Threats and Freedoms: Our unique, vital and precious role

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A Response to Mr. Eric Andersen

by Frank Dowse

In a recent SD Rostra guest column by Jacquie Atkinson entitled, “Marine Corps Combat Veteran Jacquie Atkinson Calls Out the Iran Deal for a Fraud,” a rapidly heated debate ensued, where some critical and clear factions within the current “right” arenas often manifest when discussing foreign policy or security affairs. Mr. Eric Andersen, a frequent columnist and commenter on Rostra, and I began a back and forth of supporting our ostensive positons of what we both thought is America’s role in international affairs; his being a more classic Libertarian view (albeit my interpretation), while mine is more of the International Realist variety.

He very adroitly asked if I would respond to some fundamental questions regarding the political philosophies behind a comment I made concerning “leaving hearth and home” and addressing perceived “freedoms” and “threats.” Andersen asked, “Would you share which freedom that was and from whom was the threat coming? If you can support your political philosophy with a transcendent principle (natural law, Bible or founding documents) that you are attempting to conserve you score extra points. At least with me.”

Here is my response:

The current environment
We are in a new epoch for international security affairs; that of rapid and expeditious global transit, space-based, intercontinental, and theatre-based strategic weapons systems, cyber warfare, emerging strategic competitors and adversaries, and international Islamic terror aimed at the West and enabled by state-of-the-art technology and distributed by ubiquitous and instantaneous social media. The Westphalian nation state-based security constructs that 17th-18th-19th century regional and world powers operated is no longer applicable in the strictest sense; asymmetric actors and innovative methodologies create new threats, with new operating parameters, where the “front lines” or “national borders” as understood in the days of our Founding, no longer stringently apply. These transnational threats (ISIS, AQ, Hezbollah) and hybrid warfare tactics and actions operating under international law and skirting acknowledged triggers for full economic or military response (as seen by Russia in Ukraine or China in the S. China Sea) now, more than ever, force US policy thinkers and planners to create effective, resource constrained, and equally innovative ways to thwart and curtail these increasingly dangerous threats (to internationally agreed upon norms and standards as underscored in UN Charter, Geneva and Vienna Conventions and dozens of regional and multilateral security and economic arrangements, treaties, and contracts ; i.e. NATO, OAS, SEATO, WTO, NAFTA, ICAO, OSCE, and others). It is imperative for nation-states concerned with and capable of ensuring international trade, regional and geo-political stability, and diplomatic equilibrium for civil societies set conditions, enter into limited and beneficial arrangements, and support constructs that best support and prepare nations operating in the sphere of internationally agreed upon, lawful, and recognized norms.

US Role
The United States is one such nation. Unlike, say Denmark, or Cuba, the US is often sought for and possesses the capability, trust of its allies, and recognized ethical will to ensure international commerce and regional political stability is achieved (or at least kept in a state of mutually acceptable equilibrium) . This is done through extensive diplomatic, economic, military and intelligence arrangements that the US, and the participating parties, enter into freely and willingly. These arrangements and approaches often are derived from various Doctrines-Monroe, Truman, etc, and are based on the international conditions, ethics and morals of our founding principles and ideals (Ideally, Judeo-Christian understanding of defense as described in Just War Theory, promoting freedom and justice, and defending those principles when and where ideally and politically viable).

While there are various schools of international security philosophy, they tend to bin either into two major camps- School of Realism and the School of Idealism; the former concentrating on the world as it is (Realpolitik) and the latter on how a particular party or parties would like the conditions to be and then work to achieve it (collective security, multilateral constructs, and preventative defense)

The US has embraced a relatively (compared to 18th century France or 20th century Finland) healthy amalgamation of both, careening into one or the other more deeply over its 240 year history. Civilian control of military forces is at the heart of our founding as defined in the Constitution.

“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” – U.S. Constitution – Article 2 Section 2

This unique and vital construct, along with the role of the US Congress, is designed to act as a check and balance for our employment of forces and the curtailing of unilateral pursuits of diplomatically disadvantageous, reckless, or politically driven agendas. This includes when, where, how, and to what extent US forces may be deployed in support of US national security and defense obligations, arrangements and objectives. The US has not always upheld the strictest ideals in the employment of those forces; Dresden, Gulf of Tonkin, Bay of Pigs, Iraq invasion are all examples where many experts and citizens would agree/disagree did not meet the intent or the majority of the precepts for Just War Theory (JWT) or stated US principles of security and defense. However, the US and its senior civilian and military leadership strives to train, prepare and collectively default to adhering to international law, maintaining obligations and treaties, and promoting US action under the US Constitution and JWT. (BTW-The US has grossly violated JWT- Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and Dresden bombings were all violations of JWT. Some point to civilian deaths in Iraq as a clear violation; however, it has been inconclusive to precisely by which hands these deaths were caused given the propensity for insurgent and terror forces in Iraq to kill civilians en mass and create false and deceptive narratives to blame coalition forces)

