ON “AFGHANISTAN”: CONGRESS MUST NOW LEAD, NOT FOLLOW

For all the long deliberations of a conflicted President, supposedly drawn out so that he could decide what is best for us, we’re confronted with a decision that is in the political self-interest of Barack Obama.  Thus, it now falls to Congress to be the institution that, constitutionally, it is supposed to be; namely:

 

1      A truly deliberative body representing “We the People“, and

2      The only body charged with declaring war.

 

Why do we need a fresh declaration of war? -- Because Obama has already shifted away from the “war on terror” that Congress authorized in the fall of 2002. By shifting the trials of the KSM gang of terrorists to Federal Court in Manhattan, for example, he has chosen to redefine the “war” as a non-war. Terrorism is now viewed as a criminal offense. The quantum leap in blood and treasure called for by the President in Afghanistan thus calls for a deliberative process at least as “drawn out” as that of the President. It also calls for a new, Congressional declaration of war according to the Constitution.

For what we are seeing now from Obama is Bush-lite. Or, seen from the street, SSDY: “Same Sh--, Different Year“. Remember Bush’s West Point speech in October of 2002? Recall Congress’ War Resolution? It’s déjà vu, confusing the presidency with royalty. Congress followed Bush’s vainglorious lead like lemmings over a cliff. Congress failed its Constitutional responsibility to be deliberative and representative. Will we let this happen again?   

The Congressional debate now beginning over the President’s declaration must be long, deep and extensive. There is much to challenge and too much at stake. The really serious focus of terrorist threats in the “AfPak Theater” is less “Af” than “Pak.” Yet we are spending 30 times more in Afghanistan than in Pakistan. The President, moreover, did not mention the danger of our country being drawn into  a potential civil war in Afghanistan -- a discredited government vs. the powerful Pashtun tribe. Perhaps the repeated extensions of a deadline for completion of presidential-student homework didn’t allow time to understand Pashtun culture? And what about “nation building”? We never voted for it, yet the dictates of Bush promoted it in Iraq. Now Obama would have us continue the policy. How much blood and treasure must we sacrifice to move feudal-tribal cultures into the 21st century?

For the final point at issue is, indeed, “sacrifice.” Remarkably, for all his high-flown rhetoric about the country pulling together now around the fight in Afghanistan as they did after 9/11, the President made no call for national sacrifice. Thus, he’s about to repeat one of the basic mistakes of Vietnam: LBJ acted as if the country could manage to have both guns and butter. The country’s economy is in far worse shape now than in the late ‘60‘s. In addition to human lives, we need to count the costs of war in terms of time and money. Obama’s policy is short on both accounts. It seems as if his homework also lacked arithmetic.

Congress has already shown that it is not up to honoring its Constitutional responsibilities vis a vis the Executive Branch with respect to all major challenges it has faced thus far -- with respect to Bailout, Stimulus, Cap’n’Trade and Health Care Reform legislation. Another default of Congress on the Afghanistan issue could lead to default of our country in more ways than just financial.

So, the stage is set for 2010 even though Obama is betting on 2012. Will voters vote for real change for a change? -- for candidates who would work to change the way Congress does We the People’s business?  Or will they for the same go-along/get-along folks who took us down the path to Iraq, huge deficits both domestic and foreign, bailouts to big boys, high unemployment, and a  so-called “stimulus” that fails to create jobs? Changes in Congressional name- and party-plates or underwear mean no real change at all.

                PETER BEARSE, Ph.D., International Consulting Economist and Independent Republican Candidate for Congress, NH CD 1