In “Lone Survivor,” a chilling firsthand account of the loss of 11 members of the Navy’s elite Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) Team and eight Army aviators, Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell describes the fateful decision that led to disaster for him and death for his comrades. It came down to a judgment call about whether to risk prosecution and jail time for doing whatever it took to complete their mission, or to allow three Afghan goatherds to rat out his unit to the Taliban.
Petty Officer Luttrell cast the deciding vote to turn loose the farmers who had stumbled upon him and three other SEALs shortly after they had been dropped behind enemy lines to take down a particularly dangerous Taliban leader. He describes the thought process:
“If we kill these guys, we have to be straight about it. Report what we did. We can’t sneak around this. … Their bodies will be found, the Taliban will use it to the max. They’ll get it in the papers, and the U.S. liberal media will attack us without mercy. We’ll almost certainly be charged with murder.”
Such concerns prompted Petty Officer Luttrell to make the call to release the goatherds, setting in motion calamity for his buddies and 16 others dispatched to rescue them from the massive Taliban assault that ensued. It turns out those concerns were well-founded, as was demonstrated most recently in a case before the U.S. Military Court of Appeals. By a 3-2 vote, the judges outrageously determined that an Army Ranger, 1st Lt. Michael Behenna, had no right to self-defense when he killed an Iraqi prisoner he was interrogating after the man threw a concrete block at him and tried to seize his firearm. Unless he is pardoned, Lt. Behenna will remain incarcerated for the next 12 years.
Unfortunately, under President Obama, service members’ rising fears of being prosecuted for acting to protect themselves and their missions are among many ways in which the military is being “fundamentally transformed,” to use Mr. Obama’s now-infamous turn of phrase. Consider a few examples:
Losing wars: Few things can have a more corrosive effect on the morale and esprit de corps of the armed forces than being ordered to participate in and sacrifice - not least by risking life and limb - in protracted conflicts, only to have political authorities throw in the towel. Add in the repeated combat tours pulled by many service members, with all that entails for both them and their families, and you have a formula for disaster for the U.S. military.
Budget cuts: Matters are made much worse by the sense that the military is being asked to pay more than its fair share of the burden associated with deficit reduction. Even though defense spending accounts for approximately 20 percent of the budget, the Pentagon has been required to absorb roughly 50 percent of the cuts, while entitlements have been spared.
The roughly $800 billion already excised or in the works to be cut is denying our troops in uniform the modern, properly maintained and qualitatively superior equipment they need to wage war safely and successfully on our behalf. The next $500 billion in reductions - which, all other things being equal, are to go into effect in January - will have, in the words of Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, a “catastrophic” effect.
c A defective counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy: As documented in Part 9 of the Center for Security Policy’s online curriculum, “The Muslim Brotherhood in America: The Enemy Within,” the effort to win hearts and minds in places like Iraq and Afghanistan has exposed our troops unnecessarily to danger. They are being obliged not to wear protective eyewear and body armor, at risk literally to life and limb. They are ordered to honor their hosts in visits with local elders by consuming foods offered, despite the fact that doing so can subject them to lifelong affliction by parasites and diseases. They must observe rules of engagement that restrict use of their firearms and deny them air cover and artillery support in circumstances where it can mean the difference between living and dying.
Worse yet, our troops are seen by the enemy in these and other ways to be submitting to the latter’s doctrine of Shariah. According to that supremacist code, its adherents are compelled, when confronted with evidence they are winning, to redouble their efforts to make us feel subdued. This generally translates into more violence against our troops and us, not less.
Assault on the culture of the military: Last, but not least, President Obama’s use of the military as a vehicle for advancing the radical homosexual agenda in the larger society has demonstrated for many in uniform civilian indifference to the unique attributes of the armed forces. That message can only have been reinforced by the Supreme Court’s ruling allowing fraudulent claims to military decorations as protected free speech.
Unfortunately, these sorts of assaults on the U.S. military are likely to “fundamentally transform” it, all right. Perhaps that transformation will manifest itself, among other ways, by precipitating the collapse of the all-volunteer force, as many of those who are serving decline to do so and fewer and fewer new, high-quality recruits enlist. We can ill afford such an Obama legacy in an increasingly dangerous world.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy (www.SecureFreedom.org), a columnist for The Washington Times and host of the nationally syndicated program “Secure Freedom Radio,” heard in Washington weeknights at 9 on WRC 1260 a.m.