However, no nation in the modern era is more committed to minimize non-combatant civilian causalities than the US. It is the exception rather than the rule for American strategic planners to think, act and promote ideals contrary to its stated ones. This is in direct opposition to those US detractors, such as Russia, China, DPRK, or Iran (and now ISIS) where they, by stated policy and operational doctrine, intent and action, strive and execute diplomatic, military, economic, and intelligence operations and actions precisely to circumvent constraints and to conduct security operations in direct contrast to JWT, international law and universally recognized norms. The US has committed acts in this vane, but is not prone, designed or guided in this approach. i.e. Cambodian Bombings raids, Iran-Contra, Libya all were areas where US planners knowinglybroke the spirit or the letter of the law.

The Event
With this as a primer and background to Mr. Andersen’s original question, I deployed in many incidences where I, like thousands of US military, diplomatic, and intelligence personnel, left hearth and home to address threats and to ensure American freedoms. In one particular incident, I was deployed in the late 1990s in response to the imminent possibility of the US embassy in Eritrea needing to be evacuated during the ongoing civil war between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

In that situation, I was assigned to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) as the KC-130 Detachment Commander. The Marine KC-130 aircraft was ideally suited to be operated in less-than-permissive and rugged environments for this type of mission; immediate insertion of US security forces to secure the embassy and extraction of lots of US embassy and support personnel utilizing an un-improved airstrip, nearby road, or barren field. The MEUs are deployed globally to react and respond to crises. Because of the austere and remote location of Eritrea and the US embassy there, we needed to pre-position at the Kenyan military base in Mombasa, Kenya. We have had a long standing mil-mil contact relationship with the Government of Kenya, and had participated in numerous training exercises and mutual security arrangements in the intelligence and diplomatic realms for decades. Geo-strategically, Kenya was ideally situated and equally concerned for ensuring international shipping lanes along the East African coast, the Red Sea, and the Gulf of Aden were free and clear of increasing Somali pirate activity (the movie, Captain Phillips, captures this threat well).

With a completely failed state in Somalia, and the potential for increased instability and war in both Eritrea and Ethiopia, the US, along with several nations including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Oman, and the Gulf States along with Western Allies such as Britain, The Netherlands, Germany, and even Japan were in agreement that increased chaos and instability on the East African coast and threats to the shipping lanes were a clear and present danger to global energy supplies, commerce, freedom of navigation, and the potential for more failed states to metastasize into Jihadist terror breeding grounds.

This was particularly important to the US and other Western nations as terror networks supporting Al Qaeda and Al Shabbab were using these areas of instability and chaos to train, equip, and support terror cells and as launching points for extended transnational terror operations. These operations were witnessed throughout the region targeting US and her supporters; in Saudi Arabia at Khobar Towers, the bombings of the US embassies in Dar es salam, and Nairobi, the Cole bombing in Yemen, and numerous operational probes and intelligence gathering operations by Jihadist Terror elements across East Africa (Including our own compound in Kenya). These were Islamic Terror cells and they were invariably led, manned, supported, and equipped by Arab, Eurasian, or South Asian terror members; not African. I state this because many believe “if the US wasn’t there, then they would leave us alone.”

This was the beginnings of operations for the greater Islamic Caliphate, where Arab interlopers were using the instability and chaos in Africa through means and methods of terror to promote and advance their political and terror-based aims against US and other perceived western or western sympathizing nations. The infamous “Black Hawk Down” incident a few years prior is now widely believed to have been an AQ planned and led operation in the guise of Somalia warlord conflicts. If you remember, Somalia was in the midst of a famine where hundreds of thousands of Africans had died of starvation and the US as part of an international UN sponsored mission was supporting with US military personnel to ensure the distribution of much needed food supplies.

While it may not be immediately apparent why I, or any of the thousands of personnel on the MEU or on coalition naval vessels patrolling the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea were addressing a “threat” or securing our “freedoms,” a cursory analysis warrants precisely that; our freedoms include with whom, how, and in what context we exercise our ability to conduct commerce. The computer you are reading this on may have components that transited that area; the oil you used in your car to get to your place of employment may very well have come through there; the very car you drive probably transited that Gulf or nearby area, or a similar regional nexus where the freedom of maritime vessels and commerce are paramount for a thriving, modern, free, and global economy (Straits of Hormuz, Malacca Straits, the Bosporus, or South China Sea).

