Live Free or DieJuly 04, 2019
DUSTWUN is the most nerve racking acronym in the military and the knot in my stomach that formed when President Trump pardoned First Lieutenant Michael Behenna in time for Memorial Day has only grown with the specter of war with Iran increasing daily. Behenna was convicted in 2009 for the unpremeditated murder of an Iraqi he was ordered to return to his village due to the lack of direct evidence linking him to a roadside explosion that killed several in Behenna's platoon. Instead, Behenna pulled his convoy off to the side of the road to question him alone, stripped him naked, and shot him twice claiming self-defense. The pardon of this war criminal triggered long forgotten memories of advising my Iraqi infantry battalion in cordoning off our portion of Baghdad and searching the trunk of every vehicle exiting the capitol in hopes of finding the DUty STatus Whereabouts UNknown American soldier alive in the hours and days following his October 23, 2006 abduction. Congress will share the blame for the fate of any future DUSTWUN, similar to how their disregard for their constitutional responsibilities are why some Americans are actually celebrating our war criminals and most Americans appear unconcerned that we are on the brink of war with Iran this July 4th.
Our Founding Fathers installed a series of checks in our Constitution regarding a large-standing military being under the control of a single elected official. Article II, Section 3, names the president commander-in-chief and with it the power to direct the military. To balance that power, Article I, Section 8, Clause 11, vests in Congress the responsibility to declare war. Furthermore, Article I, Section 8, Clause 12, gives Congress the power to raise and support a standing army, but limits appropriating funds to support that army to just two years. In 1973, Congress made the War Powers Resolution law over President Richard Nixon's veto in response to President Nixon sending our military to war in Cambodia without congressional authorization. The War Powers Resolution allows presidents to only commit our military for sixty days without a Declaration of War, an Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), or in case of a "national emergency" caused by an attack. Unfortunately, the last AUMF Congress passed was to remove Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein from power the month before the 2002 midterm election after very little debate in largely empty chambers. Congress' only apparent takeaway was the political calculation that not voting on a future AUMF is better than being called unpatriotic for voting against one or jingoist for voting for one when casualties make the news. Now Congress did invoke the War Powers Act for the first time earlier this year, attempting to end American military operations assisting Saudi Arabia perpetuate the world's worst humanitarian crisis in Yemen. However, Congress has not invoked the War Powers Act, let alone utilized their constitutional appropriations powers, to curtail our actual combat operations in dire fear of taking a stand when it matters most.
The American public's connection with the frontlines has always depended on a combination of whether a large-standing military that can be readily deployed already exists and how Congress authorizes the conflict. Congress last declared war in World War II and the subsequent large scale draft that was required to defeat the Axis Powers was accompanied by a legendary home front war effort where everyone sacrificed under rationing, price controls, and higher taxes. Likewise, a small-standing military at the beginning of the Vietnam War required a draft to meet the campaign's demands which kept the public immersed in the fighting, but the AUMF that authorized it was not accompanied by any noteworthy stateside war effort. After that conflict and the accompanying political upheaval subsided, Congress created our large all-volunteer professional standing military, including our robust Reserve and National Guard components, allowing modern presidents to easily preposition our military prior to Congress passing an AUMF. Deploying our military was done prior to Congress authorizing the Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq Wars that less than one percent of Americans are connected to and still lack any semblance of a home front war effort. Far worse, in a complete abdication of their constitutional responsibilities, Congress has allowed our presidents to use our easily deployable large-standing military in operations against the Islamic State, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, and soon possibly Iran without an AUMF. Intentionally or not, by avoiding their constitutional duty out of political convenience, Congress has created the disconnect between the American public and the past 18 years of conflict causing our apparent indifference regarding another war and the logical extension of our lack of concern that has manifested in the absurd lionization of our war criminals.
Tensions with Iran were not created by President Trump's maximum economic pressure that recently resulted in the downing of one of our $120 million unmanned surveillance drones over the Strait of Hormuz. In 1953, the CIA removed the secular, democratically elected, Time Magazine Man of the Year Mohammad Mosaddegh as Iran's prime minister for nationalizing the world's fifth largest oil reserves. The blowback from American support of the Shah's subsequent rule came to fruition in 1979 with his overthrow, the hostage crisis, and the severing of all diplomatic relations. Ironically, today's hardliner Iranian Revolutionary Guard became a regional power during the past two decades of American hardliner efforts to topple Iran's neighboring governments in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. After unilaterally withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear accords, the Trump Administration has crippled their economy by reducing their oil exports to zero, which only hurts the average Iranian, emboldens ultra-conservatives, and weakens moderate President Hassan Rouhani who signed the nuclear accords to modernize Iran with economic relief. Without the financial benefits of the accords, the Revolutionary Guard has started accumulating more enriched uranium than otherwise allowed, begun damaging oil tankers in the Straits that almost a quarter of the world's oil passes through, and their proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria appear ready to retaliate against Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel who are militarily superior predominately due to American arms sales. Iran intentionally downing the unmanned drone, instead of its accompanying aircraft with thirty-five American service members on board, was the reason President Trump gave for thankfully not launching three precision strikes that would have killed an estimated 150 Iranians and potentially sparked the larger war.
In his July 31, 1809 letter toasting the anniversary of the Battle of Bennington, American Revolutionary War General and New Hampshire legend John Stark wrote "Live free or die; Death is not the worst of evils." With no Congressional authorization or interest from the American public, just enough service members are prepositioning in the Persian Gulf to conduct several targeted strikes against the Republican Guard, but they are a far cry from the hundreds of thousands that would likely be required to properly defeat Iran and its proxies. Death would not be the worst of evils for our service members in such a conflict; thanks to Congress' refusal to perform their constitutional duty, being captured by an adversary that sees an American public that is so apathetic about war that it celebrates its war criminals to great fanfare would be the worst of evils for any future DUSTWUN.