Defense / National Security

Full disclosure on the “Defense” issue from yours truly – I have a bit of experience here other than my usual “I’ve been reading books, investigating things on the internet, engaging in a personal quest to see what’s going on with us, and I think I’ve found some answers.”

I am a member of the Department of Defense, a Navy Commander and 20 year veteran.  During my time with the Navy, I completed courses at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I to include “Strategy and Policy,” “Joint Military Operations,” and “National Security/Decision Making.”  I mention this so you will be aware of my background, as it has had a significant influence on my opinions regarding this topic.  I believe my War College courses helped me to discover some right answers for America… but you may believe they tainted me in some way.  I’ll let you be the judge of that.  In any case, with that disclosure revealed, here are my thoughts:

Grand Strategy:  Before we can talk about our national security, our defense budget, our withdrawal plans, our “War on Terror” tactics, any of it, we must first remember our Purpose – we must re-discover who we are.  At the largest level, the political ideological level, we must agree as to what we are trying to accomplish in this world.  Only then can we begin to drill down to determine what we should do in this day.  Without acknowledging our purpose, our overarching course, we can’t talk logically about the issues.

“The political object is the goal, war is the means of reaching it, and the means can never be considered in isolation from their purposes.” – Karl Von Clausewitz

So with that in mind, I would like to share with you my opinion of America’s Purpose:  America, at its core, is simply an experiment in this world.  We are a country formed to help mankind in its never-ending quest to discover the “best” way to govern – to help discover how to form a “more perfect union.”  We are a People who want to discover the best way so that we can then vote it in – it’s that simple.  We have never been out to “win” in a military sense, because the only real “win” for mankind is the discovery itself.  Once We, as a world, discover the best way to govern, then we will have won… and America wins even if someone else discovers the best way to govern first.  The only thing we need in order to discover the best way to govern, to properly conduct our experiment so to speak, is a peaceful environment in which different countries can try out different ideas.  Peace is all that we desire.  America does not war with anyone or with anything – we only respond when others war with us or attempt to taint the worldwide experiment by invading peaceful neighbors to enslave, steal from, or control them.

Conquest is not in our principles. It is inconsistent with our government.” – Thomas Jefferson

Kings have tried to lord over us, nations have gone to war with us, and people have attacked us, but since the beginning and this very day, America only longs for peace.  We always despise war and military action, and we only go to war in defense – either in defense of ourselves or when the worldwide experiment is militarily compromised by an aggressor.  We are not trying to push our ideas upon the world because, in all fairness, one or more of our ideas might not be the best.  Once America can agree on this overarching purpose, once we can re-discover who and what we are, then our proper way forward becomes apparent.  Our foreign policy Grand Strategy becomes this:  “If you are a peaceful nation, then you are our friend.”

Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them? – Abraham Lincoln

The experiment continues.  As of this day, I whole-heartedly believe that democracy and free speech is the “best” answer – I think it will be proved so in the end as well.  But we can never say this with certainty, for the best answer is never achieved, it is always sought after.  Even Winston Churchill added a sometimes deleted end to his quote about democracy:

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried. – Winston Churchill

China is a peaceful nation advocating a different avenue as the “best” way to govern – a democracy, but a one party system and a government that does not allow dissent.  I don’t think that wins in the end, and I look forward to the peaceful competition.  America does not set out to enforce what we believe because that defeats the whole experiment.  We are right to support our fellow man, to encourage international rights and liberties, and to challenge all nations to honor the will of the people – but we don’t do that through military force.  Instead, our intent is to show the world, to prove thorough industry and happiness, that free democracy, peace, and liberty are the right answers for mankind.  We believe that competition breeds excellence – and I believe that eventually a society with only one political party is going to stifle ideas, oppress its people, and begin its journey down the wrong path.  We will beat that society not through military engagement, but through a peaceful system encouraging a transfer of ideas, opinions, and innovation.  That’s our strong suit.  We were once united in our common cause to demonstrate to the world our system’s worth.  And regardless of what side of aisle you fall down on in the political arena, this is still our overarching cause.

In defense of our persons and properties under actual violation, we took up arms. When that violence shall be removed, when hostilities shall cease on the part of the aggressors, hostilities shall cease on our part also.” – Thomas Jefferson

I realize some of you may be thinking me a bit naïve at this point and saying to yourself, “That’s all well and good on an ideological worldview level, but I’m a realist.  In the end, these guys are going to try to destroy us, so America might as well bring the battle to them.”  Let me offer you this then, if the moral high ground is not enough:

It doesn’t work!