It also constitutes how we choose to live and to monitor, react to, and if necessary, thwart encroaching threats and vulnerabilities to our freedom, i.e. PRC forces in Africa may not seem a restriction of our freedoms, but if PRC influence curtails our access to certain ports or lanes of navigation where friction and potential military outbreaks may occur, then those freedoms are curtailed and marginalized in the forms of restriction in movement, commerce, and diplomatic and economic advancement for free and prosperous societies. If PRC military forces were to deploy to Mexico, it constitutes a clear and present threat given the proximity and distance to the US Homeland. Yet, they may not be violating international law, or projecting any intent other than exercising with Mexican forces, security planners across the philosophical security spectrum would conclude the move, given our histories and political constructs, as provocative. The Mexicans would not seriously entertain that scenario precisely because we would apply severe economic and diplomatic pressure to compel Mexico not to consider that option.

Moreover, I can guarantee the personnel at the embassy in Eretria had no qualms understanding how our deployment constituted the immediate concern of their freedoms (under the Vienna Conventions and the status and conduct of diplomatic personnel as recognized by international law). Nor was it lost on them, their loved ones, and most geo-politically aware Americans that in order to do that, we must identify, develop, maintain, and when necessary enhance security relationships, Status of Forces Agreements, and mil-to-mil contact programs that require regular deployments to exercise these constructs, while ensuring logistics and bases of supply, fuel, and housing. This does not happen instantaneously, nor in a vacuum. Nowhere has this been better captured than the recent movie, 13 Hours, depicting the attack on the US Annex in Benghazi, Libya.

You cannot surge trust!

While to some uninformed Americans, having overseas bases and persistent military deployments may seem either excessive or unnecessary, we must cultivate relationships and maintain them in order to ensure we are not scrambling to find a lily pad to land on when Americans, their interests, or those of our close and trusted allies are threatened; this includes the securing of their freedoms as well to ultimately ensure ours at home. More importantly, and to address an earlier commented concern; these relationships build lasting constructs and arrangements that actually decrease the likelihood of greater American causalities precisely because we come in invited and are not forced or drawn to violate another’s sovereign territory, or be forced to deploy larger forces to create a secure environment in inhospitable, non-permissive, and often hostile environments where the Islamic Terror elements thrive and control.

Finally, we simply cannot embrace policies that would advocate for a recession of US presence and influence, especially where ISIS, AQ or other Jihadist terror networks thrive and prosper. It is no longer debatable whether these terror elements will come to the Homeland; they are already here.

The snake that bites you tomorrow is already in your yard today.

Paris, London and Madrid Metros, and most recently San Bernardino, Ft. Hood, Boston Marathon, and Times Square are all examples of this. This is true regarding our imperative means to seek, find, and when necessary, finish these killers before they reach a point, either geographically or operationally, where they would constitute an imminent threat to the Homeland. In order to do that, we must have the assets, locations, and partners to affect action at a place and time and in the conditions of our choosing; not those of the enemy. This is addressed in JWT and it applies today. These actions are often short of war, and prudent to ensure we are not caught flat-footed or ill-prepared to dangers overseas aimed at the Homeland. Alternatives include one-to-one diplomacy, international pressure, economic sanctions, blockades, quarantines, covert actions, and small-scale raids and actions that do not trigger full scale war but address the threat at hand (the Bin Laden raid is a recent example).

It is not necessary to employ all such methods before going to war. It is incumbent upon our civilian leadership and their military advisors, however, to reveal them to be impractical or ineffective. We may be in agreement that this is where Iraq went awry. We rapidly met military objectives, but did not properly define and capture the political end state. While we made significant corrections over time to try to assuage the conditions on the ground, the lack of a clear, achievable, and certain victory led to an unsustainable political outcome and erosion of public support.

I do not advocate violence as a first resort. It fact, I abhor it. However, I understand its place in the modern world and advocate its implementation when confronted with unjust, evil, or even diabolical forces (ISIS in the minds of many Christian observers is diabolical). When applying whether, when, how, and to what extent the US should commit forces or pre-position forces, or establish international partner relationships to meet an emerging or existing threat, I personally attempt to balance any decision or support of that decision with US historical precedence and commitments, our constitutional obligations, and that of the Old and New Testaments — I do not seek or relish in violence. However, I cannot idly endure evil.

This is the Christian security conundrum.

The Old Testament acknowledges that there is “a time to kill.” (Eccles. 3:3) At times in the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to defend their nation by force. Yet it was always with the acknowledgement that peace is the goal to strive for. The Psalmist admits, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Ps. 133:1) As a Christian, peace is the goal; and as an American Christian, when it cannot be achieved without force, then force must be used. St Augustine agrees.

Similarly, the New Testament sets peace as the overriding precept; but acknowledges the valid use of force. John the Baptist acknowledges the Roman soldiers, whose job it was to govern the Pax Romana, or “Peace of Rome,” could keep their jobs (Luke 3:14) and by the Apostle Paul’s remark that a nation “does not bear the sword in vain” but is “God’s servant for your good.” (Rom. 13:4)

I hope this sheds a greater light on my and the position of millions of God-fearing Americans that are not “advocating violence, tyranny, and denying the rights of people that did nothing to us,” blindly following goose stepping Neo-Cons resulting in the needless deaths of America’s brave men and women. We do have an exceptional and special role in the world; it does not mean we are “better” or “superior” or “commanded” to lead or possess a preeminent role in international affairs; it is because we are capable, willing, trusted, and guided by principles (namely the Bible, and our own Constitution) that place us in a unique, vital and precious role to ensure our freedoms and those of billions of others, while giving those that would threaten and curtail those freedoms a moment of pause.

