- - Monday, January 19, 2015

Benjamin Franklin was right.

“We must all hang together, or assuredly we will all hang separately.”

A Democratic president, a Republican Congress, and voters across the political spectrum should unite on a nonpartisan national security agenda. It should reflect foreign policy doctrines that made the United States exceptional among all other nations on Earth.

Foremost was the warning against entangling alliances in President George Washington’s Farewell Address. He advised that U.S. foreign policy should cultivate peace and trade with all nations, and avoid permanent friends or enemies. The only wars worth fighting were wars in self-defense. It is not the business of the United States either to ostracize empires or to transport democracy abroad.

Then-Secretary of State John Quincy Adams elaborated on Washington’s admonition against objectless, gratuitous wars in his July 4, 1821 Address to Congress. He explained:

“[America’s] glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace. This has been her Declaration: this has been, as far as her necessary intercourse with the rest of mankind would permit, her practice.”

President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Farewell Address sounded the tocsin against the military-industrial complex. It threatened to transform the nation into a warfare state in which everything is subservient to incantations of national security.

Drawing on Washington, John Quincy Adams and Eisenhower, a nonpartisan national security agenda for 2015 should include the following:

1. Ending the war against the Islamic State. Congress should legislate an end to President Obama’s ill-conceived war against the Islamic State (IS). It is incapable of invading the United States, and our military presence in Syria and Iraq is creating new IS recruits while strengthening Iran. After five months of fighting, the United States has accomplished nothing except unwittingly delivering arms to Islamic radicals and Shiite militias in Iraq. The war against IS is the stupidist since Alcibiadies’ Sicilian Expedition during the Peloponnesian War that destroyed the Athenian empire.

2. Immediate withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan. By any measure, Afghanistan is a failed state. After 13 years of U.S. tutelage, the Afghan government remains ubiquitously corrupt, divided by tribal and ethnic loyalties, and without popular support. Keeping 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan is a stupendous purposeless waste of resources costing $20 billion annually.

3. Remove troops from Europe, Japan and South Korea. World War II ended 70 years ago. The Korean War concluded with a truce 62 years ago. The Soviet Union disintegrated 25 years ago. Europe, Japan and South Korea are modern, wealthy, industrialized states well-equipped to defend themselves from any plausible aggressor. We should repeat to them in modern terminology the advice that Congressman John Randolph delivered to Greeks seeking American aid in their war of independence against the Ottoman Empire: “We defended ourselves, when we were but three millions, against a Power, in comparison to which the Turk is a lamb. Go and do thou likewise.”

Accordingly, our 67,000 troops in Europe, 50,000 in Japan and 28,500 in South Korea should be immediately removed. President Obama should concurrently revoke our treaty commitments to defend them following the precedent of President Jimmy Carter’s revocation of the 1955 Mutual Defense Treaty with China in 1980 with no adverse repercussions as regards Taiwan or otherwise.

4. Cut the defense budget by $300 billion. An alarming portion of the $600 billion to $700 billion defense budget is sheer waste caused by managerial inefficiencies and bloat. The inabiity of the Defense Department to audit of its own spending is scandalous. We can easily cut $300 billion from military spending while making ourselves safer by devoting the entire defense budget to defending ourselves in lieu of racing around the world in search of monsters to destroy.

5. Create a Commission to Study Reinstatement of the Draft. The All-Volunteer Armed Forces inaugurated in 1973 has dramatically lowered the political threshhold for initiating war. The consequence has been chronic purposeless, gratuitous conflicts and the elimination of congressional oversight of the military-industrial complex. These evils have been detailed by Karl Eikenberry, former ambassador to Afghanistan, who also commanded the International Security Assistance Force there as a three-star Army general. He should be appointed to head a commission to study the feasibility and benefits of reinstating the draft.

Our current national security policies are leading us to ruination. We can escape our peril by uniting behind the foreign policy principles and time-honored wisdom of Washington, Adams and Eisenhower.

For more information about Bruce Fein, visit brucefeinlaw.

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