A very powerful, aggressive and concerted attack using extremely potent conventional military hardware against a sovereign state is an act of war. Throughout the history of humanity there has never been any other way to describe such an act. Anyone now engaging in silly semantics in an effort to give it some other label is engaging in propaganda they believe is intended for an audience of morons. The intention of such an act is to destroy things and kill people. We, of course, did not hesitate to label an attack on office buildings on our soil by unconventional fighters as “war” – even though the perpetrators did not use any military hardware at all in their attack. We then used that act of war as justification for our attacking Afghanistan.
The nation’s founders intended to separate the power to decide to initiate a war from the power to carry it out. Instances since the Korean War have frequently required very fast action to avoid endangering the nation or its citizens, or its deployed military forces, thus necessitating bending the strict before-the-fact rules of the Constitution.
But increasingly we have been using the US military in war for matters that have absolutely nothing to do with defending the nation or protecting Americans, i.e., the US military is increasingly becoming a mercenary force for the use by the President as he or she sees fit, including, incredibly, even in domestic missions, often for purely political or emotional objectives – while those asked to execute such missions believe they are “defending the nation”, and the People who provide both the warm bodies and the money for that military are being left entirely out of the equation. Tens of thousands of soldiers easily can die or be maimed between elections, which makes integral and expertly knowledgeable Congressional involvement even more important.
The United States Constitution:
ARTICLE 1, SECTION 8:
The CONGRESS shall have Power:
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;…
ARTICLE II, SECTION 2
The PRESIDENT shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States….
Because of the speed with which modern warfare can be executed, the War Powers Resolution of 1973 was a United States Congress joint resolution slightly altering strict interpretation of the US Constitution. It provided that the President can send US armed forces into action abroad only by authorization of Congress or if the United States is already under attack or serious threat.
How do you ask Americans to swear to defend the Constitution, which all military people do, when those ordering them into harm’s way don’t even follow that Constitution themselves? Just when does the whole flag-waving “system” become a phony charade? If the United States wants a mercenary force to employ any way the person in the White House wants to, with full “plausible denial”, then we shouldn’t cheaply hide it behind an honorable military sworn as federal officers defending to death the Constitution, the nation and the nation’s citizens. And we shouldn’t scream “foul” when someone then attacks us in a similar fashion with a similar rationalization. Each time we undertake these purely elective military actions, we set a dangerous precedent for ourselves as well as a set of double standards in the world that says, “Do as I say, not as I do” – which makes us look like the biggest arrogant bully on the block. We also send a very twisted message to our own children.
The pretext for our going twice into the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s was that the Europeans had been watching genocide actually take place right in front of their faces for years and had done nothing to stop it, so the US military was ordered to take necessary action under a “NATO” flag – without Congressional approval. (A case could be made that the conflict might spill over and represent a threat to the integrity of Europe; the advantage was that Yugoslavia was not a member of “NATO” and thus could not veto the entry of “NATO” forces.) The pretext for going into Iraq was the Director of CIA’s assurances that it was “a slam dunk” that Iraq had WMD intended to directly endanger the United States and her allies, which proved false, but was still the rationalization needed to be in compliance with the Constitution and the War Powers Act, and prior Congressional authorization was obtained. These two cases illustrate the different views that different groups have of the US military – as defenders of the nation or as world cop. The military, on the other hand, has only one view of itself – as defenders of the nation.
In going into Libya there was absolutely no rationalization at all of any prior danger to the nation or its citizens, or even to its allies. Now everyone is trying to find some label for our action other than “war”, as if it were possible to be “half-pregnant” in the delivery room. Cue the pathetic after-the-fact shift in rationalizations: it wasn’t “to stop an impending civilian slaughter” once again right under Europe’s nose, but “revenge for a 23-year-old act of terrorism against Americans that wasn’t adequately satisfied by the legal system”; or “giving up his nukes and establishing diplomatic relations don’t count because the lunatic is still a “bad guy””, etc.. It’s ALL hypocritical baloney. There was NO threat to America or Americans, or even to allies.
If it was purely a “humanitarian mission” as various elements are now claiming (in theory, since all we actually had were the usual bellicose threats), then a small uniformed ground force should have been sent in under a US flag on a strictly humanitarian mission, without shooting at anyone, to stand between those intending to inflict harm and their intended victims. If the aggressor then fired on the ground soldiers, THEN conventional weapons could be bought to bear to protect American lives. This is the way our responsible adult parents defended Israel and Egypt for the past 35 years, West Berlin for 45 years, South Korea for the past 55 years. If sound intelligence analysis indeed deemed it imperative that the US interject itself, then several special operations teams could have been sent in to clandestinely train the side we support – a low-cost degree of involvement that could easily be abandoned if and when appropriate. I would gladly have volunteered for just such missions in Libya, which would have also provided an opportunity to better assess the actual situation on the ground.