* * *

Frank Dowse is a retired Marine Officer. He was the USMC Commandant’s Fellow at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, receiving an MA in International Security Affairs. These are his observations based on over 30 years involved in counter-terror, intelligence, and defense operational planning, implementation and execution as an active-duty officer and DoD civilian official.

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Comments 26

  1. “While to some uninformed Americans, having overseas bases and persistent military deployments may seem either excessive or unnecessary, we must cultivate relationships and maintain them in order to ensure we are not scrambling to find a lily pad to land on when Americans, their interests, or those of our close and trusted allies are threatened; this includes the securing of their freedoms as well to ultimately ensure ours at home”

    Firstly, thank you Frank for the well-thought out essay; I take issue with the term “uninformed”. There hasn’t been one instance, in our lifetime, where we have haven’t had overseas bases…and yet…

    The presence of those bases is one of the main reasons Islamofascists say they are attacking us. An excellent argument is made that our existing “lily pads” create more lily pads of terror, CAUSING us to hop to and fro.

    I understand the cited resentment those bases might cause. If I grew up in the shadow of a Chinese naval base, I might harbor a tremendous resentment every time I saw Chinese sailors cat-calling my sisters and daughters in the Gaslamp.

    Moreover, the US Treasury is broke, We have permanent bases in Germany, Italy, Spain, Greenland, Portugal, and the UK. The EU citizens neglect security and build ridiculous welfare states, weakening the global economy and putting an undue burden on the US taxpayer.

    At a certain point, the US Treasury will be bouncing checks to deployed service members–I can’t abide that.

    The current, American global security force is economically unsustainable and MAY be fomenting more regional conflicts through proxy battles. Stated simply–we don’t have the money to continue this trajectory and I”m not willing to pay more than half my earnings to protect European and Asian welfare states.

    There has to be a better way to project power abroad than the real estate game the DoD is playing

  2. Thank you , Brian-

    I don’t disagree with the basing where it can (and does) cause resentment as you stated. That is why enabling partners and their force capabilities is a way to assuage this…but you must exercise that, cultivate those relationships, and build trust. Sometimes that trust is demonstrated by an American commitment. An example of this is how we essentially left our E. European NATO allies questioning American resolve in the Atlantic Partnership. We completely ignored the Budapest Memorandum and left the Ukrainians at the mercy of the Russians. We could have taken steps that would have bolstered our commitment to the Poles, Balts, Czechs, etc…and support the Ukrainians and given the Russian a moment of pause. But we didn’t, and the ramifications have been disastrous.

  3. Really, who died and left America in charge?

    I see nothing in our Constitution or Bill of Rights saying we must rule the world.

    Let the rest of the world alone and let’s take care of our own Country

  4. Frank,

    I think my question is simple and straightforward. If you could respond in kind it would be appreciated by me and those who might find a pleasant exchange on the subject interesting.

  5. Let’s try this….

    Founding Frank, try to finish this sentence:
    The freedom that was taken from me was ________.

    Or maybe I could give you a Constitution doll and you could point to where on the doll the bad man took your freedom?

  6. Eric-

    While your question is straight forward, we now live in a much more complex and intricate world, with many intersecting aspects of diplomacy, commerce, trade, and military relationships that assure certain freedoms of both Americans and our allies.

    The threat is Islamic Jihadist Terror and the open, ungoverned space they occupy to launch attacks against American interest abroad, our allies and on the Homeland. An additional emerging threat is the reemergence of provocative, non-democratic hegemons (both nuclear capable and UN P5 members) that are displaying aggressive, yet non-attributable and hybrid methods that are designed to circumvent international law and constructs. The freedoms erode and in the case I cited, were imminently in danger as US freedoms and ability to exercise international diplomacy was clearly at risk. (Something that has been a natural and crucial role exercised since Mesopotamia, the Greek City States, Rome, and beyond). I can’t help you or explain further if that fundamental precept does not resonate with you.

    To the greater Libertarian view holders- The world and the US role in it is not what it was in the 19th century. That is a cold and hard fact that you may choose to ridicule or simplify away. Believe it or not, there are concerns for Americans outside of SD County or what you think you can affect in your door way exercising your 2A rights. .

    I stipulate, as BB alluded; we do need to find a greater balance between complete abandonment and “bring the boys home” where no ability or agility for the US to respond to recognized US national interest exists, and an intrusive and languishing presence where we do more harm than good.

