Written by Paul E. Vallely MG, US Army (ret) and Monica Morrill
Forward – The Commander-in-Chief
Throughout the 236 years of US history, military forces have experienced numerous transformations in roles and missions, structure and procedures, reputation and power, technological advancement, and ultimately application and operation in combat. Initially the Army, Navy, and Marines were organized as an armed force of fighters and patriots against the tyranny of Great Britain. They banded together to win a revolution and historically became a force for securing the fledgling nation. Over the many decades and centuries, it expanded, evolved, and eventually became the strongest military force on Earth. These changes all reflected the need and threats of the day and the political will of the government and its elected officials.
From its inception, the US military has, and by Constitutional mandate will always be, controlled by a civilian, the Commander-in-Chief, the President of the United States. As each of our Presidents has held office, the military took its marching orders based upon his political policies, the world pressures of the day, and the foreign policy he adopted. Many paths were chosen and many wars, great and small were waged upon his decisions. Now here in 2012, the Presidency is held by Barrack H. Obama and he is about to enter his second term in office. This essay is an analysis of the relationship of President Obama and his current and future relationship and control of the military.
President Obama is working very hard to destroy US military superiority, consciously and unconsciously to the advantage our global enemies. In an attempt to seize control over national security and another overt attempt to bypass Congress, the Obama administration may have already made this play as of this writing. That play is that the United States and Russia both reduce nuclear weapons without a treaty, as a treaty would require ratification by the Senate. This would allow Obama and the Executive Branch to unilaterally cut our military capability and nuclear weaponry and ignore the treaty clause of the Constitution. It is known that Russia is not a trustworthy partner in any respect other than to lessen the influence and power of the US globally. Obama is determined to ruin the Defense Department, our forces, and the US economy, committing national suicide. Obama prefers that people just lay down their arms at home and abroad, weaken our military, and give up American sovereignty to the United Nations.
What were Obama’s intentions toward the military after taking office? What impact has he had on the military thus far? What will his impact be over the next few years? At this juncture, all these questions and more can only be answered by facts and actions. This places the future security of America in a very precarious position; a certain clear and present danger. To date, with all that is occurring across the globe and at home, his actions have resulted in a long list of failures and it appears our future will only witness further degradation of our credibility, respect, trust, and standing in the community of nations. By design, malfeasance, or stark ineptitude, the past is prologue. It is important to point out what Obama and his administration’s goals are when it comes to the Armed Forces of the United States.
Discussion points outlined here are also intended to spark serious discussions and debates about our country’s future:
1. Diplomacy and the use of the military – The definition of the term and its various interpretations are diverse. President Obama’s vision of US foreign policy and his application of diplomacy and all its ramifications, including the use of force, are examined.
2. Obama’s 2008 campaign and ideology – What Obama told America was wrong with our foreign policies, the Bush Administration’s wars, and his stance on the military and America’s place in the community of nations. This includes the ideology of the left, its past stances on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and The War on Terror.
3. Obama’s first term – Ending the war in Iraq, campaign promises broken, the escalation of Afghanistan and the Counter-Insurgency (COIN) Strategy, the Arab Spring, Israel, Libya, Syria and the economic structural impact on US Forces under Obama’s watch.
4. Obama’s Military Evolution – How Obama is dismantling our status in the world through diminishing our strengths, militarily and economically.
Obama’s Future Leadership - Discussion on the issues that face the US from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, the Muslim Brotherhood, Northern Africa, special relationships with the UK and Israel, China, and North Korea are paramount at this time. The contrasts are riddled with contradictions. Why would President Obama pledge to give billions of dollars in aid, including supplying highly sophisticated arms to a nation (Egypt) whose regime has declared that America and its long-standing ally Israel are now mortal enemies that should be destroyed? Why would the same president who wants to arm our enemies want to disarm American citizens? Why was our military not used in the rescue of four Americans in Benghazi with General Ham relieved of his post when he issued a “go” order for a rescue?
Obama helped the Muslim Brotherhood, a known militant and radical Islamic group, to overthrow the government of Egypt. He supported the election of Morsi as Egypt’s new president, even when Morsi talked about establishing a new Muslim Caliphate designating himself as the ultimate leader.
Morsi also publicly began an attack on all non-Muslim religions within his country. His military and police joined in the persecution of Christians who were beaten, raped, robbed and killed. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said nothing and did nothing but continue to support Morsi and his radical government. In fact, an arrangement was made when Morsi’s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak was in power, where top line fighter jets were to be sent to Egypt is still about to happen, why? In the past few months, Morsi has also been very vocal about his desire to see the nation of Israel disappear from the face of the earth. Numerous Americans see the danger in Obama’s actions and now it is obvious that the Muslim Brotherhood has support in the White House.
Before expounding on Obama and the military, it is essential to understand the relationship and debate that has existed over the centuries between diplomacy and the use of military force. Crucial changes in American society, the defense of freedom and victory over her enemies all originate with the military. Using the military wisely implies that the military enters a war with the intent to win the war. Within the diplomatic sphere, war is diplomacy with arms, and in this phase war should be viewed as diplomacy at its worst, after all other options have been explored.
Politicians from various spectrums differ in the way they use diplomacy to achieve political and diplomatic goals. The use of the military may be used at the end of a failed or failing diplomatic process when an enemy threat still exists; called pre-emption. History demonstrates and statesmen have confirmed that war ensues when diplomacy fails. Many conservative leaning thinkers view the military within diplomacy, whereas many leaning toward the left (Statists) have detached the military from the diplomatic process. Under the Obama Administration the military has not been appropriately used to improve diplomatic relations, largely because the military is not viewed as a mechanism to achieve diplomatic success. Instead, Obama employs it as a “nation building” tool, a function quite anathema to its very definition.
