Bombs Away? A Reagan-Trump Comparison

President Trump has stirred the criticism pot with his military actions: striking an air base in Syria and using the largest bomb in the US arsenal to destroy terrorists’ caves in Afghanistan. It has led some to question exactly what authority a president has to use the military without first consulting Congress.

That’s an important question because the Constitution gives Congress the authority to declare war, not any president unilaterally. Of course, Congress hasn’t passed an actual war declaration since WWII. All of our actions militarily since then have either been in conjunction with the UN (Korea, Persian Gulf War) or with tacit approval of Congress to defend American lives (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq). The latter were with congressional resolutions that fall short of true declarations.

Yet are there times when a president cannot wait for Congress to debate a matter because surprise is essential? Can the use of the military for one specific action be taken by presidential authority without a full declaration of war?

Let’s look at the Reagan years for a couple of examples.

In 1983, a militant pro-Castro faction overthrew the government of Maurice Bishop, a moderate Marxist, on the island of Grenada. Reagan immediately understood the implications of the coup: if the new government survived, a third Cuba (Marxist Nicaragua was viewed as the second Cuba in Reagan’s mind) would have come into existence during his watch. Grenada would become another Soviet client-state in the Western hemisphere.

The new Grenadian administration brought in 600 Cubans to construct an airstrip that could accommodate large military planes. This worried not only the US but other island-nations in the region. Prime Minister Eugenia Charles of Dominica came to the White House to share her concerns with Reagan and ask for help.

Another factor Reagan had to take under consideration was several hundred Americans who were attending a medical school on the island. He wanted to ensure their safety, but knew that if word got out that action was being contemplated, those Americans could easily become hostages. The threat of another Iranian-type hostage situation loomed.

So, for national security reasons and fear for the safety of American lives, Reagan chose to act swiftly and as quietly as possible. He did bring in congressional leadership, both Republican and Democrat, before taking action, informing them of the situation. He got the go-ahead from them to proceed.

On October 25, Reagan sent 10,000 U.S. marines and army airborne troops to invade the island. All resistance was eliminated after three days of fighting. At first, some members of Congress were outraged, but public support for the invasion soared as TV coverage featured interviews with the grateful American students.

Then there was Libya in 1986.

This radical Islamic state ruled by strongman Muammar Qaddafi had used its oil revenues to bankroll terrorists in Europe and the Middle East. On April 15, 1986, having concluded that Libya had supported and financed the bombing of a nightclub in Berlin frequented by American military personnel, Reagan ordered the bombing of five targets in Libya, including the presidential palace.

Reagan wanted to send a message to Qaddafi that he needed to back off his financial support for terrorism, and that he should think twice before aiding and abetting attacks that might kill and injure US soldiers.

Again, Reagan felt that giving advance warning for this punitive action would allow Libya to prepare for it and minimize the damage. He had already publicly proclaimed the US perspective on Libya and other nations directly involved with terrorism when he said in a speech that Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Libya were “outlaw states run by the strangest collection of misfits, loony-tunes and squalid criminals since the advent of the Third Reich.” Of Qaddafi, he said, “He’s not only a barbarian, he’s flaky.”

In both of these instances, Reagan took into consideration national security and saving the lives of American citizens. Both actions were short-term, not full-fledged wars, and required secrecy for their success.

Trump’s decisions have to be evaluated in that same light. I have no problem with the Afghanistan bombing, as it is part of an ongoing effort to eliminate terrorism aimed at America. It would be nice, though, for Congress to go the whole way for a declaration of war and make it more constitutional. Yet I realize that it is difficult in this situation because terrorism is not confined to one nation; it is a continuing problem that pops up everywhere.

As for Syria, I have mixed feelings. Trump apparently decided to go ahead with that bombing because of the use of chemical weapons on Syrian citizens. He saw pictures of the results and was horrified. Who wouldn’t be?

But was there a direct danger to American citizens over Syria’s use of chemical weapons? Was our national security threatened by this terrible action? We are a compassionate people who want to stop atrocities, but can we do that everywhere in the world? Aren’t atrocities occurring in many nations? Where do we strike and where do we not?

Decisions need to be made on the basis of national security and saving American lives first and foremost. Other reasons may enter in as well, but there needs to be a compelling need to act; we can’t merely make emotional decisions.

My concern is that Trump often makes decisions based on emotion. He has little understanding of constitutional authority and limitations; neither does he care to learn.

While I can inwardly cheer that the bombing in Syria sends a message, I can wonder about the wisdom of that decision and whether it really accomplished its purposes.

