Congress has an opportunity to re-assert its proper role in government, particularly regarding foreign policy. Americans and our Armed Forces deserve, at the very least, a real debate on a war that Washington has supported for the last two years. Not only would that debate break the auto-pilot that so often guides the nation’s foreign policy—it would also afford Congress an avenue to take back some of the war powers it has wittingly handed over to the executive branch.
However controversial Trump’s latest Twitter outburst may be in the minds of many, that doesn’t mean that the goal underlining his tirade isn’t worthy of our support. The current cost imbalance in NATO between the U.S. and everybody else is unfair to the American taxpayer, and ultimately it doesn’t do European governments any favors when they remain highly dependent on a single country to defend them in the event of a national security emergency. Europe must either start moving in the right trajectory, or the two percent threshold needs to be re-negotiated entirely.
According to Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the situation in Afghanistan is a “stalemate” that “will require additional U.S. and coalition forces.” The senators cite testimony by the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John W. Nicholson, to the Senate Armed Services Committee that he needs several thousand more troops. There are currently about 8,400 U.S. troops plus another 6,300 troops from other countries. So will a few thousand more soldiers – presumably American – make a difference?The clear answer is: No.
That was the additional amount President Donald Trump asked Congress for in Pentagon spending around the time of his address to both chambers last month and is now part of his budget blueprint, or “skinny budget,” that everybody is talking about.The eventual increased requests in defense appropriations will likely be well over that amount, but let’s ignore the specific numbers for a minute, as important as they are, to focus on the bigger issue here.
The blueprint, like every president's budget request, kicks off negotiations over priorities. Many current federal activities should be returned to the states or to the private sector, as the blueprint states. The domestic policy proposals would be an excellent start to restore local control and to re-focus the federal government on problems that can only be addressed at the national level. National security is the core responsibility of the federal government, so it should be the top priority.
Technically, North Korea is considered a nuclear-capable country because it has conducted several nuclear bomb tests. However, it has not been verified—and many experts are skeptical—that the DPRK has been able to develop an actual nuclear warhead that can fit the payload constraints of a missile, which is easier said than done. Moreover, North Korea does not have the long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability to reach the United States. So if threat is defined as a combination of intentions and capabilities, North Korea is lacking in the latter.
Paul offers a voice of prudence, realism, and restraint, while if McCain had his way, America would be at war all the time and just about everywhere, regardless of any given conflict’s demonstrable connection to vital U.S. interests. Sen. McCain’s incessant and irrational hawkishness is the Washington establishment’s bipartisan interventionism of the past decade and a half distilled into its purest form. And unfortunately for American foreign policy, his Senate floor performance wasn’t the parody I’d hoped.
The question Rep. McCaul and his colleagues in Congress should be asking is not how the U.S. can best continue a status-quo that has proven to be an unmitigated failure, but whether it may be time to embrace the kind of out-of-the-box thinking required to mitigate this seemingly intractable and unsolvable problem.
There is also the reality that using military force to advance humanitarian goals is ultimately oxymoronic because it ignores one unalterable fact: the use of military force kills people. Indeed, the U.S. military is supposed to be a warfighting machine intended to destroy and kill. As Secretary of Defense Mattis said during his confirmation hearing, “[W]e have to stay focused on a military that is so lethal that on the battle field it will be the enemy’s longest day and worst day when they run into that force.”
It’s difficult to see what the positives would be for Montenegro’s inclusion. The Montenegrin government spends 1.6 percent of its GDP on defense, short of the two percent threshold that NATO now uses as a guideline. As my colleague Charles Pena wrote last November, it would be unwise policy for the United States and the NATO alliance to take in yet another member that won’t contribute their fair share of the defense burden. Currently 23 of NATO’s 28 members contribute less than the two percent benchmark. Montenegro would add yet another dependent country to America’s coattails, while hardly making Americans safer.
To inform citizens, thought leaders, and policy makers of the importance of a strong, dynamic military—used more judiciously to protect America's narrowly defined national interests—and promote a realistic grand strategy prioritizing restraint, diplomacy, and free trade to ensure American security.