The endgame to war is victory, but that term is hardly in the vocabulary of the current senior leadership in America. Military leaders have been directed not to even use the word “victory” in their dialogue with the press and others. But the definition of victory and the path getting there are transformed when political ambitions are revealed. For instance, while the Bush Administration has called the post-9/11 wars the “War on Terror” the Obama Administration changed the name to “Overseas Contingency Operations.” The former created a paradigm shift whereby the United States was fighting an ideology, terror, rather than a nation-state, now it’s not even fighting, just assassinating individuals. Retreat is now known as “drawdown” and victory is now known as “nation building” or “transitioning.”
However, the change in semantics by the Obama Administration creates an interesting modification that has proceeded unnoticed by the public. War inevitably implies boots on the ground, the involvement of ranking officers and geo-strategic decision making from the Department of Defense. The Obama Administration has “mixed” the roles of war within diplomacy with more agencies: the Department of State, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Department of Defense (White House, 2012). The Obama Administration is making the State Department and the overarching bureaucratic influence more relevant and the US military less relevant in the process of diplomacy.
In Iraq, where increasing violence and clandestine high-level takeovers and assassinations by Iranian groups have occurred over the past year, the Obama Administration further states that:
“In Iraq, these temporary operations and assistance programs are necessary to sustain a civilian-led mission (almost 15,000 dedicated to this effort); strengthen the capacity of the Iraqi government through police training, criminal justice programs, and military assistance; and ensure the [State] Department and USAID have the necessary resources to support and secure the diplomatic mission”. (White House, 2012)
President Obama may think that he is cleverly shaping a new form of diplomacy, but what he is really doing is undermining and even breaking the military role that can be leveraged to strengthen diplomatic aims, protect American allies, and ensure an American victory.
Conservatives envision the military as a crucial component of diplomacy, an important union. President Obama and other Statists on the other hand, view the military as a hindrance to diplomacy. Changing diplomacy therefore, is being carried out in a number of ways by the Obama Administration: diminishing the military role and leadership in diplomacy; manipulating the rules of engagement; and making the US military irrelevant elsewhere.
Admittedly, the use of the military pre-Obama has not been perfect. In fact, numerous miscalculations in strategy committed by the White House can be found from President Kennedy onward. From Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, Commanders-in-Chief have neglected or abused the diplomatic role of the military. Kennedy started the Vietnam War with ‘Advisors’, Johnson deepened the commitment in Vietnam and Nixon ended it. There was no clear endgame for achieving victory with the waste of a vast amount of the treasury and the loss of nearly 58,000 American lives. Carter failed in properly managing the US economy and was paralyzed when it came to using the military as a powerful diplomatic tool; caving in to Iranian revolutionary Islamic fanatics. He did employ some feeble attempts with one notable disaster, but ultimately all his efforts were weak and feckless. It can be said that he was not only responsible for the downfall of the Shah but also the rise of the Islamic terror nation state that Iran has become.
The last major diplomatic victory for the US was the collapse of the Soviet Empire and the removal of the iron curtain due to Reagan’s leadership and vision. If one error could be highlighted it would be in 1983 when a suicide bomber drove a truck laden with TNT killing 241 US Marines in a building at the Beirut airport (not a proper role for Marines) and a nearly simultaneous bomb detonated by a second suicide bomber in a truck killed 58 French soldiers of the Multinational Force during the Lebanese Civil War in Beirut, Lebanon (Arlington, 2013). The Muslim terrorists were emboldened and America and her allies have paid dearly in the Middle East ever since. The failures have continued – George H.W. Bush was about three days from toppling Iraq’s Hussein in 1991 and according to one of the sources (Anonymous, 2011) was advised by the best American and British intelligence to proceed; why didn’t he order the military to proceed to total victory? President George H.W. Bush stopped because he chose to subjugate the US to the United Nations.
Clinton, who needed to learn the military salute properly after he became President, began on a foundation of incoherent foreign policy with the Bosnian War, Black Hawk Down, the 1993 bombing of New York’s World Trade Center, and the bombing of two US embassies in Africa, all woven with his scandalous behavior in the Oval Office, and he had no clear military success anywhere.
Problems existed under George W. Bush as well. Although the Bush Administration cited weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as part of the justification to invade Iraq, Bush and the Pentagon ignored the fact that those weapons were transferred from Iraq to Syria in 2003 in large, well-documented convoys. Compounding that mistake was not properly defending his actions and pointing out why there were no WMD found in Iraq after toppling Saddam Hussein. For reasons still unknown today, he allowed them to be transported away by the Russians in some face saving or appeasement strategy. Naturally, the left, all the way through to Obama, have used this as a bludgeon, not only to Bush, but to the military and US intelligence services.
Bush ultimately allowed the left and the media to promote the narrative that there never were any WMD, setting the stage for the left to recapture the White House, the only time the word victory is allowed by the left. This has worsened problems in Syria as is witnessed today concerning many of these same weapons. Col. Cowan (Ret.) recalls that:
“The way we fought the war in Iraq at the outset was tragic and outrageous because the Pentagon and the military leadership did not understand what they were dealing with. They purposely ignored the lessons of Vietnam”.
Toward the end of the Bush Administration the COIN (counterinsurgency) strategy in Iraq was a fresh idea, and perpetuated by Obama in Afghanistan. However the overall effects of COIN are devastating and have rewarded America’s enemies. The COIN Strategy has now been completely exposed for the failure it always was. Undoubtedly there has been an accumulation and compounding of the disharmony of the military within diplomacy over the past 52 years, however Obama has accelerated the division at breakneck speed by downsizing, degrading and demoralizing the US military.
