Friday, September 06, 2013

War is not for Nudging

Dear Mr. President, members of Congress and members of the 'global community': Acts of War are not equivalent to really big nudges; the lives and materials of our military are not the means of sending 'messages', and above all else, Acts of War are not predictable and safe tools for the usage of those in power - with or without the benefit of adult supervision.

Last Saturday President Obama, while attempting to sound as presidential as John Kerry did, asked:
"“Here’s my question for every member of Congress and every member of the global community: What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?”"
I don't have any messages to send, but I do have two questions that I'd like to ask of the President, every member of Congress and every member of the global community (I assume that includes my fellow Americans)

  • The lesser question is this: What message do we send to dictators, when we allow them to machine gun to death tens of thousands of their own men, women & children, but threaten them with 'limited strikes' should they use scary weapons to kill 'just' a thousand of them?
  • But the greater question is: What message do we send to the world, when we tell the dictators of the world that we consider them worthy of sitting down and talking to, as did President Obama? When we have dinner with them, as did then Sen. John Kerry? When we call them reformers, as did then Sec. of State Clinton?
Someone should tell the President and his co-horts that the 'message you send' when you are scurrying around this way and that sending messages, is unlikely to be the same message that you might have thought you were sending.

The messages that are sent in such ways, are nothing like those coming from someone whose actions conform to those proven principles which they deeply and truly believe in - not even if you are really good at mimicking their mannerisms and verbal inflections. A principled person, a person of character, a George Washington for instance, doesn't simply send out a stream of useful messages in futile attempts to influence people's behavior. Instead, because his actions are integrated around what is true, cohesive, consistent, his every move, from that of acknowledging and giving thanks to everyone from the lowliest messenger to a royal ambassador alike, or in leading a battle from the front, sends a single message from multiple perspectives which are felt like low rolling thunder in the souls of those who receive them. Cumulatively, the message which the actions of such a person send, can have the effect of pulling an entire people through the tumult of revolution and even on to the reformation of their nation.

But such a person, such a character, is the product of a life rooted in a love and regard for what is true, and driven through principles which correspond with knowledge and experience - what being Educated once meant - in order for their actions to best conform to their thoughts. Their words and actions are not staged, but are deeply lived out. Such a person is marked and recognizable.

That, however, is not the point of view of our modern ProRegressives, such as McCain, Obama, Clinton & Kerry. Their pragmatic approach isn't driven from within, but instead acts from without, attempting to nudge the behavior of this person or that, through actions which they assume will cause them to behave 'more rightly'. . Such a person is also marked and easily recognizable... and best avoided.

Such behaviorists can be seen enthusiastically practicing one politically correct action after another in an effort to modify peoples behavior - 'reaching out' and 'raising consciousness' - in our schools, in our prisons, and in capital cities around the globe. Sadly, their efforts fail equally to fool the child, just as badly as they fail to fool the criminal or the dictator. To be sure, the sharper ones will gleefully take advantage of such efforts, like savvy fish slipping the bait from the hook, but they won't actually nibble, let alone bite.

Unfortunately for U.S., President Obama's entire agenda, from the 1st Lady's school lunch program to the concocted fines and exemptions of ObamaCare, as well as his outstretched hand to the Islamists, they are all founded upon the deterministic notions of govt approved elites who feel they know best what's best for you, and who feel entitled to nudging other people into 'improved' behaviors. And such shallow silliness works no better for the child tricked into running up the stairs as a program of exercise, than they succeed in tricking dictators into extending enhanced programs of liberty to their people, as a result of 'respected' statesmen treating them as if they were respected statesmen.

Their reaching out to raise consciousness is hard enough to stomach, but when they attempt to use the means of mass destruction as if they were just another social scientistic means of nudging, they cease to be laughable and begin to be monstrous.

Simply put: Acts of war are not for sending messages or nudging dictators.

