violated somehow by the presence of the US – whose founding principle is respect and protection of Individual Rights – is absurd. Only someone who does not understand what rights consist of would make such an irrational claim. One could argue (and should, when appropriate) that troops and funds are being wasted in conflicts where US interests are not at stake, but a dictatorship – whether run by a monarchy or the mob – has no right to exist and any free country has the moral authority to reduce it to ashes if they find doing so is in their best interests.

One might wonder if I’mexaggeratingor distortingRon Paul’s argument.

In one interview, he explains that aggressive military deployment in the Middle East caused 9/11, including the bombing of Iraq. In another public appearance, he likens Islamists to Americans under attack, asking what you would do if your homeland was invaded. Because he believes terrorism is the result of attacks from the US, what is his solution? – Withdrawal of our troops and negotiation with the militant groups that seek to destroy us.

Ron Paul told Dennis Miller that his duty as a politician was to follow the instructions of the Constitution (even, as he jokes, when he would rather not). However obedience is not a substitute for understanding. If you fail to understand what freedoms mean and identify the threats against them, you cannot possibly defend them or live up to the Founder’s vision.

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Bush on the defensive…

In more ways than one.

Apparently, Russia has complained about US plans to install a missile defense system in Europe. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has gone so far as to accuse the US of resuming an arms race against them. Bush and Condoleezza Rice attempted to reassure Russian authorities that the defense system would be used to thwart possible attacks from Iran, and that the system is no match for Russia’s nuclear capabilities,but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded that, “We are still convinced that the only target of that shield would be not the purely hypothetical threat that might come from Iran or some other remote state, but the only real target will be our country.”

[photopress:184px_President_Vladimir_Putin.jpg,full,alignleft]Just recently, President Vladamir Putin added that,

If a part of the strategic nuclear potential of the United States appears in Europe and, in the opinion of our military specialists, will threaten us, then we will have to take appropriate steps in response. What kind of steps? We will have to have new targets in Europe.

Bush responded by saying, “Russia is not the enemy…The Cold War is over. It ended.” He even invited Putin to meet and see for himself that the missiles would be entirely defensive.

There is quite a lot to read intoRussia’s reaction, of course. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, diplomats would have us believe that Russia is a US ally. However none of our other allies are worried that our weapons installations would be aimed at them. Some things change, and some things stay the same. Russia is now a “democracy”, but that doesn’t mean Individual Rights is very high on its list of priorities. They complain every year about US human rights reports that show them in a bad light, and surprise of surprises they feel threatened by increased US presence in Europe. Russia reminds me very much of a paroled criminal up to no good and resentful of the officer looking over his shoulder. But why is the officer now explaining himself to the criminal? We shouldn’t need to justify our actions to Russia or to any “ally” that would use nukes to dictate our foreign policy.

It is of course bad enough that we are fighting for the approval of our “allies” to support our right to self-defense, but I must admit I don’t see the benefit of this defense system. If Bush is willing to admit that Iran is a threat to Europe, and a threat to the US once they develop nuclear arms, then why is he not making this case to Congress and calling for military action? If this defense system is no match for Russia’s weaponry, then it will only be a deterrent against Iran until they obtain better weapons. This is an arms race, but we are not the ones racing. I can only guess that Bush is losing confidence in diplomacy and sanctions as a means of demoralizing Iran, but is still unable to see the defense of liberties of US citizens as his primary duty. Instead, he remains committed to “sacrificing for the liberty of strangers” by taking the path most likely to cost more American lives. This fallback plan does not in any way prevent Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but merely reaffirms for the Islamic fundamentalists that we are a “paper tiger”. The real benefits of the defense system go to Ahmadinejad and to the many militant Islamic groups who need time to develop the means to strike at us again.

It’spast time that Bush started acting the President by asserting US interests and fighting for them. Our enemies are no longer intimidated byposturing, and will not be deterred by cowardice. Bush’s defensive and self-sacrificial war will only succeed in emboldening our attackers. If we are so afraid that a conflictwith Iran will lead to a nuclear war, then that is all the more reason to end this now before that technology can be deployed. We have the means. We just need the resolve.

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