Instead our action was unequivocally an unprovoked act of war against another state. Going into Libya was purely an emotional mission, executed for purely political purposes. We have clearly taken sides in an internal civil war, without really knowing anything about the side we are supporting. The only way a government in our democracy can do that is if it is acting on behalf of a population that “thinks” with emotion rather than with logic, one that can very easily be swayed by mushy “marketing”. The only threat external to the country was the possibility of non-Libyan refugees wanting to enter Europe. Further, it was a dangerous ill-defined mission ordered by a President, urged on by emotional women and their clones with zero knowledge of the military, who claims to be a “Constitutional scholar”. Perhaps this President should share some of his expert Constitutional knowledge with the American people, because even a guy like me, who has lived with these things for his entire life, doesn’t understand it.
Just a little over three years earlier (December 2007) this same President was quoted in the Boston Globe as saying, “The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” That seems clear enough to me, and is in full agreement with my own understanding. So now it appears that our military officers in Libya are executing an unlawful executive order, which itself is a punishable offense under the UCMJ.
Have the American people really become this stupid? As a Regular Army officer I sell MY services ONLY to the American People, and for whatever they wish to pay me, without union negotiation; I do NOT sell my services to the highest bidder as a mercenary, nor would I ever cheapen myself by even considering such despicable behavior. It is NOT a matter of emotion or politics; it is solely a matter of honor and principle. It is NOT a matter of transitory popular opinion; it is solely a matter of law.
Furthermore, it is next to impossible to get lower than using honorable American military lives to advance cheap political objectives. Anyone who believes that it is possible to attack another country, to kill people and destroy things, without putting US military lives in harm’s way or without placing US soldiers “on the ground” is just incredibly naïve. (ALL US “no-fly” zones must be coordinated by US military people on the ground to distinguish friend from foe, civilians from combatants, none of whom wear uniforms or move around under a big flag, and to rescue downed pilots, train locals, provide communications, etc., and anyone who says otherwise is just lying.) And, obviously, it’s NOT just a “no-fly” mission, since also armored military vehicles and concentrated groups of uniformed soldiers are being destroyed on the ground, which is entirely characteristic of “war”.
US news media has been reporting for two days that “a French jet fighter shot down a Libyan fighter over Libya”, even long after the truth was reported by the French. Probably because the US military command watched the event in real time, the French military reported that, “The Libyan G2/Galeb trainer aircraft was destroyed by an air-to-ground missile just after it landed at an air base near the rebel-held town of Misrata.” Translation: This brave French pilot in his super-computer jet “fighter” shot an unarmed trainer plane and pilot in the back as it was crawling away from him at very slow speed on the ground, without bothering to check to see if the pilot was defecting to the “rebels”. This is supremely “French”.
Very many of the tanks destroyed in the desert by “NATO” jets, drones and missiles contained military crews who were chained in their seats. The regime’s security police, realizing that many of the soldiers would not fire on their own citizens, decided to force them to fire or die. Most died.
But it is an example of what happens when you employ extremely potent conventional weapon systems designed and intended to destroy huge lumbering conventional forces like the Warsaw Pact instead against isolated very small targets, especially by people who do not operate under American standards – in an unconventional conflict. It is simply not possible to protect civilians in populated areas with bombs and missiles. Any truthful military commander will tell you that, in those circumstances, one can expect very high “collateral damage” and “friendly fire” from such weapon systems anywhere near an inhabited area while engaged in a state of war. The question then becomes who would have inflicted greater damage on civilian populations – the offending state’s own forces or the “humanitarian” attacking forces.
Our very aggressive attack has clearly sent a warning signal to other autocratic rulers in the region, but those rulers also know that there are definite limits to US military power (which may have already been breached. The US ground force capability clearly has been.). If Gaddafi and his clan remain, the most likely outcome is a divided state in protracted violent opposition with itself. If Gaddafi goes, the most likely outcome is a protracted, brutal, disorganized multi-tribal warfare on the Med eventually resulting in a failed state dependent on indefinite external support. The great danger remains the introduction of outside influence to exploit the situation for its own nefarious purposes. No Libyan alternative to Gaddafi has yet presented itself as capable of running a country effectively in the 21st century. All of these outcomes beg for the introduction of significant ground forces. But whose? Most Mid-east countries are currently dealing with their own internal revolutions or trying to figure out how to run countries without dictators; they certainly don’t have the capability to play “peacekeeper” in other countries. Does anyone really think that the Europeans are going to step in on the very dangerous ground before American soldiers have rendered the environment safe?