My concerns about how Trump makes decisions and whether he has any bedrock principles have never gone away. I’m also concerned that too many Americans don’t care about those principles. Yet without a proper understanding of the rule of law, we are in trouble.

Obama’s Missteps in the Muslim World

Step back for a moment and survey the upheaval in the Muslim world in the last few years and contemplate the policies of the Obama administration toward the changes that have taken place. What you will see is a consistent pattern—not a successful policy, mind you—that reveals the worldview of our president.

Let’s start with Egypt. Hosni MubarakHosni Mubarak, who had ruled that country since the early 1980s, was forcibly removed from power. Now, he certainly wasn’t a wonderful leader, in the sense that we would have wanted someone like him as our president, but he at least was an ally of the United States and continued the policy of openness toward Israel begun by his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, allowing diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which believes Israel must be destroyed, helped stir up the citizens to remove Mubarak; the demonstrations led to his abdication of authority. The new Brotherhood leader then looked the other way as Christians and their churches were attacked; some were martyred and churches were burned. The country was falling into chaos until the military stepped in and ousted the Brotherhood.

What was President Obama’s response throughout all of this? He supported Mubarak’s removal and the installation of the Brotherhood. He then was dismayed when the Brotherhood lost its power. Now Egypt doesn’t even consult with America when it decides to take action in the Middle East, something unheard of previously. Its leaders just don’t trust Obama.

What about Libya?Moammar Qaddafi The strongman there for decades, who originally took over in a military coup, was Moammar Qaddafi. He was a tyrant. Ronald Reagan included Libya under Qaddafi as one of most destabilizing and dangerous countries in the world. Of Qaddafi, Reagan once quipped, “He’s not only a barbarian, he’s flaky.” And Reagan was right.

Yet Qaddafi at least could be cowed into backing off of his most outrageous ventures. Reagan bombed Libya and Qaddafi then pretty much stopped bankrolling terrorists. When George Bush invaded Iraq, Qaddafi concluded the better part of discretion was to halt his research into weapons of mass destruction. He didn’t want a U.S. invasion of his country.

It certainly was understandable to support the overthrow of Qaddafi when disgruntled elements in Libya rose up against him. But questions should always be asked: what will follow a deposed leader, and will it be an improvement or will things be even worse? We found out quickly: the Benghazi atrocity, the rise of the Islamists, and now even the takeover of Tripoli. Last week, we witnessed video of Islamists partying at a former CIA residence, even diving into the pool. This is an acute embarrassment for the U.S.

Obama’s policy toward Libya was to support Qaddafi’s ouster by using bombing raids, then allowing the radicals to take control. Again, there was little thought as to the consequences.

Bashar al-AssadHe repeated that scenario in Syria, which is ruled by Bashar al-Assad. He’s a barbarian as well. One can imagine support for taking him out. Yet, again, who exactly is the opposition? The nucleus of that opposition has turned out to be what we now call ISIS. Assad remains in power, yet it is clear that Obama’s sympathies lie with the opposition, regardless of the presence of terrorists in their midst. Wherever ISIS has taken power—now in a portion of Iraq—Christians have suffered the most.

The ISIS base of operations is in Syria, but the president has, remarkably, no plan for dealing with this terrorist organization. How do we know? He said so in a press conference last week. That even had liberal supporters wondering what’s going on in his head.

Projecting Weakness

Personally, I don’t mind anyone wearing a tan suit, but what occurred here was nearly inconceivable: some in the media focused more on his choice of sartorial splendor than the substance—or lack thereof—of his statement:

It's Empty

Does he recall that ISIS has declared it wants to raise its flag over the White House? Does he have any concept of what leadership entails? Have his sympathies for supposed oppressed peoples led to an ideological blindness that could have dire consequences for all of us?

No Strategy Yet

If one were to ask if Obama even believes there are real terrorists out to destroy America, I’m afraid this is the answer we might get:

Finally

And while he does believe evil exists, he has strange ideas about the sources of evil:

Does Evil Exist

I’ve said this many times, but it bears repeating now: we are in deep trouble with this man occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He can’t be removed until 2017, but we can take a major step in reversing his reign of error this November. We have a responsibility to do so.

Obama’s Syria vs. Reagan’s Grenada & Libya: The Differences

Syria SpeechI agree with President Obama. Now, get up off the floor and read the rest. I know the first sentence was a shock to your system, but it is a limited agreement with all kinds of cautions. On what do we agree? His decision to turn to Congress to debate what action should or should not be taken in Syria was the correct decision. I have no illusions as to why he finally decided to do so—it had far more to do with public opinion and lack of support from other countries than from any constitutional scruples of his own. But I’ll take what we can get.