War is an instrument entirely inefficient toward redressing wrong; and multiplies, instead of indemnifying losses.” – Thomas Jefferson

This was the enlightenment of my Naval War College experience, what I walked away with after reading Clausewitz and Sun Tzu, investigating the history of warfare, and evaluating the various strategies employed.  Not only is military aggression morally the wrong answer, but it is historically the wrong answer.  Time and again this is proven to be true.  Although, at the tactical level the aggressor has the advantage, history demonstrates the precise opposite is true at the larger strategic level – the military aggressor loses.  We must not lose sight of this truth.

“If there is one principle more deeply rooted in the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest.” –Thomas Jefferson

Look at our own history.  In 1775:

A small resistance begins in one of the British Empire’s thirteen American colonies, Massachusetts, in one of its cities, Boston.  Boston is located on a harbor where the mighty British Navy can blockade, control all sea lanes, supply logistics, reinforce, and operate at will – the rebels have no navy whatsoever, none.  The people of Boston are a community of Brits, all of whom speak English, and most of whom are “Loyalists”— most Bostonians agree that the British crown is the recognized, appropriate, and proper authority in the land.  The resistance is termed a “band of rabble rousers,” for they have limited numbers, no outside funding, limited local support, with minimal weapons, war skills, and experience.

On the other hand, the English military is the mightiest the world has even seen.  Its army contains the most feared combatant known to man, the “British Redcoat.”  He is war-proven and war-hardened.  Coming off several victories in war, he is an experienced veteran of the field of combat and a feared member of the mightiest military force ever assembled.  Not only is the “British Redcoat” undoubtedly the finest warrior in the world, the British Navy is undoubtedly the strongest armada in history, unparalleled in size and strength.  The British Generals and Admirals are not only experienced in the art of war, they are the masters of it.  Britain dominates the entire globe, and it is said “The sun never sets on the British Empire,” so vast and all encompassing its presence.

So with this backdrop, the most experienced and dominating military force in the history of man – in the most favorable arena an aggressor could possibly envision, in a battle-space where their strengths can be best employed, against an enemy unsupported by the majority of the populace, in a familiar land inhabited by loyal British subjects – the British military sets sail to travel across the world and enforce their will.  And they lose.

Time and again history shows that military conquest is a failed strategy.  We know this to be true.

We learned that when you use land combat power in the peacekeeping or peace building role, you can’t achieve an end state of long term peace – of stability and prosperity in the area.  In general, a military element can only bring about the absence of war.” – Major General William Nash, U.S. Army, Commanding General of Task Force Eagle, Bosnia

So with that “Grand Strategy” presented, with an understanding that we are not to engage in military conquest, I offer my thoughts on our proper national security strategy in this day and age with consideration to the environment we currently face.

National Security Strategy:  Our published National Security Strategy, submitted by President Obama in May of 2010, is in line with our proper Grand Strategy.  Although I respectfully disagree with our President on the effectiveness of domestic social welfare programs, I believe his Foreign Policy approach has been superb.  If we can indeed follow his National Security Strategy, exit both Iraq and Afghanistan, rely more on our allies and regional powers to enforce United Nation charters, eliminate our dependency on foreign oil, and reduce our military expenditures to allow for a balanced budget and economic growth, then we will certainly be heading in the right direction.

“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.” – Thomas Jefferson

America’s largest threat to national security is not the military force of one of our neighbors, it isn’t even the proliferation of nuclear weapons; it is our recent economic collapse, our immense debt, and our continued deficit spending.  Our country was founded on the principle of a small standing military capable of defense of our borders – and this is still the proper Vision.  Although we were dragged into two world wars, a prolonged cold war, and a war in the Middle East after Saddam invaded a peaceful neighbor without cause, we cannot continue to live in a day that has passed.  “The World is Flat” and pure isolationism will never achieve our desired end state.  But we must also realize that our ‘mightiest military force ever assembled’ presence appears as a threat to some of our friends around the world and it is not furthering our overarching political purpose.  We must now let go of the world policemen role, dramatically downsize our military, and focus once again on our domestic issues.