America’s legacy as one of the oldest existing democracies on Earth can only be preserved so long as:
1) a majority of US citizens are actively involved in a genuinely representative government;
2) a growing economy persists; and
3) a strong military is maintained to protect the former.
This simple triad of democracy (a representative constitutional republic) becomes predictably fragile when the three are not in balance. The budget deficit and a stagnant economy threaten to destabilize this equilibrium, while declining public involvement in governmental affairs has weakened a once strong citizenry, and unpredictable leadership for the US military downgrades US security. Political ideology and the greed of power seekers ensure this path as well.
Part of Obama’s political plan to “Fundamentally Transform America” as he himself has stated, is to downsize the US military. While one can argue that long-standing trends have eroded the US military, very little has been done to stem the decline. Indeed, some argue that Obama has exacerbated problems related to military missions abroad, and US foreign policy positions preaching a “re-start” to US relations in the world. His grand ‘apology’ tour was the first step, showing the world that he wanted us to be seen as weaker – the only way any foreign leader would perceive it.
Obama’s first year in office did not instill much confidence among military strategists or foreign-policy makers in Washington, D. C. Obama revealed his flawed leadership amidst three major events in 2009, the emergence of the Green Revolution in Iran and the abandonment of the missile shield project in Poland and the Czech Republic. But it all started with his speech in Cairo.
Cairo – Obama’s Cairo speech on June 4, 2009 was an inspiring speech to the people of the Muslim World. However elegant and lofty his words, they gave us a glimpse into his vision for America’s foreign policy. Giving a speech emphasizing acceptance, peace, and harmony between America and the Muslim world is one matter, however following through with genuine action is quite another. He told the world in that speech:
“…I made clear that America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam. We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security – because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.”
Regarding US troops in Afghanistan he further said:
“…Now, make no mistake: We do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We see no military — we seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.”
Regarding Iraq and the way America had operated in the past he said:
“Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible.”
And then he apologized for what he considered to be the errors of the ways of America and her history:
“…just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter or forget our principles. Nine-eleven was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.”
In each of these excerpts from his speech one begins to see a pattern which has become manifest over the past four years. It is obvious now that his words are often hollow and meaningless because his actions have proven otherwise. The US is weaker now in the eyes of the Muslim world than the US was prior to Obama’s Cairo speech; where will the US be in four more years?
“As odious as I consider some of President Ahmadinejad’s statements, as deep as the differences that exist between the United States and Iran on a range of core issues…We will continue to pursue a tough, direct dialogue between our two countries, and we’ll see where it takes us. But even as we do so, I think it would be wrong for me to be silent about what we’ve seen on the television over the last few days. And what I would say to those people who put so much hope and energy and optimism into the political process, I would say to them that the world is watching and inspired by their participation, regardless of what the ultimate outcome of the election was. And they should know that the world is watching”.
This is a response that would have been appropriate in the Western world, but Obama, throughout the past four years, has neglected to properly assess Iran and other threats in the Middle East because he doesn’t fully comprehend the way America’s enemies think. Since the US officially withdrew in December 2011:
“…assassinations by Iranians have been quietly conducted, killing Iraqis who worked with or supported the United States. Selective assassinations of individuals [were conducted against those who] were close to the US [forces]. Even before the US pulled out, retired and former Iraqi officers and pilots who had participated in the Iran/Iraq war were being assassinated.” (Cowan, 2012)
Missile Shield – The Obama Administration’s shortsighted decision to remove the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic on September 17, 2009 fueled uncertainty in US foreign policy and was ill-timed. First, the Obama Administration abandoned the project without discussing the issue with or informing their Polish or Czech Republic counterparts. Secondly, the Obama Administration did not use the decision to leverage other issues with Russia, an obvious sign of weakness in foreign policy. Thirdly and worst of all, the Obama Administration chose the most undesirable date to make the public announcement when ending American support for a missile shield: on the 70th anniversary of the Russian invasion of Poland.
Culturally speaking, anniversaries are incredibly symbolic to the Polish people and the brazen announcement by the Obama Administration was not well received by the people of Eastern Europe. “The project is of puny importance militarily, but of enormous significance symbolically…to the former captive nations the Shield signified the US commitment to maintaining their freedom” (Chodakiewicz 2012, p.1.). Instead, the Obama Administration unraveled nearly three decades of trust and hard work that was carefully built between America and Eastern Europe.
In today’s world conflicts, the US military operates under guidelines governing their use of deadly force like any other. These guidelines are officially known as Rules of Engagement (ROE). Some countries consider their official ROE as guidelines only, but the US military considers ROE as lawful orders to be strictly obeyed – no matter the consequence.
Historically, ROE were articulated to limit the damage done by troops of warring nations while accomplishing a military objective. The International Institute of Humanitarian Law publishes what is known as the San Remo Guidelines of ROE. Many countries have used the San Remo document as a basis for their ROE. NATO also publishes ROE to be used by member nations, but has no power to enforce their implementation.
The Obama policy makers in the White House and Pentagon have degraded the fighting capabilities of the US military with restrictive ROE. In fairness, Bush initiated very restrictive ROEs, all in an attempt to minimize negative opinions, but Obama took it to the extreme. He allowed the military to be ruled by lawyers; a clear attempt to appease enemies rather than to instill fear into the hearts of the enemy.
Instead of fearing US firepower, the enemy has been empowered to use the ROE and restrictions on artillery support against US forces. Former Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan Administration, Bing West, emphasized that:
“The rules of engagement have greatly tightened, often leaving the troops confused…When a battalion needs to consult a lawyer before applying fires, it is unfair of the system to single out the squad leader” (Perry, 2012).