Only the Congress can declare a war. I realize that’s rather quaint to say nowadays, but it’s still the truth—at least if we seek to abide by even a shred of the concept of rule of law anymore. I’m glad Congress is going to take up the issue when it returns on September 9; my hope is that, after the debate, we will not commit any military to this theater of action. My reason? There is no side to support. One side uses chemical weapons against the other and is an ally of Iran, while the other commits atrocities of its own, particularly on the Christian community. It does so primarily because Al Qaeda is part of the rebel coalition. As I stated in a previous post, it would be unconscionable to provide military aid to any movement associated with that terrorist organization. I also believe that if the opposition should win, Syria won’t be a better place, and it certainly could get demonstrably worse.

There’s another facet of this as well. If the Congress should do as I have outlined, Obama may disregard the vote and go ahead with military strikes anyway. His administration has concluded it can act unilaterally, and cites the War Powers Act for authorization. I fully agree that, if attacked, or if America or American citizens are in imminent danger, the president can move forward without a protracted debate first. But those are worst-case scenarios. Neither can the War Powers Act go contrary to the Constitution, regardless of the rationalizations used by supporters of taking action.

Some may cite what Ronald Reagan did in the 1980s as a similar situation. Again, I disagree. Reagan used the military in two specific instances: Grenada and Libya. Here are the differences.

C18148-8First, in Grenada, a radical Marxist government took over, Cubans were employed to build a runway for aircraft, and the island would have become another outpost for the Soviets in the Western Hemisphere. The other islands nearby were frightened by this prospect and asked America for help. In addition, there were American citizens on the island, medical students, whose lives were endangered by this takeover. Reagan moved swiftly and without congressional debate primarily because if he hadn’t, those students would undoubtedly have been used as hostages and/or human shields. He did consult with congressional leaders from both parties before acting, but he couldn’t afford to wait until Congress had aired everything. A public debate would have allowed time for the Soviet allies to prepare. When those students returned home, he welcomed them to the White House. They were exuberant that their nation had put their safety first.

In 1985, a disco in West Berlin was the target for a terrorist attack,  bombs killing and wounding many, including American soldiers stationed in that city. The investigation led back to Qaddafi in Libya. This was a direct attack on Americans, and Reagan responded with a military strike on specified targets within that country. He also hoped he could take out Qaddafi as well. While the latter objective wasn’t achieved, Qaddafi’s direct involvement in terrorism lessened from that day forward.

Today, in Syria, while events on the ground are horrific, and even though in a general sense what happens in the Middle East will affect us, no Americans are in imminent danger and, as I have already stated, there is no one to support. All options are lose-lose. For those reasons, I am not in favor of using our military in this situation. But above all, I am opposed to the president simply doing whatever he wishes in disregard of the Constitution.

So, President Obama has done one thing right. Now it’s Congress’s turn to do what is right. If Congress does so, Obama must then abide by that decision. I have no illusions that he will do so because it is the right thing to do, but I’m hopeful there will too much pressure on him to do otherwise.

Needed: An American Spring

Anyone remember something called the Arab Spring? That was as inaccurate a name as Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the People’s Republic of China. There was no voluntary union of Russia and the nations it subjugated, and they certainly weren’t republics—representation and the rule of law were both negated. In China, the people aren’t really running anything, but it sounds nice to call it the People’s Republic. And again, it’s not really a republic. Neither was the Arab Spring some kind of awakening of liberty. All it gave rise to was militant radicalism.

Let’s look briefly at some of the developments.

In Iran, early in Obama’s first term, the people were out in the streets protesting a rigged election. The falseness of the vote was obvious, and here was a real opportunity for the United States to stand against tyranny. Yet President Obama was silent, giving his assent to the phony election. Now a new election has taken place; the media would have you believe the new leader is less militant, but that’s far from the truth:

Moderating

How about Libya? Yes, Qaddafi needed to go, but what has replaced him? A shaky government is trying to rein in adherents of jihad. That didn’t go so well in Benghazi. This revolution Obama belatedly supported, but what did it achieve? Prediction: a takeover by the extremists.