This is my Oath of Office as a Commissioned Military Officer of the United States: “I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
That’s it. Note that a Regular Army federal soldier is sworn to defend only the United States Constitution — not any person, property, office, state, governor, dogma or any other constitution, government body, nation state or military alliance. My first responsibility is to the people of the United States. As a Regular officer, I was commissioned by the President and hold that commission at his or her discretion; neither my oath or my commission has an expiration date and both remain in effect even after I am placed on the Retired List. It is a solemn life commitment. A President may relieve me of my office, but a President cannot order me to execute an order that is not in full compliance with the Constitution, including all laws based on that Constitution enacted by the US Congress. Furthermore, if I DO execute such an order, I can be charged with high crimes under the Constitutional Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
(See also “Does Congress Understand The Military?”, “The Constitution And The Military“, “Human Rights, The Moral Imperative, and Just Wars” and “Smiling Faces And Purple Fingers – And Egypt“, posted separately.)
(Much of the above was posted as a footnote to “Does Congress Understand The Military?” But e-mails from readers indicated that many were missing the footnote, so I decided to extract it and post a slightly expanded version as this separate post.)
Footnote #1: The Four Sisters. Obviously three women in the rear are a LOT “smarter” than our blustery men:
Washington DC-born Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the UN,
Chicago-born Hillary Clinton, US Secretary Of State, and
Dublin-born Irishwoman Samantha Power, Special Assistant to the President, NSC.
So far, these three American women are doing a truly great job of using the President to get American men to jump through all the entirely predictable hoops, just like a bunch of lemming morons, damned the Constitution and damned the War Powers Act.
“Go git ’em, Bruno! Woof! Woof!”
This includes all those duplicitous politicians seeking a way to save enormously expensive conventional military hardware that hasn’t been used for the last ten years of very deadly unconventional wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the coming Defense budget cuts.
“Never let a good crisis go to waste.”
Come to think of it, wasn’t is also another women who viewed the US military as “humanitarian world cop” during the 1990s?
Prague-born and Euro-centric “elitist” Madeleine Albright, US Ambassador to the UN (1993-1997), where she famously ignored the genocide in Rwanda, and US Secretary Of State (1997-2001), where she counts as her greatest achievement sending the US military on a “humanitarian” mission into Kosovo following years of European refusal to act to stop ethnic cleansing genocide – by sexually insulting and denigrating the military expertise of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including General Colin Powell. At the time, the President solemnly swore three times to the American people and to Congress that US soldiers would not be in the former Yugoslavia for as long as one year. The US military has been in Bosnia since 1995 (16 years) and in Kosovo since 1999 (12 years).
Footnote #2. Pan Am Flight 103. Because of the very vocal and persistent organized lobbying by the surviving members of an airliner that was bought down over Lockerbie Scotland, there has long been a strong emotional undercurrent in certain government quarters about getting “even” with those behind that bombing. However, there has also been a strong rumor floating around certain other circles for years that the bomb was planted on board Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988 on the orders of the Iranian regime under Ayatollah Khomeini, not Gaddafi of Libya, and that this was immediately suspected and then known by British and American intelligence within two years after the plane went down. The rumor is that the Pan Am flight was pay-back for the US Navy accidentally shooting down an Iranian airliner over the Mediterranean Sea earlier in 1988. However, in 1990 both the US and UK were faced with Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, and decided that it was best not to muddy that situation by further alienating both Iran and Syria at that time. So, as the story goes, the US framed a Libyan airline official to pacify surviving family members of Flight 103, and to secure the support of Syria in the effort to eject Iraq from Kuwait, and this charade was carried forward all the way through Gaddafi eventually paying each Flight 103 family a sum of $10 million. In 2014, two years after the death of the man convicted of the bombing and the death of Gaddafi, a former Iranian intelligence officer confirmed the direct Iranian involvement. (Source of last sentence: Gwynne Dyer, Canadian journalist and historian, March 2014.) I suspect that Scottish officials learned of the scheme, and that this figured prominently in their decision to release the convicted man on humanitarian illness grounds and allow him to be returned to Libya.