“We called for artillery support and were told we were too close to a village. They ignored us. A lot of men were dying.” — stated Marine Corporal Dakota Meyer, Medal of Honor recipient and veteran of the battle of Gangjal.
What are the current basics of the ROE the US military operates under? And why do US active duty soldiers say the ROE are confusing, ambiguous, and causing unnecessary casualties?
Here is a narrative given by soldiers in an Army platoon discussing ROE with a combat correspondent:
“In country [Afghanistan], we have Escalation of Force Kits. These keep people away in a non-lethal manner. To do that, they used to contain “KEEP BACK” signs we’d put on our trucks during a convoy and the kits also had small flares we could fire. These things were taken away and instead we were told to drive with the same courtesy we would use if driving in the U.S.
That means if cars get backed up behind us, we are to pull over and let them pass.
This takes our buffer — our zone of safety — completely away. Because once we pull over, the cars get to pass right up against us and that opens the door for suicide bombers, suicide bombs, and gun fire.
We allow people to get so close to our vehicles that we have no time to react should they try to do something”. (Awr Hawkins, 2012)
It may seem incredible that US ROE have reached this juncture under conditions of war. Perhaps its best expressed by a young soldier in that same platoon:
“Joe Biden said he’d flown over Kunar province like that was something big. The men on the ground were getting shot at while Biden was flying over.” (Awr Hawkins, 2012)
Maybe US civilian leaders are out of touch with the realities of ground combat. A basic tenet of ROE is that a soldier always has the “first right of defense”, meaning he may fire if fired upon, or, he may engage the enemy first, so long as he perceives a clear and present danger. Well, it used to be that way. Before President Obama took office, US forces could open fire upon enemy combatants who were clearly and definitely observed planting IED’s in roadways. Now, they may have to ask permission through three levels of commanders.
“They are confusing the young soldiers”, complained a veteran NCO, “An IED is incredibly more dangerous in the hands of an enemy than a rifle, yet they have to get permission to engage the fighters”. (Benjamin, 2012)
Welcome to the new world of infantry combat under Obama.
In World War II, the first thing a US combat unit would do upon entering a town held by the German army was to clear civilians out of churches, and then blow down the steeple towers. Why? Bitter experience taught them that church steeples contained snipers and artillery observers. Try doing the same today with a mosque.
US Military leadership has devolved badly. There comes a time in infantry combat where a condition sets itself over the scene. It’s called the “fog of war,” a term first used by Clausewitz, a Prussian military general. He wrote that in war everything is simple. You have an army here and an army over there; at some point they will collide and a battle will ensue. But in the confusion of battle, Clausewitz wrote, accomplishing even the simplest tasks becomes incredibly challenging. Clausewitz coined this theory around 1830. It’s still valid today. Radios fail, aircraft engines malfunction, units get lost, weapons systems jam. It’s all part of battle. Complicated ROE makes the battle more difficult than it needs to be, it adds to the arduous “fog of war.”
World War II generals such as George Patton and Omar Bradley knew the advantage in seizing ground swiftly with violence, “shock and awe.” They ordered their subordinates to overwhelm the enemy with violence of action and maximum force in order to gain ground and shorten the war. The ROE they operated under were clearly defined, and they passed those ROE down to their troops. Patton and Bradley had no intention of placing unnecessary danger or risk on their troops. They knew that it was the enemy who placed innocents in harm’s way, as shields, though they tried to minimize the collateral nature of war, they knew it was also the price of war – a price set by the enemy, not by the liberators.
World War II American generals had no intention of allowing the enemy to gain a tactical or strategic advantage and in any event, were not hampered by counterproductive and disconnected ROE. In every war throughout history, atrocities have been committed on both sides. A general cannot control the actions of every one of his soldiers on the battlefield. It is a regrettable but factual price of war. When fighting an ‘asymmetric war,’ the prices paid are much steeper and the enemy knows this. In fact, the enemy relies upon asymmetric war and the Obama strategy ensures it so an even greater asset for the enemy by setting such absurd ROE.In December of 1944, German SS General Jocheim Peiper was rushing to gain ground in the Ardennes forest and to overrun American positions. Near the town of Malmedy, Belgium, he took custody of approximately 85 American soldiers who surrendered. According to his account, he didn’t have the means or the time to care for them, so he had them shot.
In retaliation, American soldiers methodically shot or captured members of Peiper’s command. An American Colonel issued an order that stated, “No SS troops will be taken prisoner.” Both acts are inexcusable, and both armies attempted to justify their acts under the pressure of combat.
Here is the bottom line: American soldiers should be able to defend themselves in any situation, in any environment, if there is a clear and hostile threat. An American soldier takes an oath to protect and defend the United States and the Constitution against all enemies up to and including paying the ultimate price. An American soldier is also bound by the rules of land warfare to provide all the protection he can to non-combatants and children, and to minimize, where possible, collateral damage that may occur. This includes private property and property of no military value.
However, if an enemy is using a mosque to employ snipers against the US military, or planting IED’s in public buildings, the US military must employ all means necessary to neutralize that threat. If they do not, they are in effect committing the same crime in reverse by allowing US forces to be unduly placed in harm’s way and killed. Which is a more ethical, upholding moral value: saving a Mosque so some enemies will not hate the US military and have a better advantage to kill US forces, or saving the life of an American soldier?
It is regrettable that in Iraq and Afghanistan, US enemies choose a cowardly way of fighting a war. For example, enemies choose to hide in a mosque so that they can then kill US soldiers, or deliberately using non-combatants as human shields. As horrible as those circumstances are however, Americans should always have the right to defend themselves.