Syria? Thousands have been killed in the uprisings there. Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad is a monster, it’s true. Yet key elements of the uprising are connected to Al Qaeda and are slaughtering Christians in that country while they attempt to topple the regime. If they win, that’s not really a triumph of liberty. Obama has again decided to take sides, again belatedly, and with those who are opposed to Assad. Is that really wise? Doing so will mean arming those who want to destroy us.

And of course there is Egypt. Everyone’s paying attention to what’s going on there. When Mubarak was overthrown, Obama was definitely in favor of that removal, despite the probability that the Muslim Brotherhood might dominate the new government. That’s exactly what happened, and even though that organization is devoted to the destruction of Israel and genocide against all Jews, the United States has supported it, sending even more military hardware and funds—all of which could be used against Israel eventually. Morsi, the new leader, sanctioned attacks against the Coptic Christians and tried to move the nation fully under the umbrella of radicalism. It’s as if he had a model he could follow:

American Style Democracy

Now that Morsi has been deposed by the military, our president has spoken out against the removal. He actually seems to favor the Muslim Brotherhood running Egypt, exposing once again his own radicalism:

The Difference

No, the Arab Spring was an illusion. It would be nice, though, to experience an American Spring. We need it badly.

The Dark Clouds over the Middle East

It’s difficult to get the American people and the mainstream media to concentrate on very significant foreign affairs that put the spotlight on our own wayward policies. Last year, the media were singing the praises of the misnamed Arab Spring. This was supposed to be an outbreak of “democracy.” Never mind, of course, that democracy really means 51% can impose anything they want on everyone else. The United States was never intended to be a democracy but a republic, which safeguards rights for everyone, even those who didn’t vote for the current leaders. That’s not the case in northern Africa and the Middle East where the so-called Arab Spring has become an autumn moving rapidly into a chilly winter.

Take Libya, for example. The ouster of Qaddafi was a reason to rejoice, but only those who understand the region were voicing concern over what would replace him. Consequently, we have the Benghazi consulate terrorist attack that killed four Americans, including our ambassador to that country [if it can be dignified with the name “country”]. Questions remain unanswered about what transpired in real time. Why did Obama do nothing to save the people during that seven-hour battle? Why did he and his entire administration decide to blame a video about Mohammed when they knew almost immediately it was a terrorist action? Why did he send out UN ambassador Susan Rice to spread the word on five Sunday talk shows that there was no terrorism involved, only a “spontaneous demonstration” against this obscure video? Now she is being talked up as a potential secretary of state. Many Republican senators, who have to vote to confirm any new secretary of state, are rightfully upset over her misleading statements/lies, which, of course, were sanctioned by the White House.

Both the administration and its media allies are saying there are no more questions, and that it’s time to move on. That would be a travesty.

The big news in the past week has emanated from Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood is solidifying its control over that nation. Another Arab Spring gone awry. Muhammed Morsi, the newly elected president, has decided to set aside the entire judiciary of the government and run it by himself, invoking dictatorial powers and making a mockery of the democracy movement. Or should I say he used that movement to establish his tyranny?

Perhaps he’s just seeking to connect with Egypt’s ancient history and heritage:

His actions have led to massive protests of the nature that started all of this last year. However, these are competing protests: some are protesting Morsi, while the Muslim Brotherhood is on the streets protesting the protesters. Is there really any question how this is going to end?

Those waiting for some kind of word from President Obama criticizing Morsi’s actions will probably be waiting forever. He has remained silent while the radicals consolidate their power. One has the sense he is rather pleased with the direction things are going.

Meanwhile, Syria continues in civil war. This is another situation where the bloodthirsty tyrant needs to be upended, yet it’s probable his successors would be even worse, of the same stripe as the new leaders in Egypt. And giving aid and comfort to all of these emerging Islamic tyrannies is Iran, still on course to develop nuclear weapons and hoping to destroy Israel once and for all.

I always want to be cautious when relating current events to Biblical prophecy. Too often Christians have jumped the gun and declared something to be a fulfillment of endtimes prophecy. I can’t say that for sure. However, I can say that the picture emerging in the Middle East is only comforting if it means the Second Coming is at hand. Without some kind of divine intervention at this critical juncture, I see only dark clouds. Will the United States play a positive role in curtailing these evil developments? Sadly, not under the current administration. Will destruction hold off long enough for a future administration to reverse direction? Truly, only God knows if there is enough time left to do so.

Petraeus & the Hope of Restoration

Each day seems to bring new revelations with respect to the David Petraeus-Paula Broadwell affair. I’m going to assume you know the basic facts; my goal is to reflect on what it all means for the country. This is not a simple sexual scandal; it goes far beyond that.