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” – Abraham Lincoln

We have a monstrous budget deficit that is bankrupting our great nation.  At the same time, we are engaged by non-state enemies that utilize irregular warfare tactics and avoid traditional encounters.   We are allies or friends with nearly every state and certainly with those presenting a significant military threat to America.  This is not the time for a massive military force that can arguably take on the entire world.  Yet we fuel the fire of the extremists by employing a strong traditional military force against them and we hasten our economic demise by allocating over $700 billion dollars to our military budget.  We have 10 aircraft carriers when no other nation has more than 2 – and they are our friends.  We spend more than any other nation on defense and over 5 times as much as China, the #2 spender.  This is not helping our cause.  I would advocate a reduction in military forces even if the state of our economy was the best it’s ever been – in my humble opinion, a dramatic military downsize is simply the right answer for this moment in time.  Such a move is not only needed for our budget but is beneficial to our world image as well.  In today’s era of multi-national corporations, worldwide internet, camera phones, and intertwined economies, the notion of a Hitler-style world conquest is distant.

How much pain they have cost us, the evils which have never happened.” – Thomas Jefferson

As such, America’s image today can return to what it is meant to be – a peaceful, honest broker, a beacon of hope and freedom, and not an immense military might with which to be reckoned.  We can ramp up if conditions change, but we simply cannot and should not dedicate vast resources to remain the world’s upmost superpower.  Rather than 10 aircraft carriers and forward deployed military forces, we must focus our defense efforts on Special Forces and intelligence gathering to combat extremism.  We must draw down and empower the United Nations and regional powers to enforce international charters and preserve the peace. The League of Nations was unable to hold it together after World War I, but I believe the United Nations can hold it together today.  In any case, it’s high time we test the theory.

More than ever before in human history, we share a common destiny. We can master it only if we face it together. And that, my friends, is why we have the United Nations.” – Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General

The Elephant in the Living Room

I used to get frustrated with our political system, our political parties, our political process, even the individual politicians.  “What a mess!” I would say.  Then, to see if perhaps I was missing something, I made it my mission to get smart on the issues.  Initially that didn’t help, the more I discovered about the issues, the messier our political discourse seemed.  You see, I had yet to see the Elephant in the Living Room.

I would look at issues affecting our nation, I would see the common sense solution, and then I would wonder why our politicians couldn’t come together to implement the proper answer.  Politicians would push to lower income taxes – and it seemed some were always pushing to lower taxes, even when the economy was up and our debt monstrous, a time when we should pay our bills, these politicians would still be looking to cut taxes.  I would ask, “Why?  Do they really think that lowering taxes and going more in debt right now is the proper answer for us?”  It seemed like an honest question and a valid criticism at the time.   I would look into Keynesian Economics, listen to experts, and try to form a proper opinion.  “If anything, we need to raise income taxes and pay our bills at this juncture.  We can’t push this debt onto our children!” I would say… but I had yet to see the Elephant in the Living Room.

When Congress would argue over who should pay the brunt of our tax bill and many would argue for an elimination of tiered income tax and a shift to a flat or sales tax – I would ask, “What?  Do they really think that putting the same tax burden on everyone is good for us as a whole?  99%-1%, is that what they really think is the right answer for America?”  My heart was with the Occupy Wall Street movement and the plight of our hard-working and struggling Americans.  I didn’t realize that the 1%er’s heart was also with them, but that they had acknowledged that there was an Elephant in our Living Room.  Somehow, I still had yet to see the Elephant.

And, after the financial debacle of 2008 demonstrated that we obviously needed better regulation of our banking industry and Richard Cordray was thankfully selected to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – as politicians fought to prevent his appointment – I would ask “Why?  Do they really think that less government regulation of the banking industry is what is needed to prevent these bubbles?”  It made no sense to me – for I still hadn’t noticed the Elephant.  My fellow Americans, my fellow Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, I now see the Elephant in the Living Room… and now all of it, all of you, every single bit of it, makes perfect sense.  I understand the Truth:  We need to get rid of the Elephant, and then we can once again address our nation’s issues.