There are several stories about wanton killings and atrocities against civilians committed by American troops deployed in combat zones. But the total number of those incidents is outweighed not by the hundreds, but by the thousands, in terms of how US troops have taken casualties, rather than risk collateral damage to non-combatants.
With a few exceptions on minor issues, Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have preached and practiced appeasement toward Moscow. If John Kerry is confirmed by the Senate as Clinton’s replacement, expect the same, if not more. Kerry’s history is well known and dovetails perfectly with Obama’s ideology, despite the rhetoric so often trotted out to the American people. Their actions need to be evaluated more carefully than their words.
One example of recent appeasement is the signing of the START II treaty of 2011, which put America’s security at a disadvantage by forcing the US to obey by an agreement concluded with a party that no longer exists, the USSR. The US is forced to disarm unilaterally. And now the Shield project has been scratched. Remember this exchange in the infamous “live mic” incident:
President Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…
President Obama (putting his hand on Medvedev’s knee): This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.
President Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, Polish-American historian commented on the incident:
“In a way, then, the unguarded remarks of Obama reflect the administration’s consistency and continuity in its policy of appeasing Russia. What’s unsavory about the whole affair is that a hot microphone accorded America and the world a glimpse at frank, back door deals between the most powerful leader on Earth and the boss of a regional power.” (Chodakiewicz, 2012: pp. 1)
Obama has objectified the military personnel in ways that divide rather than unite. The overall morale of the military after poorly managed, drawn out wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was already unstable by 2009 when Obama became Commander-in-Chief. Obama has done little to boost the morale in the military and has offered no realistic solutions to strengthen the US military. In fact, the evidence discloses that Obama has set the US military on a course of unpredictable erosion and decay through acts that have demoralized the US military.
A number of misplaced priorities between the White House and the Pentagon have distracted the US military from their core mission.
“We’ve allowed ourselves to get out of control,” according to the Army’s top enlisted soldier who has surveyed US military bases globally, Sgt. Maj. Raymond F Chandler III.
While his aim has been to improve discipline and focus among the armed forces, Sgt. Maj. Chandler’s own leadership has been uncertain. Jaffe emphasizes;
“As the war in Afghanistan draws to a close, more senior officers worry that the Army has not been able to articulate a clear mission that will enable it to hold on to its shrinking share of the Pentagon budget” (2012: pp. 2).
An internal survey conducted in December 2011 indicates that Obama has not had an uplifting influence on the personnel and morale of the military, “only 26 percent of Army leaders believed that the Army was ‘headed in the right direction to prepare for the challenges of the next 10 years,’ down from 38 percent in 2006.”
What could cause such a decline in the confidence of the military officers for its Commander-in-Chief? Firstly, the priorities of the code of conduct have changed. Today’s Generals are occupied with covering up incidents so that it does not affect their career to be concerned the greater need of boldly leading their soldiers.
“Remember, the SEALS who were going to be court-martialed after they brought in a confirmed Taliban prisoner with a bloody nose? That guy fought back and they had to subdue him. How about the death of Pat Tillman? Both were tragedies, but what the Generals should do is SPEAK UP and tell it like it is.” (Benjamin, 2012)
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has taken precedence over the sexual harassment (and even rape) of men and women in the military. With all the associated problems of being involved in two wars, Obama’s top agenda with the military was to cater to homosexuals. The military should not be coerced into becoming a place for social experimentation. The irony of serving as a soldier is that he or she necessarily gives up a lot of basic rights for the common good of the mission to protect the rights of US citizens and the nation.
There are a whole host of problems inherent in Obama’s repeal such as: Does the military allow on-base housing for married same-sex couples? Does the military allow public displays of affection (PDA’s) between gay military members when it has always been discouraged among heterosexual members if it is detrimental to good order and discipline? Does the military allow same-sex dancing in on-base clubs? Does the military allow a gay soldier to file a complaint against his or her commanding officer alleging maltreatment because of sexual orientation when in reality it is actually a case of substandard performance by the gay soldier?
Obama has initiated this new environment in the military, and it will distort the oneness and equality needed for military commanders. Overall the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has had a tremendous negative effect on the military. No special group should be catered to within the military, whether it is based on gender, sexual orientation, or race. “The military to Obama is a big social experiment and he has demonstrated that in his policies” (Cowan, 2012).
Suicide and PTSD – The increasing numbers of wounded warriors, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and suicides under Obama is also disconcerting. 2012 marked the record number of suicides over the past decade among soldiers and family members, most who have never been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, according to the Military Suicide Research Consortium. The feeling of hopelessness, internal pain, inability to cope with life’s challenges can be attributed to the lack of inspiring leadership in the military.
The vote, disenfranchisement – It is well known that the US military votes more conservatively, by wide margins, so it is very questionable why so many are disenfranchised, especially this past November. There is a lack of concern for the soldier’s political vote. By sending the ballots early in October to reach the polls before November 2012, even conveniently losing the ballots, was another act of disrespect by the Obama Administration and their policies. When the law was made to ensure better access for US troops to vote following previous elections, it was simply ignored, and convenient excuses over costs were cited for the lack of proper implementation, all under Obama’s watch.
Obama is committed to slashing the military budget and would rather send needed troops home than dismiss an over-bloated bureaucracy to make a leaner Pentagon. According to LTC Bill Cowan (Ret, USMC.),
“The number of reports generated every month by the Pentagon is staggering. There is a growing government affinity for generating regulations and reports, which sends a message that wars don’t grow, but the Pentagon bureaucracy does. If you cut one-quarter of the staff in the Pentagon we will not lose our war fighting capability. In fact, we may even get better!” (2012).