    What isn’t acceptable ultimately are some of the galactically naïve Ron-ulan approaches and perspectives; “Who left America in charge?” Our allies don’t seek our partnership because we demand we are in charge; they seek (and often demand and even threaten) our partnership because we have the capacity, capabilities, will, and historic moral high ground to be given the lead where others cannot or will not. If the US is so bad, why do more people respectively seek asylum, immunity, or immigration here? Ron Paul’s virtual evaporation from the political scene and his lighter, less “tin foil hat” version of his son has been roundly rejected by the electorate. In this case, the American people innately understand we can no longer lead from behind in the age of ISIS, Putin, and Jinping.

    Seriously- some of the perspectives expressed remind me of the recent Direct Cable Settlers commercials. “Now, son, go churn some butter, and then make your own clothes.” 🙂

  7. Today is Ayn Rand’s birthday. Thought this appropriate and relevant.

    “Let no man posture as an advocate of peace if he proposes or supports any social system that initiates the use of force against individual men, in any form” — Ayn Rand, born on this date in 1905 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

  8. FF,

    So are you saying that because there was a chance, that at some future date, the United States might possibly, it could happen, come under nuclear attack by jihadist terrorists or some other non-democratic entity, it was therefore justifiable for us to kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians?

    Are you further saying that this action of ours made it easier for us to “exercise international diplomacy” in the future?

  9. HQ- I am not an apologist for the Bush Admin actions in Iraq- and there were several prominent Democrat Pols that voted for the invasion as well. Including one recent co-winner of Iowa.

    Perspective- Iraq did have WMD and had used it against its own citizens and against Iran during their war with them in the 80s. While no definitive stock of Saddam’s WMD were recovered, (traces and small quantities were recovered), there is an increasing body of evidence that Russian forces may have facilitated the removal of the large stockpiles into Syria shortly before the war. This has been advanced by many within Israeli Intelligence and there is some evidence presented by former Pentagon officials about ostensively sattillite imagery of Russian trucks hauling equipment out.

    http://www.inquisitr.com/959826/syria-chemical-weapons-iraq-wmds-taken-by-russia-to-assad-and-back-again/

    I have no personal knowledge, but it would not be beyond the machinations of the Russians to go to great lengths to support and advance the narrative of no WMD in Iraq.

    Saddam was a belligerent, and he did attempt to kill an ex-US president, along with funding and directly supporting terror activities aimed at the US and Israel. The definitive evidence that AQ was in Iraq has always been problematic to me, but there are some that strongly alleged this.

    Given all that, his repeated violations of the No-Fly zones, his previous invasion of Kuwait, and the climate and atmosphere immediately post-911 and after the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the growth industry posed by AQ in these toppled and despotic states, the decision was made to invade. Hindsight is always 20/20.

    Are the deaths of any civilians in any war “justifiable?” I think most reasoned observers acknowledge they are intensely regrettable; as in Normandy, Okinawa, Anzio, and Berlin, or in Richmond or Atlanta. Civilian deaths are a tragic and inevitable by-product of war. In the end, I am confident no one within the American security apparatus made the conscience decision to go and kill any civilians….100- or 100k.

  10. FF,

    Many countries have weapons of mass destruction. Many countries have despotic, despicable leaders who treat their own people horrifically. In some cases, these two lists overlap. None of the above gives us the right to invade another sovereign nation unless and until we are attacked.

    One of the advantages of being the biggest, baddest dude on the block is that you don’t have to take the first swing to win (or even prevent) a fight.

  11. HQ- I don’t think the French in NAZI occupied France, or the Brits in London circa 1944 would agree with you.

  12. FF,

    Very bad analogy. Neither the French nor the British were the biggest, baddest dude on the block circa 1941. As I said in a previous response, Germany was a real threat to our country as well as those in Europe. Iraq certainly was not.

    Please consider for one minute what the American people would think of a country that invaded the United States and killed hundreds of thousands of our citizens. Now consider that since the end of WW II, the United States military has killed more citizens of other countries than all other militaries combined.

    In many (most) ways, we are the greatest country in the world. The way we use our military as a substitute for diplomacy isn’t one of them.

  13. Frank,
    I think the reason you are unable to answer my question is because it exposes the immorality of your policy view.

    You not only have little in common with our founding fathers, you have rejected the basis of their law system, “laws of nature and Nature’s God.” Their policy view presupposes a Creator and therefore a transcendent law that governs all men. In their view all men are equal before the law. There is therefore no room for a hegemon as your view requires.

    Your view is a progressive one which aborts the individual and the Creator to make room for a new King – man and the State. You have carved the Creator into an idol that now supports your humanistic foreign policy. Your conscience can be assuaged on Sunday by your actions on Monday.

    Noticeably absent in your writing are references to principle and a complete dependence on experience, the essence of progressive humanism. And if you will excuse me, the fruit of a Harvard education.