“He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.” – Thomas Jefferson

With crystal clear clarity, I now see not only where our nation is, but I see how we got here, I see what we must do to break free, and I see why we will wander around aimlessly until we do so.  I see why we used to be united as one country, and I see why we are bitterly divided today – I see the Elephant.  I realize what we did wrong, and I understand that today’s political result is simply a reaction to that erroneous heading.  We have discovered so many things:

– That Democracy, Liberalism, and Freedom of Religion are paramount to any society

– That our tax burden should be accorded as envisioned by our 16th Amendment

– That our Government has a duty to better regulate the banking industry, a lesson we have learned multiple times, particularly in 1907, 1929, late 1980s, and 2008

– That government regulations and policy should seek to promote a strong middle class and that a large wealth gap is not in our collective self-interest

But I also see the Elephant now, the place where we got it completely wrong, and I see why, without confronting this Elephant, none of our other issues can be effectively addressed.  You see, we once believed that government’s role to promote the general welfare should be limited to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”  Then we expanded government so as to play an active role in ensuring that our nation had no homeless, no poor, and no hungry – we decided to test the theory of “Limited Government” envisioned by our founders.

“A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.” – Thomas Jefferson

Now that I see the Elephant called Government Welfare, now that I understand that, in many ways, the political maneuvering is only about the Elephant, our entire political process takes form.  The drive to shift the tax burden away from our wealthy to a “fair” tax is a reaction from the workers who see their monies given to the non-workers.  The steadfast determination to prevent universal healthcare is a reaction from those who understand that government is already too involved and are fearful of more government intervention, even if this time it is in the right place.  The push to eliminate inheritance tax is a reaction by our successful to become their own stewards to help society, as they see the government is ineffective and bureaucratic.  The vast flows of money into our political process, the Tea Party’s insistence on keeping taxes low, the reluctance to balance the budget and “lock in” this wrong answer, the Occupy Wall Street’s reaction to the 1%ers, the filibusters, all of it, are simply reactions to the Elephant – they are what naturally occurs when our nation strays off track.

“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.” – Winston Churchill

We cannot attempt to compromise, debate, evaluate, criticize, or accommodate until we first acknowledge and address the Elephant in the Living Room.  The political stalemate, the unimaginable debt of 15 trillion dollars, the impending bankruptcy on the horizon – they are not the root cause of our problems, they are symptoms and reactions to it.  If We, as one People, are ever going to proceed on our proper course to prosperity, We must address the Elephant in the Living Room.  We must acknowledge and admit that Government Welfare is a philosophy destined for failure… and reject it summarily from our Vision.

“The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” – Margaret Thatcher

My fellow Americans, we must acknowledge this Truth and re-chart our course.  We were One nation under Franklin D. Roosevelt and FDR was the initiator of the “New Deal” – but I submit to you that FDR would never advocate our present heading.  His “New Deal” was meant to be a temporary heading change to get us through the Great Depression, not a permanent course to get us to our destiny.  His Vision for America was never this, I assure you.  If FDR had known his “New Deal” would usher in an “Unconditional War on Poverty,” would be the impetus for the creation of government programs intent on creating a “Great Society,” and if he could see the Elephant that is in our Living Room today, he would be leading the charge to kill the beast.

“It isn’t sufficient just to want – you’ve got to ask yourself what you are going to do to get the things you want.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

My fellow Americans, I believe it’s time to admit that we’ve taken a wrong turn.

“Errors of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.” – Thomas Jefferson

The “War on Poverty,” the experiment of government intervention to create a “Great Society” – these were noble and inspiring quests, and we were right to try them.  But the experiment of government intervention is just that, an experiment.  We aren’t supposed to blindly assume that, because we tried it, they must be sacred truths that are forever a part of our DNA.  Not even FDR, the initiator of the “New Deal,” had that in mind.

“One thing is sure. We have to do something. We have to do the best we know how at the moment… If it doesn’t turn out right, we can modify it as we go along.” – Franklin D Roosevelt

I implore you America, for the sake of all of US, let us now examine the results.  We continually evaluate the results of our “War on Terror” and rightly question choices and directions to see if we are indeed marching toward our desired end state.  We look at the facts surrounding the “War on Drugs” including our enforcement methods, penalties, drug usage numbers, monies to cartels, monies spent on enforcement – all in an effort to see if we are achieving our goals.  We are able to see through labels like the “Patriot Act” and “Jobs Bill” and instead, examine the legislation on its merit.  Can we now do the same of our “Great Society” and “War on Poverty” experiments?