Yet all we hear from McCain, Obama, Clinton & Kerry, is about nudging behavior on the world stage. Nudging to affect:
  • "What will dictators think?"
  • "What will the Islamists think?"
  • "What will become of the chemical weapons ban?"
  • "What of America's prestige?"
  • "What of Obama's prestige?"
So many messages they want to send out via our lives and dollars, in order to nudge the behavior of one group or another, as it pleases them.

Has anyone noticed that none of those nudges have anything at all to do with the only thing that can possibly justify the horrific decision to go to war?

War is justified - but is it justifiable?
War with Syria is justified, but that's not the question that should be asked, the question that needs to be asked is is it justifiable? I don't need any convincing on whether or not Assad is a tyrant - not only should he be removed, but IMHO any semi-free nation on earth would be fully justified in removing him.

The Syrian regime not only does not respect the rights of its own citizens, it routinely takes their lives and makes the lives of those who remain, a living hell - that alone is justification (but not itself justifiable) for any semi-free nation on earth to attack, invade and topple their govt. On top of that, the Syrian regime has actively participated in 'Acts of War' against our own military in Iraq, it has participated, along with its partners in Iran, in supporting terrorists worldwide, who've sworn to kill Americans, both abroad and at home. It routinely threatens not only our people and interests in the region, but those of our one legitimate ally in the region, Israel.

I don't need any convincing to believe that the world would be a better place without the Syrian regime in it. War with Syria is justified- but is it justifiable?

While I don't see Syria as a credible threat to our survival, they are undoubtedly a continuing threat to us, to our people, to our property and to our friends in the region. If someone were to make the case that it was in the vital interests of our citizens and the preservation of our rights and property to declare war on Syria, I'd listen carefully, and judge whether or not the risk, the cost, the burden and the results, would be worth such an endeavor (IOW: Justifiable).

But an honest state of war is not what is being proposed today, not even by Sen. John "Dr. Strangelove" McCain. What he is proposing to do is something more like a return to post Bush 41 Iraq - bombing Syria, setting up safe havens, no-fly zones and humanitarian support for the Syrian people through the use of our military, our lives, our wealth. And why? To support rebels who hate America every bit as much as, and perhaps even more so, than Assad does. And why? Whose interests would be served? According to the Senator:
"...Some kind of intervention will happen, with us or without us,” McCain said. “So the real question for U.S. policy is whether we will participate in this next phase of the conflict in Syria, and thereby increase our ability to shape an outcome that is beneficial to the Syrian people, and to us."
The way he tacks on "and to us" at the end, makes it doubly clear that it is not our people and our interests that are his fundamental concern, but some supposed 'greater good' which he'd like our lives and wealth to be used in serving. Thank God his ProRegressive butt will never sit in the Oval Office.

I don't need to be convinced that the Assad regime has no just claim to power, but what I do need convincing about, is that the proposed 'limited action' will accomplish something, or even anything, that will benefit the rights, property, safety, of the citizens and allies of the United States of America.

What I do need convincing about, is that the opposing side in the Syrian CIVIL WAR will be a significant improvement for our interests, over Assad's regime (see the video below).
Video From Weasel Zippers

What I do need convincing about, is whether or not a 'limited strike' on our part, will gain the co-operation of the Islamists, the Syrians, the Russians, the Iranians which will be needed, in order to ensure that such a 'limited strike' will not be escalated beyond the range of where the administration assumes it will end.

Most of all, I need convincing about whether or not the result of our expending our lives and wealth in someone else's civil war, will not only serve the vital interests of the United States of America, but that it will serve a vital enough interest to the United States of America, to make the risks and costs worthwhile.

Why give War a chance
The fundamental purpose of our government, is to uphold and protect the Rights, Property and Safety of We The People of the United States of America, any 'limited military action' (War), that is not directly, directly, rooted in that purpose, is not an action that is justifiable for our government to undertake.

Any 'limited military action' (War), undertaken with anything less than an entirely decisive result in mind, and one rooted in our governments fundamental purpose, is not an action which serves the interests and purposes of America, but it does still serve a purpose - one that unfortunately is fundamentally opposed to the real ideas and interests our nation was founded upon and is detrimental to our rights. That opposing purpose is that of the modern proRegressive, from Teddy Roosevelt to Obama, Left and Right, and it is driven by the urge to nudge other people's lives into serving what some powerful few deem to be 'the greater good'.