    Harvard has been progressive since Charles William Eliot became Dean in 1869. Eliot applied Darwin’s theory of evolution to education and changed Harvard’s motto from Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae, meaning “Truth for Christ and the Church” to “Veritas” meaning “Truth”. Truth became disconnected and autonomous from Christ and the law of nature in the same way you state our views on policy must change as our environment changes/evolves. Like Eliot, a Unitarian, you desire man to be autonomous from principle.

    The harms you attempt to nobly thwart around the world are for the most part a byproduct of your morality. You do not respect your neighbor. Your view justifies the initiation of violence against a person who poses no such threat to you or your family. One with such views will always create more enemies than his neighbor and will point to such threats as continued justification for additional violence.

    Your comment “Ron Paul’s virtual evaporation from the political scene…has been roundly rejected by the electorate” offers a case in point.

    In your view man, “the electorate”, is king not “the laws of nature and Nature’s God.” Your view seeks to justify immorality based upon the autonomous will of man “the electorate” apart from higher law. This is the philosophy that buttresses statism and voids natural rights. This view allows two wolves and a sheep to vote on lunch. It justified slavery. It is this immoral view of law that has de-educated the electorate creating value in Obama, Sanders, Hilary and Trump where none should exist.

    There are two sources of threats to our nation, internal and external. As Lincoln noted our greatest threat would be internal. I happen to agree with him. I believe your policy view is responsible for most of the terror we face, most of the debt that burdens our families and most of our lost freedom as we respond to blowback.

    The world we live may be “complex” and “intricate” but it in no way voids the operation of “the laws of nature and Nature’s God”. Triangles still have three sides. Theft, tyranny and the initiation of violence remain evil unless of course our philosophy rejects such a thing as a Creator and such a thing as “good.”

    Ideas have consequences. Your faith is in man and your own ideas and experience. My faith and reason are submitted to higher law, something greater than myself. As Augustine stated peace with God precedes peace in the home, in society and in the state. Like Augustine I am rightly or wrongly of the view that your policy view, and Atkinson’s, will be an instrument for tyranny, violence, debt and terror until your ideas are reconciled to those of the Creator and the ideas our nation was founded.

    I am not nearly as worried about the third world immigrant looking for employment as I am the white collar veteran seeking more power in our society who holds your view.

    If you consider yourself either Christian or conservative I think you have some soul searching to do.

  14. Eric,

    Modern Conservatives only believe in limited government when it comes to business regulation and taxation. When it comes to international affairs or the way an individual lives his/her life, Conservatives are very much in favor of big-time government interference.

    On the other hand, modern Liberals believe in limited government when it comes to personal choices and involvement abroad but want the government to over-regulate businesses and interfere in an individual’s economic choices In mistaken belief that we can somehow guarantee “an equal life” for all.

    I believe there should be a pox on both their houses.

  15. FF,

    “Our allies don’t seek our partnership because we demand we are in charge; they seek (and often demand and even threaten) our partnership because we have the capacity, capabilities, will, and historic moral high ground to be given the lead where others cannot or will not.”

    If we change a few words in your statement above, I wonder if you would still be in agreement:

    Our LESS FORTUNATE CITIZENS don’t seek our ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL SUPPORT because we demand we are in charge; they seek (and often demand and even threaten) our SUPPORT because we have the capacity, capabilities, will, and historic moral high ground to be given the lead where others cannot or will not.

    I assume that you would not agree with the statement as I have modified it and that when it comes to domestic economic policies, your philosophy is based more on individual responsibility. I further assume that is based on your belief that when the government “takes care” of the individual, a never-ending dependence on the government is created. Why can’t you see that by trying to take care of all the world’s problems, we are creating that same never-ending dependency on a global scale?

  16. HQ- Anticipating crisis and enabling our international partners so we don’t have to respond at every turn is not “taking care” of them in the context you espouse from a Social Democrat perspective. Its the difference with “teaching a man to fish” vice giving him a fish.

  17. Frank, I can chime in on a lot of your points but your Africa experience glares at me:

    “This was the beginnings of operations for the greater Islamic Caliphate, where Arab interlopers were using the instability and chaos in Africa through means and methods of terror to promote and advance their political and terror-based aims against US and other perceived western or western sympathizing nations.”

    You equate your Horn of Africa (HOA) experience as coinciding with the rise of the Islamist Caliphate movement. You then “state this because many believe “if the US wasn’t there, then they would leave us alone.”

    But you miss a huge fact. AQ and the rise of the caliphate effort happened before that and I wrote about it recently. The 1990/1991 US presence on Saudi soil that inflamed the wahhabists and others of the Salafist view points that saw infidels on the Arabian peninsula as occupiers of the the land of two holy cities. Its also triggered a lack of legitimacy towards the Saudi regime among these groups, once again aggravating tensions between the house of Saud and the Ikhwan (or the modern equivalent).

