The president, i.e., the Commander in Chief under Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, should prohibit offensive use of the military not in self-defense unless two conditions are satisfied.
First, victory must be defined with mathematical exactness including the month and year of accomplishment. The prevailing practice, appropriately borrowed from Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of obscenity in Jacobellis v. Ohio, is to define victory as “We’ll know it when we see it.” Thus, neither President Obama nor his national security team can describe what victory will look like or when it will be achieved in the many Middle East, Asian and North Africa nations in which we are militarily engaged.
Presidential candidates for 2016 are equally criminally clueless. One defines victory over ISIS as making the “sand glow in the dark.” Another boasts of a “secret plan” to defeat ISIS like Richard Nixon’s “secret plan” for victory in Vietnam during his 1968 campaign. He did not dispute Sarah Palin’s characterization of his secret plan as “kick ISIS’ ass.” A third candidate amateurishly described victory over ISIS as doing “whatever it takes,” including terrifying the organization by prohibiting Syrian refugees from entering the United States and expanding the intelligence capabilities of the agency that detected mythical weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
To compel a soldier to risk that last full measure of devotion for an objective in a gratuitous conflict that cannot be clearly described is the very definition of obscene.
Second, the president should refrain from any offensive use of the military not in self-defense unless the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the Director of the Office of National Intelligence, the Director of the National Security Agency, and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency all agree in writing as pre-conditions to the following:
• To resign immediately if the specified objectives are not achieved within the specified time as determined by a concurrent resolution passed by the House of Representatives and Senate.
• To agree to be personally liable to reimburse the United States Treasury for the expenditures incurred in the failed offensive use of the military that they supported.
• To agree never to work for the military-industrial-terrorism complex, i.e., any company that received any Pentagon or NSA funding during the previous 15 years, in the event of resignation required by failure.
It is altogether fitting that offensive use of the military not in self-defense satisfy a very high threshold of consensus and of confidence of victory.
These conflicts do not advance the constitutional objective of providing for the common defense.
They legalize what is ordinarily first degree murder.
And experience teaches that offensive use of the military not in self-defense is typically ruinous to ourselves. We spent $1 trillion in the Vietnam War and lost more than 58,000 soldiers lives in capitulating to a nation unthreatening to the United States and which today we are supporting in its maritime disputes with China. The Vietnam War would never have been fought if then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk and then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had been compelled to satisfy the three stipulations referenced above as a pre-condition.
We have spent more than $3 trillion in the ongoing Iraq War and have lost approximately 5,000 military lives in making arch-enemy Iran the regional hegemon. This fiasco would never have been undertaken if a pre-condition required then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to have signed the three stipulations. In 2015, he related to the Times of London: “The idea we could fashion a democracy in Iraq seemed to me unrealistic. I was concerned about it when I first heard those words.”
The dystopia we have created in Libya by overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi would have been prevented if then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a pre-condition were required to have signed the stipulations. It’s easy to play war with other people’s lives and money if you have no skin in the game.
The loss of a single American soldier is not worth risking in using the military offensively not in self-defense unless those who would send them into battle are willing to place their professional careers and finances at risk.
American soldiers should be treated as human, not as cannon fodder.