A while ago a long-time good friend of mine gave me the book Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of Seal Team 10, by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson (Little, Brown and Company, 2007). As many of you know, this book describes the killing of three Navy Seal Team members and the severe wounding of one more (Author Marcus Luttrell) by somewhere between 30 and 50 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan in late June of 2005. And, as a preface, the book discusses the ordeals that all Navy Seals go through in training, where a large percentage of the aspirants “voluntarily” drop out because the demands are so onerous. So I expect that no one can read this book without sharing my opinion that Navy Seals are among the truly best and most dedicated fighting forces in the history of the world of combat! These gallant warriors quietly and simply follow orders and place their lives on the line on an increasingly regular basis. And they are, and should be recognized as, our heroes.
However, that means that our nation’s political leaders should never call upon the talents, lives and devotion of these heroes unless it is truly in our national interest. But in this critical task, I believe our leaders have often failed us all. Were our “military police actions” in places like Vietnam, Korea, Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan really necessary to protect our National Security or National Interests? Our Constitution provides some strong protections in this matter. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution expressly delegates the power to declare War only to Congress. But there have been no declarations of war since 1941, which began our involvement in World War II. Instead Congress has reneged in its duties by passing various “War Powers Acts,” and other enabling legislation which purportedly allowed the sitting President to do whatever he (or, hopefully soon, she) thinks best to protect our nation. But that is not the same thing. Except when immediate action is needed, the protection for our courageous military warriors is for Congress to debate whether there is such a threat, from whom and where, and when we will know that the threat is abated – and then publicly to vote on it! That means that, not only must Congress take direct responsibility for our involvement, it also strongly increases the chances that our nation will continue to support that involvement once the vote is taken. However, in that regard, I firmly believe that at least our invasion of Iraq (which was the biggest foreign policy mistake in my lifetime) would not have passed that test. Maybe not even Vietnam. And, although Afghanistan would have passed it after the attack on September 11, 2001, it almost certainly would have limited our troops to going into Afghanistan, finding Osama bin Laden and his cohorts, annihilating them and then withdrawing from that country – along with the warning that we would return and do so again if they remained a threat. But Heroes like those in Seal Team 10 should never have been put into the position they found themselves in Afghanistan, because our nation’s political “leaders” failed their Constitutional duty to them – and to us!