    Surprisingly, you have a view point like many domestic Americans. that the 1991 Gulf War ended and then kicked up again in 2003. When in reality, as I wrote before, for the mideast the war never ended. Bill Clinton Bombed ever year there enforcing nothern/southern watch (and bombed heavily in Operation Desert Fox). And George W Bush bombed Iraq heavily in February 2001 while I was in Egypt. On account of that, Arabs would ask me why the US was starting another war in Iraq, seven months BEFORE 9/11 .

    A quick last note – you can’t keep throwing WW2 out to criticize non-interventionism and act like the US never maneuvered itself into wars. Japan clearly attacked first (although the US was arming China and cutting off oil). Germany and Italy declared war on us, any libretarian would fight that. It’s been found recently that the Lusitania WAS sending arms to the UK in WW1 as the Germans contended (making it a legal target; google that) and we denied. The USS Maine did explode by a boiler fire and not a Spanish bomb, though we declared war anyways. We know Gulf Tonkin was a fake but we went to war because we wanted it, but when Israel DID attack the USS Liberty and killed Americans we didn’t want war so we looked the other way (if you haven’t heard that one, look it up).

    The US has never had a non-interventionist policy but has been quite passive-aggressive. It’s like standing right in someone’s face annoying them, but not touching, and then when they finally get annoyed or push you away you yell “Aggressor! We’ve been unjustly attacked!” Seriously, show me a US war after 1783 where the US was not passive-aggressive in its approach in order to get it’s war. The only two I can think of is Korea an Iraq, both incidents where we were surprised because foggy bottom blew it (they said Korea was in our sphere of influence and similarly April Gilespie told Saddam we don’t have a position in his dispute with neighbors).

    You can’t look at 200 years of this and truly think people just hate us for our freedoms. But we are in this mess and undoing it, well that’s another discussion

  18. “I have no personal knowledge, but it would not be beyond the machinations of the Russians to go to great lengths to support and advance the narrative of no WMD in Iraq.” – FF

    Having been the War Room Ops Officer for the Commander of all Ground Forces when this happened….I can’t say anything without drinks 🙂

  19. FF,

    “Teaching a man to fish.” Is that what you call what we are doing in the Middle East? If that is the case, then why, pray tell, can’t we even get the countries most affected by Jihadist terrorism to even get in the boat?

  20. Elliot- “In Vino Veritas”

    Again, having “no personal knowledge” is not meaning “no knowledge.” 🙂

    I’ll cover the first round.

  21. Elliot- Forgive the oversight of your larger more detailed comment-

    “But you miss a huge fact. AQ and the rise of the caliphate effort happened before that and I wrote about it recently. ”

    Did you not notice where I specifically make reference “Black Hawk Down” wrt AQ in Somalia years prior?

    The larger point that was regretably lost on the one to whom I was responding; he asked “what is the threat and what freedoms were threatened?” It was and is the advance of Jihadist terror groups and the ungoverned spaces they plot, train, and launch from, and the freedoms curtailed and certainly vulnerable to US interests, our allies, and international law assists in maintaining those freedoms. Alas, some want to couch it in the fear is “cattle rustling” in Alpine and neglect the larger, more complex, more intricate, and more sophisticated measures needed for an innovative enemy set to kill as many of us (civilians) as possible. I don’t think they are dedicating their efforts and raising their operational bar because we stomped on a KS-19 emplacement or schwacked some Iraqi Helo in either ONW or OSW no-fly zones.

    I think you would agree that a wholesale withdraw of American assets and influence to maintain the ability to fight the enemy on our terms “there” and not his “here” is a dangerous one and has to move beyond “natural law” and the “equality of men” straw man proposed by some. I implicitly agree that while all men are created equally in the eyes of our Creator, not all men will die equally on the battlefield. Some can run, and hide, but if they attack the US, our interests, threaten our freedoms or the ability for us to maintain them, then they can rest assured good men will go to great lengths to ensure that the best our enemies can hope for is they will just die tired.

  22. “I think you would agree that a wholesale withdraw of American assets and influence to maintain the ability to fight the enemy on our terms “there” and not his “here” is a dangerous one”

    Certainly. I think it might be the missing point in all of this. Eric has described a solid foundation of how the US should behave and should have behaved. I agree with most of it, although even as an army guy I recognize the value of maintaining a thalassocracy for our freedom both economic and political. But, as you (FF) kind of addressed we are already in a mess and we have already made the enemies. Yes, we shouldn’t have deviated from what Eric has describe as the Founders intended. TR and Wilson of the progressive era 120 years ago did the damage. Also adopting British Imperial policy whole cloth when the UK couldn’t maintain in the 40s/50s (stumbling into containment as we did) was the wrong way.