Listening to the string of comments coming from McCain, Obama, Clinton and Kerry, I was less than surprised yesterday to see that our former regulatory czar was getting into the act of war as well. Cass Sunstein, who, as he helpfully notes in his article, is now a member of the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology (think Benghazi), and husband to Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and deeply involved in Syria policy, has a new article out: Can Obama Strike Syria on His Own?,
"Under the U.S. Constitution, does the president have the power to use military force in Syria on his own? Or does he need congressional permission?

Last week, 140 members of the House of Representatives signed a letter insisting that military action “without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution.” But even while seeking congressional permission to use force in Syria, President Barack Obama objected, “I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization.”
That last line is one that I'd like to be given a closer look at by those 'conservatives' who've sounded so pleased that Obama has listened to their protests and has decided to follow the constitution and 'consult with Congress'. Not that I question whether or not a president has the authority to act, but that this one plainly didn't decide to follow the constitution (is 'consulting with congress' what following the Constitution means?). He said that he has already decided to take 'military action', which has already said he feels will be equally useful at any time of his own choosing. His decision to let congress play at debating the issue, was not intended to let them have a say in deciding the matter, but was only an attempt to placate them, to nudge them, and to nudge the polls, into a more POTUS friendly mood. He said he's going to take military action whenever he decides to, whatever they might 'decide' - so who's nudging who?

Sunstein's article gives some nice historical doo-wop, and it does a nice job of reviewing opposing quotes and balancing this against that, but the point of the article, the equivocal nudge which is always more informative than the information presented by a Nudger, comes in this passage:
"Under this rationale, we need to distinguish between a limited military mission and an actual “war.” In making that distinction, the Department of Justice has pointed to the relevance of two factors: the magnitude of the action (including its scope, nature and duration) and its underlying justification."
You see, war is not war, when it's not an 'actual war' - our department of Justice says so. Isn't that just awesome? If you can get it over quickly, then it's not really a war (say... does that mean that the 30 day initial 'war' in Iraq wasn't really a war?) So, it seems that with a few verbal nudges, Eric Holder's DOJ "pointed the way" back in 2011 with Libya, to how war can be transformed into something more akin to judicial action, a sort of international regulatory penalty, than something so crude as 'war'.

As I've said, and unlike many of my friends outside of the aisle (Tea Party, as opposed to left, right or center), I don't really have much of a problem with the mechanics of a President's war powers, or with his acting without 'consulting congress'. As I noted ten years ago with Iraq, and two years ago in a post on Libya, "Just cause, and Justification for War, are just not the same thing", and even in our founder's day, elections had consequences, and one of those consequences has always been that the commander in chief is able to take those actions he thinks are necessary, when he sees that they are needed,
"... using the military to defend America's interests as needed, especially in the face of a clear and present threat, is well warranted, justified, and in no way usurps Congresses authority to declare war. Congress never formally declared war on the Barbary Pirates, yet Jefferson did wage war against them ("...To the shores of Tripoli We fight our country's battles. In the air on land and sea...") - with Congresses authorization (though with much less a one than Bush had).
I don't have a problem with a President ordering military strikes, or in today's world responding in a way that can't help but commit us to war. I also pointed out that,
"Battling tyranny is a just cause. Overthrowing a tyrant is a just cause. But being a just cause is not the same as being a justified cause or even a wise one. The fact that Qa’Daffy’s regime exists, is enough of Just cause for America, or for any other free or semi-free nation on earth, to invade and overthrow his regime. Whether or not it would be wise of them to do so, is a separate issue, and not the one I have with what's going on in Libya today. I also don't have an issue with whether or not the President can order a military strike upon Libya. Whether he should order a strike, when he should, and more importantly Why he should - or shouldn't - order such a strike, those are a bit closer to the mark for me."
But not all that much has changed between then and now in this administrations ability to translate what may very well be justified, into something that is a justifiable use of military force. While my problem is not with a presidents powers, my problem is with what it is that a president considers to be a worthwhile cause for exercising those powers, and with what purpose they are exercised towards. My problem is with the pretense that a war is somehow not a war, as long as you don't name it that. My problem isn't with a President's power to enter into a war when necessary, but over what it is that he considers to be necessary, with what justifies it and whether or not that cost it is justifiable. And worst of all, my problem is with what he wants to accomplish with the blood and treasure it will inevitably cost.

