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LYONS: An international commander in chief

Obama’s Syria designs lie beyond the U.S. military’s mission

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President Obama's remarks at the Group of 20 conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, that he was "elected to stop wars, not start them" certainly implies that he sees himself endowed with an expanded global mandate. While it's far from clear that he understands the oath of office he took to be president of the United States — which is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic — he apparently has no trouble viewing himself as more of an "international president." There is no mandate in that oath that charges him with the responsibility to intervene or stop international wars, unless it can be seen to be in our vital national interests.

The Syrian civil war, by any standard, is a humanitarian tragedy, but it does not qualify as a vital national issue. Further, there is nothing in the oath of office that stipulates that Mr. Obama has a unilateral mandate to support the controversial doctrine of "responsibility to protect." Supporters of this doctrine are core members of the administration's national security team — Susan E. Rice, Samantha Power and Denis McDonough — none of whom has any military experience. It should be remembered that this is the weakest and least credible national security team in recent history.

With Mr. Obama's left-wing upbringing, he has been taught that our great nation is the root cause of many of the world's problems. It is acknowledged that our superb military capability provides the key underpinning for our influence throughout the world. Therefore, in order to change the dynamics of that influence, the capability of our military forces must be changed. If this assessment is correct, then the appalling unilateral disarmament of our military forces makes sense. Granted, there are economic problems that must be addressed, including out-of-control domestic spending. While our military forces consume less than 20 percent of the federal budget, under sequestration, they have been forced to absorb 50 percent of the draconian budget cuts. It should be remembered that sequestration was an Obama administration initiative.

The impact of conducting two wars over the past decade has taken its toll, and Mr. Obama's enthusiasm for involvement in a third one in Syria would raise the cost. Our military forces have been run hard and put away wet. As a result, our military readiness has been seriously compromised with delayed or canceled required maintenance and overhauls. Equipment, in many cases, is obsolete and needs to be replaced. Drastic cuts to our naval superiority by planning to decommission carrier strike groups, the key element in our ability to project power and a recognized symbol of U.S. power and influence anywhere in the world, make no sense.

The credibility of our military forces has also suffered by making our military, particularly ground forces, adhere to restricted rules of engagement in the failed hope of winning the hearts and minds of tribal Muslim societies. This policy has costs thousands of lives and many more permanent injuries. Further, it has given a distinct advantage to our enemies, who are well familiar with the rules to which our forces must adhere. These forces are our national treasure and cannot be wasted implementing some academic exercise.

Other factors have adversely affected our military forces' credibility and fighting spirit:

Forcing our military to embrace Islam's seventh-century culture, customs and legal system goes against everything our forces have been taught. For example, if an Afghan beats a woman or sodomizes a young boy, our forces are told not to interfere and look the other way. Is this what we are asking our national treasure to sacrifice their lives for? I don't think so. We as a nation are better than that. Why are we forcing our military forces to compromise their values?

Militarytraining manuals (and trainers) have been purged of any material that links acts of terrorism with Islam.

Diversity has become the No. 1 priority for our military forces instead of the proven principle of "professionalism." Why erode the moral fiber of the finest military forces in the world by making them embrace the homosexual agenda?

Restrictions have been removed on women serving in combat.

The bottom line is that none of these social-engineering changes have improved combat readiness or our military credibility and unit integrity. Unless changed, our overall effectiveness will be severely diminished. Is that the objective?

While every other nuclear power is modernizing its strategic nuclear forces, Mr. Obama is forcing further drastic cuts on our strategic and theater nuclear forces, thereby jeopardizing our national security.

The current direction of our military forces requires an immediate course correction. A similar situation occurred in 1949, when Harry Truman's Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson was planning to eliminate the Navy's carriers and the Marine Corps. There was a "Revolt of the Admirals" to preserve our Navy's carrier strike forces. Their success paid large dividends during the Korean War.

Political correctness has silenced our military leadership up to now. However, today's leaders are no less capable than those World War II-hardened veterans — who led the admirals' revolt. We clearly need another one, but this time joined by generals, to restore our military's effectiveness as the finest fighting force in the world. Military leaders are required to give their best professional opinion — even if it opposes administration policies. Nothing less is acceptable.

Retired Adm. James A. Lyons was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.

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