Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Call To Action

There is no question that times are tough. The national unemployment rate is around 10%—probably higher when you count the under-employed, those whose unemployment benefits have run out and those who have given up looking—and in many states the unemployment rate is even higher that the national average.

While the Democrats didn’t start the out-of-control spending, they did accelerate the deficit spending. Now they are making the problem exponentially worse by increasing taxes and fees.

The only segment where employment is increasing is in government. But the government doesn’t produce anything except bureaucracy, fraud and waste.

We have an opportunity to change the way government works and get our nation back on track this November. But in order to do this we must support good constitutional-conservative candidates. While most of these candidates call themselves Republicans, they are often not supported by the Republican establishment—a simultaneously good and bad thing. On the plus side, non-establishment candidates will work for the people who elect them, not special interest groups. On the negative side, lack of establishment backing also means they must struggle for both money and media attention to get their message out to the voters who have the power to send them to Washington, D.C., their state capitals, their county seats or their city halls.

It is imperative for each and every one of us to help these candidates in any way possible. We all know that money is tight and just paying the bills is a struggle. But if we miss this opportunity in November of 2010, our nation may be unrecognizable by 2012. So, if it means making a sacrifice to contribute ten dollars to a candidate you feel is worthy, do it.

But what if you truly can’t afford those ten dollars? Then get involved directly. Walk precincts for your candidate to get the word out. If you have a blog, write about the candidates you support. If you have an Internet radio show, or know someone who does, get that candidate on the air to get their message to as many people as possible. Offer to hold a fundraiser or a meet & greet at your home or business. Be creative, but find a way to get the candidates you support elected.

We are at a crossroads in our republic and it is time to take a stand for our liberty, for our Constitution and for our children’s future.

Simply voting on Election Day is not good enough. Get involved. Get some skin in the game. We get the government deserve, so let’s make sure we deserve a great one!

McChrystal’s Ouster

General Stanley McChrystal served his country for 34 years. He began his military career as a Second Lieutenant in 1976 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and was promoted to 4-Star General in June of 2009 when he took command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

His career was distinguished and decorated, including the Legion of Merit (with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters) and the Bronze Star. He deserved better than to be relieved of duty because of some off-color remarks made in a bar, that were reported in a dying left-wing publication like Rolling Stone Magazine.

With all that said and with all due respect to his service to our nation, he and his staff showed an incredible lack of judgment by allowing that reporter (and I use the term loosely) to be embedded with them in the first place. This lapse in judgment left President Obama no choice but to ask General McChrystal to submit his resignation.

Unlike generals like Douglas MacArthur and George Patton who had won unprecedented battles and were storied heroes of World War II, Stanley McChrystal was fighting an increasingly unpopular war. Many now question the wisdom of invading Afghanistan in the first place, while still others criticize the strategy and tactics employed in the effort. McChrystal was in fact on the losing end of a war where American soldiers and marines were dying as a direct result of his own Rules of Engagement.

The counter-insurgency tactics he successfully championed and sold to President Obama are controversial to be sure. The ROE imposed upon our military in Afghanistan were unpopular with the soldiers on the ground and many military analysts here at home.

I have had the privilege of interviewing retired Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely and Brig. Gen. James Cash, as well as former CIA operative Michael Baker about the war in Afghanistan. Although all of these men expressed great respect for General McChrystal, they expressed staunch disagreement with the wisdom of the tactics he was employing.

No one wants the American military to kill innocent Afghans. We all want to limit collateral casualties if possible. But it’s important that when we put our brave men and women in harm’s way that we give them the resources they need to accomplish their mission and protect their lives as well.

When the rules of engagement include such things as not being allowed to fire until fired upon, not being able to call in air strikes in populated areas, or pursue Taliban fighters into populated areas, we are tying the hands of our military and putting them in unnecessary and unacceptable peril.

As we witnessed in Somalia, in what became known as the “Black Hawk Down” incident in Mogadishu, when political concerns trump military considerations our soldiers die. In the Battle of Mogadishu, political concerns about having too big a footprint caused Washington, D.C. to withhold AC-130 gunship support and prevent armored vehicles from being used. The results were dead Army Rangers and Delta Operators. The images of our dead soldiers being dragged through the streets by Somali militiamen led to our withdrawal from that troubled country and was a demoralizing blow to the morale of our troops.

With all due respect to General McChrystal, who obviously believes in the COIN strategy, in my opinion (for what it’s worth) he was the wrong general, fighting the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. He should not have been given this assignment, in the first place. But that of course is not his fault.

The fact that President Obama dithered for four months before giving the general only 30,000 of the 40,000 troops he requested for his “surge” in Afghanistan must have frustrated McChrystal tremendously, and the fact that Vice-President Biden strongly opposed the COIN strategy and favored a counter-terrorist strategy instead, also was a point of contention for the general.

McChrystal and his staff were obviously blowing off steam when they made the comments that Rolling Stone printed. But they let their guard down with the enemy in their midst and he cut them down just as surely as a Taliban infiltrator would have.

Now we have to hope that McChyrstal’s replacement, General David Petraeus, tapped by President Obama, will change the Rules of Engagement to effectively grant Obama the necessary time to defeat the Taliban and get the Afghan Army and police to defend their own people and nation.

In order to win the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan peasant-farmers, Petraeus might consider allowing them to grow poppy to be purchased by western pharmaceutical companies, rather than trying to destroy the crops or forcing the Afghans to grow some other much less lucrative crop.

We need to manage our expectations and realize the futility of trying to turn Afghanistan into a Jeffersonian democracy—or even into an Iraqi-style democracy. We can only hope to make it a functioning country that is not a haven for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Criticize Obama For The Right Reasons

Much has been made of the fact that President Obama did not attend the wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery this Memorial Day, choosing instead to take a vacation in Chicago. Some even claimed it was the first time a wartime president had failed to pay his respects to the fallen at the nation’s most esteemed military cemetery.

Upon first reflection this seemed like a terrible slight to our armed forces. But after further research and analysis it seems that on at least two scores this may have been overblown and factually incorrect.

To begin with, this not the first time the President of the United States has been absent from Arlington on Memorial Day—even during wartime. Ronald Reagan had a deputy defense secretary fill in for him. In 1992, while the Gulf War was taking place, George H.W. Bush (a WWII Veteran) missed the annual event, but actually spoke to a veterans group in Kennebunkport, Maine. Years later in 2007, while our troops were fighting valiantly in Iraq and Afghanistan, George W. Bush sent Vice-President Dick Cheney to Arlington in his place.

This year President Obama attended a ceremony at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Illinois, hardly ignoring this important day of remembrance. Vice-President Biden, the father of a son that has served in Iraq, laid the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington in the president’s place.

Second, those that take issue with our commander-in-chief might consider that Biden, a man who has had a son in combat, might be better qualified to understand the feelings of veterans and their family members than Obama who does not share that experience.

If critics of Obama, his administration and his policies are to maintain credibility we must take care to keep our criticisms based in facts and not in the kind of irrational hyperbole that the left so often engages in.

There is cause for criticism to be leveled at President Obama for taking another vacation at this time, but it should be for the fact that he does so while there is an environmental disaster occurring in the Gulf Mexico and along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and while millions of Americans are out of work and struggling to pay their essential expenses. It seems heartless, elitist and tone-deaf for Obama to be taking yet another vacation while so many Americans are suffering and losing so much.