Nation Building - This misconceived war fighting strategy has cost the US valuable human and financial resources (billions of dollars) with no victories for the American people. The very nature of these activities further denigrates the soldier. This is not what they signed up for, and it is certainly not a mission of the Armed Forces.
Do not confuse the terms “nation building” with “foreign internal defense” (FID). FID implies organizing a resistance movement by training indigenous personnel to combat and overthrow a murderous regime that supports terrorist attacks on the US. The terms are quite different. “Nation Building” is more properly the purview of the UN, private sector initiatives, NGOs, the Red Cross or some interim governing body. The US military objective should be to get in, eliminate the threat posed by belligerents to the US and get out, not “nation build”. This is also a basic tenet of the Lilly Pad strategy. The US does not need to build large bases in foreign countries that publicly ask the US for help and privately betray America.
In regard to forward operating bases, or FOB’s; they should be more mobile. The best current example is the Australian army in Afghanistan and how they operate. Their soldiers live in “battle boxes” (‘conexes’) with small generators for light and air conditioning. Their perimeters are well guarded and enclosed by concertina wire and claymore mines to repel attacks. Their ammo bunkers are battle boxes partially submerged in the ground and protected by sandbagging. An entire base like this can be set up in a day and a half, and removed and placed elsewhere in about the same time. Again it must be emphasized that the best way to stay alive yet gain victory is by employing mobility over the fortress mentality – this Lily Pad strategy far out paces the COIN strategy.
The COIN strategy was implemented in Vietnam and Iraq; however, it was expanded by Obama in Afghanistan. Col. Douglas MacGregor (US Army Ret), Military Strategist and Author writes:
“When the Surge in Iraq began, no one in Washington was interested in explaining why the world’s most powerful military establishment led by Petraeus was buying off its Sunni Arab opponents with hundreds of millions of dollars, effectively supplanting counterinsurgency with cash-based cooptation. When the Surge in Iraq ended, no one in Washington wanted to discuss why Tehran’s Shiite allies in Baghdad restrained their fighters, and waited until the US occupation ended before consolidating their control of Arab Iraq. In 2009, an Iraqi journalist described the outcome in terms no serious observer of the conflict could ignore: ‘Observers not steeped in Iraqi history might be bemused to find that six years after the toppling of a dictator, after the death of several hundred thousand Iraqis, a brutal insurgency, trillions of wasted dollars and more than 4,000 dead US soldiers, the country is being rebuilt along very familiar lines: concentration of power, shadowy intelligence services and corruption’” (2012: pp. 2-3).
Much of the feedback that I have received from many mid-level officers and non-commissioned officers voiced many and varied new doubts about the Army’s battlefield performances and senior leadership in Iraq and Afghanistan. A few years ago, Army officers almost universally celebrated the service’s freshly minted counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine and its ability to adapt to a new kind of warfare. Soldiers who were trained to fight tank battles shifted to a style of combat that emphasized politics, cultural awareness and protecting the local population from insurgent attacks.
Today Iraq, which is still wracked by violence and heavily influenced by Iran, has provided no victory for America and Americans do expect victory when the US expends great losses of life and thousands of wounded and dead troops. In Afghanistan, a surge of more than 30,000 US troops has produced a stalemate that leaves soldiers counting down to withdrawal at the end of 2014.
Donovan summarizes his view of the illusions of Obama’s COIN strategy success here:
“In the interests of such political correctness, relevant terms like Islam, Islamist, Muslim, and even terrorist have been stricken from the public vocabulary with JCS help. Witness the recent Benghazi fiasco! The debate is not over mayhem or atrocity committed in God’s name. National politicians and the military brass are arguing whether or not to use the word “terrorist” in their reports dealing with Muslim barbarities” (2012, pp.1).
Consider also the ‘inside baseball’ dispute over doctrine to be used against the nameless enemy; the counter-terror versus counter-insurgency (COIN) debate within the military. Petraeus apologists believe that the former ISAF commander reinvented the US Army with new doctrine; and then rode the COIN horse to promotions and prominence.
In truth, COIN played little or no role in Iraq or Afghanistan for two reasons; the force ratios required by Army doctrine, and impractical theory, were never achieved. And both conflicts, like most Muslim wars, are civil, not insurgent. These internecine Islamic fights are between Sunni and Shia or between autocrats and theocrats. Neither NATO nor the US Army has the charter or doctrine to resolve these or any other religious or tribal civil wars. Evolution might be the only solution to any Muslim pathology.
COIN had nothing to do with tactical “success” in Iraq or Afghanistan either, but such distractions may contribute to strategic defeat. Theoretical illusions, even those nursed in the halls of ivy, are blinders. Theory, or more honestly, politicized military doctrine and the distortion of traditional diplomacy does not win wars.
While the US still has the best war fighting force in the world, Generals have become more concerned with promotion than they are with war fighting capability. This is in contrast to the soldiers focusing on the mission. However there has been an inflation of military Generals as LTC Bill Cowan recalls:
“During World War II our military had one General for about every 2,000 enlisted men and women, today we have one General for about every 400 enlisted men and women. Do these extra Generals enhance or augment our war fighting capability?”
Obama has thus far not improved the US military after President George W. Bush and Obama has no successes to claim. To be fair, as mentioned previously the military has been eroding at various levels over the generations, however the Obama Administration has served as more of a catalyst to the erosion rather than a stabilizer. Reminiscent of the World War I song, “Over There,” by World War II the US military was labeled by the Europeans as being “Over-paid, Over-sexed, and Over Here.” Today it could be argued that the US military is over-regulated, over-promoted, and over-stretched.