Petraeus, until his abrupt resignation last Friday [even notice how all these big news items are disclosed on Fridays when fewer people are paying attention?], was the director of the CIA. He was preparing to testify before Congress about the terror attack in Benghazi, Libya. That has now been postponed. All indications are that Congress will subpoena him soon.

Prior to this lurid episode, Petraeus was a genuine hero in many people’s eyes, particularly as the successful strategist for the surge in Iraq. He was known to be a straight-laced, moral man. Now all of that has changed, and he is in disgrace. I know that is as it should be; there are consequences for our sins. Yet I can’t help but wish those consequences could have been applied more consistently in our history. Some politicians seem to be able to dodge the condemnation they deserve. Any idea who might cross my mind on that score?

The one saving grace of the Petraeus bombshell is that the Benghazi coverup might get more attention from the media now. Until this occurred, only Fox News was really on the story. Could this be the wakeup call? If so, why would the Obama-loving media finally want to delve into the distortions and lies that have been peddled by the administration? Why would it suddenly become so interesting? Bottom line: sex sells.

On Benghazi, we’ve been treated to contradictory timelines, an attempt to blame it all on a video, and highly suspect scenarios. David Petraeus is square in the middle of what happened there. Perhaps he can clear up the foggy picture the administration has tried to promote. Why was security so lax? Why were calls for help ignored? Was this “consulate” really just a gun-running operation for rebels in Syria? Were we holding Libyan militia as prisoners there? So many questions, so few answers. All we get is stonewalling.

On a personal level, I want the best for Petraeus and his wife. I sincerely hope their marriage can be healed. We also need healing on the national level, but I fear new revelations will expose the thin tissue of lies and obstruction Obama and his people have constructed. That’s fine, though. Healing can only come after sins have been revealed. I have little hope for repentance from the administration itself, but perhaps the electorate may experience pangs of remorse over their cavalier reelection of a failed, ideologically driven president. That would be at least the first step toward a restoration so badly needed.

Averting a Nightmare

Tomorrow is D-Day. The decision will be made, after a marathon campaign season. I will be speaking at a local Republican Club on Wednesday evening, giving my analysis of the election results. I hope it will be a joyous analysis.

If you have been watching any of the final campaign events, you should have no trouble spotting the difference between the candidates at this juncture. Obama sounds pugnacious, angry, even a little resentful. He resorted to the word “revenge” when calling upon his followers to vote. Revenge? For what? Romney is not in power. He hasn’t done anything for which one should seek revenge. That comment showcased a petty incumbent who seems offended that anyone would even dare to knock him off his perch.

Romney, on the other hand, has been quite winsome in his speaking, exuding optimism for the future and a quiet confidence that he will be able to get the job done. His crowds, unlike Obama’s, have been huge and enthusiastic. He’s now even foraying into formerly forbidden territory, making stops in Pennsylvania. Polls show he has pulled even in states like Ohio, Michigan, and Iowa. He’s slightly ahead in Wisconsin and making it a tight race in Minnesota, of all places. It may be somewhat clichéd to talk of momentum, but it is clearly visible on the Romney side.

Obama has so much to answer for—from a terrible economy to a government takeover of healthcare that threatens religious liberty, from a futile stimulus that spread its money to his cronies in the unions and green industries to a foreign policy that is unraveling. Libya is not going away, no matter how he tries to ignore it. Even with all the help he’s received from an obedient media, the word is getting out that his sympathies for Muslim extremists led to inadequate security and death. The word is getting out that he failed to protect our diplomats. The mainstream media no longer holds a monopoly on the news:

Charles Woods, the father of Tyrone Woods, one of the slain ex-Navy seals who gave his life to save others, has spoken out frankly about how the president’s inaction is responsible for his son’s death. Does anyone remember when Cindy Sheehan tried to make life miserable for George Bush when her son was killed in action? Recall how she became a media celebrity? Not so Charles Woods.

Evangelicals, despite Romney’s Mormonism, have rallied to his side because of Obama’s war on Biblical morality, from abortion on demand to same-sex marriage to trying to force Christian organizations to violate their deeply held beliefs with an Obamacare mandate. Obama has tried hard to accuse Republicans of a war on women. Nothing could be more hypocritical:

This may be the most important presidential election in American history because we’ve never before had a president so eager to transform America into a socialist utopia. If he succeeds in holding on to his office, the next four years will be nightmarish for those of us who want righteousness to prevail. The nightmare needs to be averted. I believe it can be. I pray it can be.