Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Duties Of The President - Part III - The Logical Conclusion

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

The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of theUnited
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

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
theCongressmay 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 departments.

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

Vietnam loomed over the end of the American century. Americans do not like to lose and the failure in Southeast Asia haunted both military and political leaders.

It gave birth to the military dictum now known as the Powell Doctrine. Military commanders raised in the Vietnam era believed future wars should be fought with overwhelming force. At its more basic level, the Powell Doctrine advocated fighting wars where the question of victory was nearly without question.

In 2002, the Powell Doctrine met the PNAC doctrine.

A perfect storm of political theory was coalescing around events in southwest Asia. September 11th provided Bush and his lieutenants, the architects of PNAC, an opportunity to take bold action at a new enemy. Terrorism became the new superpower. It became the threat to American dominance. Under PNAC doctrine, military action was required in the face of the rise of another superpower.

Bush had estabished the threat of the axis of evil: Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

Although, no one would doubt the threat of North Korea, there was absolutely no known connection to Islamic terrorism, the rogue country actually had nuclear weapons and any aggressive would assuredly result in their use.

Iran certainly had strong connections to terroism. Not simple proproganda such as small cash payments to families of individual suicide bombers but actual arms and training to active terror groups. Iran however was a country of 70 million people living in modern cities nestled in the rugged mountains and valleys. Any type of invasion under the Powell Doctrine would require manpower at such levels that the draft would be inevitable. Once again, the clouds of Vietnam rumbled with thunder.

All that remained was Iraq.

Iraq's military infrastructure remained in tatters from the first Gulf War. What had been rebuilt was then destroyed again in 1998's Operation Desert Fox. American military assets were already staged in Kuwait, Qatar and Saudia Arabia. It was a plum ready to be picked. The new foreign policy of pre-emptive war now had its target. All that was needed was an excuse.

Saddam Hussein provided one.

Like a desperate poker player, Saddam adopted an all or nothing strategy. His military soundly thrashed and his political clout in the region non-existent, he played the only card he could fathom. Weapons of mass destruction. Saddam relied on the half century strategy of mutually assured destruction. His threat was simple. If you harm me, I will bring greater harm on you. The results of the future would show this threat to be hollow.

Saddam played cat and mouse games with U.N. weapons inspectors. Knowingly or not, his bluff was playing directly into the trap laid by his enemy. Slowly but surely, the eye of the administration turned towards Baghdad. Only the insinuation that Saddam could provide terrorists with horrific weapons was needed to cause collective fear in the American conscience.

The stage was set.

It could be argued that the administration truly believed WMDs would be discovered. It could also be argued that they deemed Saddam Hussein a true threat. However, the results of the invasion showed neither were true. The Iraqi forces were utterly destroyed by the American forces. No weapons of mass destruction. No tanglible threat. No connection to terrorism.

Having won the war but failed to reach the appropriate justification, the administration pivoted to the actual reason for the invasion. Establishing a democracy in the Middle East would result in a stable presence that would inspire, possibly intimidate, other repressive regimes to fall in line. It was the reverse of the domino doctrine of Communist takeovers in the late 60s. Vietnam had come full circle.

Three years later, some would argue that democracy has been established in Iraq. Certainly elections have been held and a government installed. However, outside certain safe areas, sectarian militias rule and citizens hide at night. American troops remain as an occupying force with no withdrawal in sight. All signs indicate that the nascent democracy is only so much window dressing.

As for the region, despite some initial successes such as Libya disarming, flash fires of instability have erupted everywhere. An emboldened Iran elected a more strident leader and Hizbollah began lobbing rockets into Israel.

In 2000, George Bush told the American people that we would not be the world's policemen. In 2002, he told us that we could no longer wait to be attacked. Everything changed on September 11th. That cannot be argued.

Was the invasion of Iraq an inevitable next step in the war on terror? Was it the real world execution of PNAC's theories? Was it because of an actual threat? Is pre-emptive war an acceptable response to a new era? These issues may be debated by historians for years, if not decades.

Two undeniable facts remain. Bush as commander in chief chose to open a second front and Bush as the executor of foreign policy chose the route of pre-emptive war to face the new threat of terrorism. It can no longer be said that the jury is out on these choices. The second front robbed critical assets from securing the Afghan front. Pre-emptive war did not result in regional stability but in fact led to the opposite.

The duties of the President require bold, yet clear vision. No one can argue Bush's aptitude in this portion of the arena. But the duties of the President also require the ability to adapt to the pressures of reality. Bush's vision for a new world was both bold and clear, yet his failure to adapt in the face of reality has led to the inevitable. Duty unfulfilled.

1 comment:

Richard Campbell said...

Vietnam also gave rise to the Abrams or "Total Force" doctrine, which entertwined the reserves and the guard with the active Army to effectively require the support of the American people for an extended war.

That didn't work all that well in Iraq either.