Benghazi was a blatant failure by Obama and most of the military leadership. For the 2012 election, it is highly suspected that Obama personally requested that the Royal Family in Saudi Arabia increase oil production to ease the complaints about gas prices among voters before the election. This demonstrated that Obama was willing to manipulate the economy solely for his selfish gain, one of many manipulations, all aided by a sycophantic press who reported glowing stories, or ignored those that weren’t. Therefore, would it be any surprise that Obama would be willing to negatively influence the US military if he is willing to maneuver the prices of gasoline at the pump to deceive the voter?
The continued corruption of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has been perpetuated by Obama. The Obama Administration has no successes to claim. He only has a string of embarrassing incidents and a musical chairs approach to leadership in the field, which offers no serious guidance to US national security.
Promises to exit Iraq and Afghanistan without a stable and effective plan have left both countries more vulnerable than ever. Obama’s failures to negotiate a proper status of forces agreement (SOFA) in Iraq will be followed by yet another in Afghanistan.
US foreign policy tends to be more about other people liking America instead of other people fearing America. For instance, over the past decade, the US has been more concerned about a friendly relationship with Karsai than with leading Afghanistan out of corruption and war. How the US handles Karsai has steered US foreign policy platform and it has killed more troops under Obama.
Obama creates urgency at the last minute; brinksmanship is a key weapon in his arsenal of politics. Obama’s strategy is to push the pressure point. Obama’s projected budget cuts for the military are expected to be politically charged, with little effectiveness largely because Obama does not want to understand the tradition of the US military. While recognizing that the US still has the most powerful military in the world, Colonel Bill Cowan (ret.) asks,
“…if we don’t have a Commander-in-Chief that understands this and is not willing to exercise force at the right time, then why have the most powerful military in the world?” Cowan also confesses, “We have political leadership that is more interested in their next promotion than they are taking care of the military…Don’t ask the generals for their opinion on defense cuts, they have a vested interest and will not address the spending problem properly. It’s best to ask Sergeant Majors on a panel, ‘where should cuts be made?’” (Cowan, 2012)
Some might argue that Colin Powell became too politicized. However, one could argue it began with General Washington after the Revolution, General Grant after the Civil War, and General Eisenhower after World War II. However today, in order for a flag or command staff person to get a promotion, it must be confirmed by the US Senate. So over the past few generations of high-ranking military, the military has had to please the Democrats.
Donovan quoted a veteran who asked regarding General Petraeus:
“How does an officer with no personal experience of direct fire combat in Panama or Desert Storm become a division CDR (101st Airborne) in 2003…(and how does) a man who served repeatedly as a sycophantic aide-de-camp, military assistant and executive officer to four stars get so far?”
Politics inevitably skews the military leadership; the question is, for better or worse? What is the motive when US Generals take a promotion from General to the State Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff or as the Head of the CIA?
Now that Obama is the US Commander-in-Chief for another four years, it is imperative that US General officers speak up, for the sake of US troops and the American people. A coup d’état is not advocated here against the principle that wisely keeps civilian control over the US military; but what should be espoused is that active US General officers use every means and opportunity to address the threats that the US now faces.
Reviewing the details, the disappointing relationship between Obama and the military is very real and apparent. President Barack Obama signed a $633 billion defense bill for 2013 despite serious concerns about the limits Congress imposed on his handling of terror suspects and lawmakers’ unwillingness to back the cost-saving retirement of aging ships and aircraft.
Obama had threatened to veto the measure because of a number of concerns, but relented because he couldn’t pick and choose specific sections. However, in a statement, the president spelled out his concerns about restrictions on his ability to carry out his constitutional duties as commander in chief.
Specifically, he complained that the bill limits the military’s authority to transfer third-country nationals being held at a detention facility in Parwan, Afghanistan. He also took issue with restrictions on his authority to transfer terror suspects from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“Decisions regarding the disposition of detainees captured on foreign battlefields have traditionally been based upon the judgment of experienced military commanders and national security professionals without unwarranted interference by members of Congress,” Obama wrote.
He said the section of the bill related to detainees in Afghanistan:
“…threatens to upend that tradition, and could interfere with my ability as commander in chief to make time-sensitive determinations about the appropriate disposition of detainees in an active area of hostilities.”
Obama’s new approach leaves the US with a military with key features of unmanned drones, and unreliable intelligence while supporting foreign entities around the world as uncertain allies. Compounding this are growing leaders of Defense, State and the CIA who are not respected by a large segment of the military, and a habit of using Special Forces as a last resort. It has only been the branch of the US military, the Special Forces who were exposed and demoralized by Obama during the raid to kill Osama Bin Laden; as well as the four brave American men in Benghazi who were all left to die. Obama would rather use the US military as a shield to the realities of his vulnerable political decisions.
Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility (Gitmo) – Obama promised when he took office four years ago to close the prison at Guantanamo, but congressional opposition from Republicans and some Democrats have prevented him from fulfilling that vow. It also might be said that his naïve understanding of Gitmo and the detainees was changed when he learned the truth about the situation when he was apprised of the situation outside the political sphere. Too many have opinions based on erroneous notions that once they learn the truth, their song changes dramatically.
Obama insisted that he still believes that Guantanamo should be shuttered because operating the facility “weakens our national security by wasting resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and strengthening our enemies.” But this still sounds as merely appeasement to his supporters rather than an actual goal. Now that he is about to enter his second term, one will see how fast he closes Gitmo without an impending election ahead.
Additionally, the law limits his authority to transfer terror suspects to foreign countries or move them to the US anyway. Obama and his administration will interpret the bill’s provisions and if they violate the constitutional separation of power, he will implement them in a way to avoid that conflict. His track record of twisting the law and its interpretation in some incongruous and tortuous manner is legend now.