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” – Winston Churchill

For too long now, our political discourse has discouraged the honest evaluation of our system.  Instead of answering questions and engaging in an honest search for the Truth, we put words in the questioners’ mouths, make assumptions about what they believe, call them names for “believing” the assumptions we made about them, and move on to the next topic.  The advocates for a policy shout out the answer, say “yes it’s true,” call the nay-sayers names like bigot, racist, or idiot, and then tell them to tune into the other network.  But my fellow Americans, this will never get us to our rightful destiny.  For us to move forward, we must not label those who question our immigration policies as “racists,” those who question whether or not we should have higher tax rates on wealthier Americans as “class warriors,” those who want to alter the pledge of allegiance as “Godless,” nor those who question government intervention into welfare programs as “heartless.”  This kind of labeling is counterproductive and insulting, not to mention often times flat out wrong about the individuals posing the questions.  We must pursue the Truth.

“I was bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they led, and bearding every authority which stood in their way.” – Thomas Jefferson

So now let us ask ourselves, has it turned out right or do we need to change course?  It’s been more than 40 years that we have been engaged in our “unconditional war on poverty,” and it is high time we reviewed our tactics.  With a debt of 15 trillion dollars, we owe it to ourselves and our children to ask, “How is it going?”  It’s time to put Government Welfare Programs – Social Security, Food Stamps, Section 8 Housing, Unemployment Insurance, etc. on the table, shine the light on their results, and knowing what we now know, honestly ask ourselves:  “In what environment does Man best excel?  Is it an environment where the person is forced to ask for help and a community responds?  Or is it an environment where the community is taxed and the recipient files with the government to receive his or her payment?”

“Take a method and try it.  If it fails, admit it frankly, and try another.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

My fellow Americans, I submit to you that Government Welfare Programs for able-bodied Americans are not in the best interest of our society and must be terminated.  I am not heartless, nor does such an opinion mean I advocate the Republican platform – I do not.  It is simply the discovery that is revealed as I take an honest assessment of the last 40 years’ “War on Poverty.”  Please do not label me and shut down at this point, we need to be better than that.  Like you, I believe we need to help those in our community who are struggling, so let me make a case without immediately labeling me as some rich guy who doesn’t care about our less fortunate, for that would be untrue.  I work every day just to pay my bills, and I do care about those less fortunate than me.  I just whole-heartedly believe that America is on the wrong course in her efforts to “help” them.  I believe our refusal to talk about this, to even acknowledge this Elephant in the Living Room, is creating disastrous ripple effects throughout our society.  I believe we need to stop the experiment, we need to see the Elephant for what it is, so that we can once again resume our journey of discovering what policies truly create the “Great Society” we all seek.

“Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no further, but cooperation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition leaves off.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

The fact is that poverty rates have not gone down as a result of our “War on Poverty.”  Poverty rates in 2007, at our “low” just prior to our economic collapse, were 12.5% – whereas 30 years earlier they were 11.6% (  This is not some fluke 30 year look back – the answer of “no benefit” is consistent as you examine the data.  There was an initial decrease in poverty rates as the Civil Rights Movement finally gave us equal rights and opportunities, and the Labor Movement gave us better pay and managed to shrink our vast wealth gap.  These were great advances to be sure, but these were, and still are, our only advances toward eliminating poverty.

The empiric result of all of our government programs, the spoils of our “War on Poverty,” is not a decrease in poverty at all.  If anything, the result is an increase of it.  Please, those of you who argue that government welfare programs are good additions to our country’s Vision, present me the metric you use to reach your conclusion.  Defend your position with something other than “I care about the less fortunate” because so do I, and I think we help them much better through private charities, non-profit organizations, and community outreach programs.  I don’t think government welfare programs are helping us – quite the inverse, they are slowly and systematically destroying us.

“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.” – Thomas Jefferson

Tell me how many Americans died of hunger in 1963, before our “War on Poverty” began, and I will tell you how many Americans who are currently enrolled in our food stamp program died this year due to diabetes and obesity.  Please America, I implore you, ask yourself the honest question, “Are our government programs accomplishing their intended purpose?”  There is no shame in answering a question truthfully.

“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.” – Abraham Lincoln

My fellow Americans, if we can but see and acknowledge this Truth, if we can kill the Elephant in our Living Room, we can once again set course for our destiny.  We can set out to limit our government to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – Healthcare, Military, and Education.  If we can but remove Government Welfare Programs from our Vision, I believe we can also find unity in raising income taxes to balance the budget, implementing universal Healthcare for all citizens, and improving our Education system for our children.  If we can learn to, once again, serve our needy at the local level (where they are best served) by non-profit organizations (who best serve them), we can begin to heal as a society.  We can once again embrace a common vision for a better America and a better World.

Yours in Faith.