To treat the use of military force, which, never forget, means putting our own sons and daughters into horrific harms way no matter what name it's labeled with, to behave as if that can and should be used as if it were just an international form of a regulatory nudge - that is the deepest moral obscenity on the scene today.

The idea that engaging in war, by any name, as if it were a defined and useful tool, a predictable action, is the height of ignorance, arrogance and not without a touch of insanity.The attempt to 'send a message', by an act of war, is more heinous than all the regulatory dreams of all of our regulatory czars, past or present.

It's not Greek to me
I opened my post two years ago with a quote from our revolutionary period:

"Tyranny anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere"
Thaddeus Kosciuszko - Polish Lithuanian who served as a colonel in the American revolution
I'd still be willing to consider matters from Kosciuszko's point of view - it is a valid one - to consider that this action in Libya Syria is somehow part of a wider and coherent effort to battle those tyrannies arrayed against us today... I would probably still not agree, but at least that would show some hint of legitimacy and some basis for an actual argument being made.

A case for overthrowing (not spanking) a dictator can be made, and would be just, but that alone isn’t justifiable or even justified under our constitution, if such an action does not protect or defend the Constitution or We The People, from whom all governments power and authority are derived. Which means that these proposed actions are nothing more than the arbitrary, non-retaliatory use of military force, without even the pretense of having the legitimate authority for doing so.

What McCain, Obama, Clinton  & Kerry are saying, is that our lives and wealth should be expended upon experiments in behavioral modification upon those who hate us, and each other, in another country's civil war; it is an obscene abuse of power, and is in opposition to our rights, property and interests.

And with that, again, I refer you back to Thaddeus Kosciuszko’s quotation above.

Where do you suppose anyone ever got the idea that such a thing as is being proposed; not only going to war for interests that are not primarily our own, but entering into war as if it were of no more concern or consequence than issuing summons' and fines? To even entertain such thoughts is something the Greeks might have been tempted to call hubris, but to not only think them, but act as if they were credible, let alone wise...where does such thinking come from? Any guesses? Should I give a pop quiz? Perhaps some online testing to find out for sure? I'll resist the urge to say more on those lessons.

The too common core of the situation is that the choices we face today, or are not ever given, are a direct result of our adopting the reasoning that Rights are less about the nature of being human, than they are about acting for the benefit of the greater good, not because that is right, but because it might somehow 'work out' for:
  • ...the greater good of the Syrians
  • ...the greater good of Obama's prestige
  • ...the greater good of John McCain's self esteem
  • ...the greater good of... goodness.
But understand this: there is no Good to be served apart from those interests the Good is good for, and if those interests are not your interests, it is not at all Good that they are being served at your expense; and the only interests that will truly be served but such measures, are those of the desires, vanities, deceptions and enhanced powers, of a favored few.

Should we go to war for those reasons? As a great general from another period in our history, might have said:


Do you want to send a message? Then send an actual message, send one to those who need to hear it, and who might possibly stop McCain, Obama, Clinton & Kerry's from sending theirs; call your representatives, and tell them 'Nuts!' to using war to send a message, and if you're in Missouri, Sen. Roy Blunt would be a good choice for you to send that message to.

1 comment:

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

So very well said, Van!
The contempt that the left, and some idiots on the right have for the lives of our military men and women, to reduce them as messages for some vague, "greater good" (ie Obama's or McCain's ego) is obscene and evil!

It's no wonder they also disregard our Constitution and crave power above liberty.