    But, yes, we can’t just say “Sorry world, we messed up. We’re going to do it right now.” Then pack up and leave as if there would be no repercussions. That’s why I mentioned before we have to have a strategy. Bush had a misplaced one, Obama doesn’t have one, and our candidates are only thinking “tactical” about the fight but not the strategic purpose.

    I haven’t seen you articulate one yet, it just sounds like “we need to defeat ISIS because they threaten us” which isn’t a strategy, it’s just a tactical fight. It lacks the operational thought of action in time and the linking to a strategy which I believe should be 1) eliminate the strategic significance of the middle east 2) create conditions for the US to operate less actively internationally and return to the role our father’s intended.

    It will take time, it’ll likely include a few more wars, but it needs to be the goal. Unfortunately, both parties are enthralled to either idealism or Neocon philosophy and are dragging us deeper down the rabbit hole of unnecessary conflict. They really have no grand strategy for our role in the changing world.

  23. Elliot- OK- But, in Eric’s description, behavior alone is not a strategy.

    It may be a set of principles that should and hopefully are adhered to and applied in any circumstance. Yet, as I mentioned in my original article; the Westphalian construct and the notion that nation-states will behave rationally has been possibly irrevocably altered in the Age of ISIS and P5 nuclear capable regional hegemons circumventing international law purposefully and routinely.

    After all the gnashing of teeth, the other party and I fundamentally and ideologically agree on the principles of what US FP and IS should look like. However, where we significantly deviate is in the application and necessity to adapt to changing conditions and environs while not surrendering either our principles or our defense. Hence, the “realism” aspect, which I know is apparently unfathomable for some, does force us to move, morph, and deviate from those chosen and preferred norms. Some believe we have not gone far enough (neo-cons) and some believe we should virtually if not literally abandon our influence and ability to affect outcomes on our terms (libertarian absolutists).

    As laid out by Mr. Andersen, even Reagan doesn’t meet the lofty-applied JWT and strict constitutionalist interpretation- Grenada, Libyan Raid, or his protégé’s actions in Panama (GHWB) . Yet Mr. Andersen and many within the RPSDC don’t seem to apply the same level of scrutiny with such righteousness when they are yucking it up at the major RPSDC annual event ironically called the “Reagan Dinner.”

    It’s like this- Some are comfortable driving a car freely and unencumbered all the way until the engine light comes on (Libertarians). They don’t want to bother anyone, nor be bothered by anyone. They will attempt to deal with that problem when it arrives. Some never take the car out of the garage (Isolationists). They are self-contained or don’t advance or achieve much else (smaller nations afforded little or parasitic protection in larger security constructs i.e. Switzerland, Austria, Finland). I am advocating a security strategy that lets the US drive the car freely (free market), as defined by all the other civil drivers (international law), and without fear of provocative drivers wreaking havoc and threatening good road etiquette and norms (Self-defense as prescribed by the Constitution). We perform routine maintenance, and adapt our tires, change wipers, and adjust driving patterns to meet shifting road conditions (operational deployments, SOFAs, mil-to-mil contact, partner enabling, intelligence gathering). We repair what needs to be prepared when the maintenance indicators tell us (resourcing, training, and equipping), or as necessary, and we don’t drive on other peoples lawns (Respect fellow civil nations and international norms). We pay into the “road kitty”, where we don’t solely keep the roads maintained (collective security), but work and negotiate to where we attempt as equitable and affordable an arrangement as we can (diplomacy, statecraft, and a portion of GNP for a viable defense apparatus) .

    What that ultimately looks like is where a strategy emerges.

  24. Frank, that’s a great analogy. I arrive at the Libertarian side (or closer too it with elements of yours) not from philosophy but from experience and focusing on results\objectives\goals. I think our military should certainly be robust as it is, but I just see some one the stuff you feel the US should be responsible for is a bit too entangling and also too much of a pretext for those that wish to impose American power abroad. Our careers overlap, I think mine is more jaded since it began with Clinton’s Bosnia idealism, the middle was Bush’s attempt at a military solution in the mideast, and is wrapping up with Obama’s retreat without strategy. I’ve experience the limits of American power, I’ve seen how our establishment clings to notion of our Cold war responsibilities that have long since faded and have commitments that outstrips our resources now that the world has been rebuilt. Time to redefine our responsibilities and roles and shed some idealistic historical baggage in my view.

    As for Westphalia, one of my favorite topics and probably best discussed outside of Rostra, but I too saw 911 as the first NGO vs state war. But I have come around to no longer seeing it as Kaplan’s Coming Anarchy and Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations but see ISIS and the Islamofascist threat as truly a classic nation-state problem. A problem our leaders fail to ignore. The jihadis are not a force spawned by themselves. The road to radicalization starts in Riyadh. The leaders of both party pretend its an NGO war because they refuse to address the state behind it. it’s like complaining about Comintern while pretend Moscow isn’t behind it. But like I said another time, and another round of drinks. My email address is just me first and last name at gmail.

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