Friday, August 11, 2006

The Duties Of The President - Part I - Commander-In-Chief

U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 2.

The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the
United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the
actual service of the United States; he may require the opinion, in writing, of
the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject
relating to the duties of their respective offices, and he shall have power to
grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in
cases of impeachment.

He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate,
to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he
shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall
appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme
Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not
herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law: but the
Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they
think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of

The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen
during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at
the end of their next session.

Through our history, these powers have been interpreted to mean the President is responsible for the direction of the military and the execution of foreign policy. Many times, but not always, the two powers walked hand in hand. President Bush has staked his claim in history on a dictum that the two not just hold hands but grasp together in a full embrace.

How has Bush's radical interpretation of Presidential powers fared?

Following the attack of 2001, President Bush used America's new moral high ground to assemble a world-wide coalition to attack terrorism where it lived. A Taliban governed Afghanistan had become a breeding vat of repressive religious fanaticism that harbored the most dangerous criminals in the world. A swift response using special forces and airborne elements allied with the Northern Alliance resulted in the Taliban being swept out of power and the leadership of al-Qaeda literally running for the hills.

Then, we looked elsewhere.

At the moment U.S. forces had their boots on the throat of the most viable threat to our national security, President Bush chose to open a second front. With al-Qaeda scattered among loyalist in mountain hideouts those trained to deal with counter-insurgency and small unit tactics were removed from the theater and sent elsewhere. Preparation for any major invasion requires special forces and recon units to pave the way. At the time when these anti-terror specialists were vital in the fight against our most feared enemy, they were removed from the picture. This was a military decision. Military decisions fall on the head of the top of the chain of command.

At this critical point of our first battle in the war on terror, President Bush made a deadly strategic blunder. One that is taught in every basic military tactics class the world over. He chose to open a second front before the first was stabilized.

Compounding the initial mistake, although the invasion of Iraq was well executed, complete strategic plans for this second front were completely absent. There was never any doubt that the Iraqi military infrastructure would fold like a paper lion once the might of the American military was unleashed. Years of sanctions, no fly zones and an over-the-horizon American military presence resulted in a neutered Iraq. The question that required an answer was what would happen after the tanks stopped rolling?

Many pundits are wont to compare our current war in Iraq to World War II. Although most analogies are specious, unfortunately one holds true. As Germany's defeat became apparent, President Truman's administration realized that a post-war plan would be necessary to prevent Europe from spiraling into a morass of destroyed infrastructure, disaffected citizens and factionalism. The exact recipe of chaos following the first world war that led to the rise of nationalistic madmen like Hitler and Mussolini.

Truman learned from his predecessors mistakes and proactively worked to avoid them. Tasked with this enormous responsibility, General George Marshall implemented his historic plan to rebuild Europe. The practical vision for detail that formented the successes of North Africa, Sicily and D-Day transformed countries scarred by plains of desolate rubble into the economic and political powers that are now our allies.

Where was the Marshall Plan for Iraq? Where were the policies to prevent the newly paroled Iraqi soldiers from joining sectarian militias? Why was the borders not secured to prevent foreign insurgents from entering? Where were the army of engineers to restore power to pre-war levels? Where were the soldiers that were needed to protect those engineers?

In the months following the victory in Baghdad, the absence of a comprehensive occupation plan were readily apparent. Three years later, absence of any pan is presented daily in a country where factional militias rule, infrastructure remains destroyed and American soldiers are placed in harm's way with no clear mission and no end in sight.

As Commander-in-Chief President Bush has a responsbililty to respond to the attacks on this country. He also has a greater responsbility to execute that response in a manner that defeats our enemy and make our country more secure.

His choices to abandon Afghanistan and not fully realize the consequences of Iraq have done neither.

Next: Execution of Foreign Policy

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