Equipping US Forces – The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) puts off the retirement of some ships and aircraft, and Obama warned that the move could force reductions in the overall size of the military as the Defense Department faces cuts in projected spending. This is all occurring at a time when the US Navy is actually smaller comparatively today than it was prior to World War I, in number and quality.
• The BCA includes cuts in defense spending that the president and congressional Republicans agreed to in August 2011, along with the end of the war in Iraq and the drawdown of American forces in Afghanistan.
• It would authorize $528 billion for the Defense Department’s base budget, $17 billion for defense and nuclear programs in the Energy Department and $88.5 billion for the war in Afghanistan.
• The measure is about $29 billion under the current level, largely due to smaller amounts for Iraq and Afghanistan.
• The measure tightens penalties on Iran to thwart its nuclear ambitions and bulk up security at diplomatic missions worldwide after the deadly September 11 raid in Libya.
• The measure also includes a 1.7 percent pay raise for military personnel.
As suicides among active-duty soldiers have accelerated, the bill also allows a commander officer or health professional to ask if a member of the services owns a firearm if they consider the individual at risk for either suicide or hurting others.
The bill also includes a Senate-passed provision sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., that expands health insurance coverage for military women and their dependents who decide to have abortions in cases of rape and incest. Previously, health coverage applied only to abortions in cases where the life of the mother was endangered.
The legislated sanctions would hit Iran’s energy, shipping and shipbuilding sectors as well as Iran’s ports, blacklisting them as “entities of proliferation concern.” The bill would impose penalties on anyone caught supplying precious metals to Iran, and sanctions on Iranian broadcasting.
Conflict within the executive branch and the military will continue to cause misdirection and confusion on future US National Security and adaptable global conflict strategies. Americans must have more sense and wisdom about engagement and conflicts in this year 2013 and beyond. Americans tend to reflect poorly on history and hence have major problems in seeing and forecasting the future. Now America seems to be a nation that is rudderless. We the People are the “Masters of our Fate and Captains of our Soul and Destiny.”
President Obama seeks worldwide peace through low profile appeasement, in opposition to President Ronald Reagan who sought and achieved “peace through strength.” Reagan took seriously the first charge of the Federal government, which was to provide protection to its citizenry from enemies both foreign and domestic. Reagan understood a healthy military was the key to achieving respect from anyone who would consider disrupting America’s peace. History demonstrates that Reagan achieved peace with very little military actions; the threat alone was enough to bend the knee of America’s greatest opponents.
Obama’s new clarion call of the US Military is being witnessed today: “Draw down, draw back, and stand-down.” It is not the advertised friendliness from foreign entities that Obama preaches, but in fact, enemies being emboldened. In Obama’s first term this stance has accomplished the opposite of Reagan’s approach. One only has to look at the recent attacks on US troops in Afghanistan and the disregard of US policies in Egypt to see that few nations hold the healthy Reagan-era respect for the US. The leaders of those countries have accepted the generosity of US assistance and financing while publicly shunning American principles. North Korea tests its nuclear capabilities without any fear of reprisal; Iran takes aim at US military jets without so much as a reprimand. Russia, the same nation that two decades ago submitted to US power, is resurging in its disdain and publicly positioning itself to again be a force against the West, if needed. In other words, gone is the fear of the US military, and quickly fading is the respect that would make any enemy think twice before challenging the US.
Ironically, it appears the only strength that Obama wishes to show since his reelection is not toward US enemies, but towards the American people and a Congress that would seek to hold back his power. Obama speaks with subtle and humble words abroad, while carrying a big stick against the people he claims to protect via Executive Order and the media at home. It should be well noted that in record number as the military strength is being pulled back; it is the US citizen who now, in record number, are arming themselves in fear of the US government.
The Nature of Change – War and conflict will remain a human endeavor, a conflict between two forces, yet changes in the political landscape, adaptations by the enemy, and advances in technology and techniques will change the character of the battle. Leaders are often late to recognize such changes and adjust to the proper uses of hard and soft power options, and even when they do, inertia tends to limit their ability to adapt quickly.
Driven by an inherent desire to bring order to a disorderly, chaotic universe, human beings tend to frame their thoughts about the future in terms of continuities and extrapolations from the present and occasionally the past. But a brief look at the past quarter century, to say nothing of the past four thousand years, suggests the extent of changes that coming decades will bring.
Any updated US strategic doctrine will still have to include preemption across many fronts. Inevitably, there will be new perils that may require “anticipatory self-defense.” Where rationality cannot be assumed, and where the effectiveness of missile defense would be low, the only alternative to capable and lawful forms of American preemption could be surrender and defeat.
Obama needs to answer the following questions to the American people: For what is the US and Western civilization fighting? What is the US defending and protecting based on the US Constitution? Disappointingly, it appears as though Obama embodies everything that Shariah Islam stands against: Judeo-Christian principles, individual liberty, equality before the law, equality of Muslim and non-Muslim, men and women; it is the freedom to believe as one’s conscience directs oneself, even if that means no belief at all, or changing beliefs; it means protections for minorities; pluralism, and tolerance; but all within the ethical framework of human reason as laid down by the Founding Fathers. It is hoped but highly dubious that President Obama will take heed and strengthen the United States for the future by his relationship with the US military and ensure the security of the United States.
Editor’s Note - An inadvertent posting of a draft of this article was made in error on a different site. That posting has been removed and replaced at the request of SUA Staff. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused and SUA is solely responsible for the error. This is the exclusive posting of the final article per Paul E. Vallely.
MG Paul E. Vallely is Chairman of Stand Up America (SUA). Also contributing to this document were “Chip” Benjamin and Scott W. Winchell. This article was also posted and edited by Scott W. Winchell, SUA Editor-in-Chief.