Tuesday’s show was devoted in large part to whether Congress should endorse President Obama’s request for a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force (“AUMF”), a Congressional action sought and received by President Bush just prior to launching the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Most of this week’s and next week’s programming will be on the same topic. This is one of those issues to which it is impossible to devote too much time.
Call this AUMF 2.0 and count me as a supporter for reasons I have discussed here and elsewhere. I think eventually a majority of both the House and Senate GOP caucuses will support the AUMF 2.0, but not all opponents of the resolution will be isolationists last seen holding signs for Ron Paul outside of the Tampa Bay GOP convention. Some, like my guest last night, Victor Davis Hanson, have worries about the “second order impacts” of a weak strike on Syria with such a weak president at the helm. To be sure, the “SMAERLs” –“the social media amplified extremists of right and left”– are flooding every zone with their far right or far left views, but there are some legitimate arguments against voting for the feckless president’s latest zig-zag, and VDH made them on my show last night. The snarls of the SMAERLs shouldn’t obscure the need to answer the responsible critics and doubters of the action, and the House GOP should, if possible, make the AUMF 2.0 worth voting for in the eyes of these critics. Winning the support of folks like Hanson and Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter is a crucial task ahead for the House GOP leadership, because by doing so they will be winning the key opinion leaders of the doubters.
My own view is that the damage to American credibility from an American president not following through on a “red line” threat is so immense as to overcome those objections, and the lead article in the new Foreign Affairs magazine on the Supreme Leader of Iran, the Ayatollah Khamenei –did you know he had translated the writings of Muslim Brotherhood chief ideologist Sayyid Qutb into Persian?— reinforces my worries over the emboldening of our already deadly enemies via a collapse of the last shred of this president’s credibility. But VDH makes good counter-arguments, and the transcript of our conversation will be posted on my Transcripts page here soon, as will be the transcripts of my conversations today with Congressman Tom Cotton, an advocate for retaliation, and with the Washington Examiner’s Byron York, who surveys the setting within the two GOP caucuses.
Congressman Cotton, like the Army Ranger and combat veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq that he is, is living up to the Ranger’s motto of “Rangers Lead The Way” by making the arguments for the AUMF 2.0 based on our national interests, and I hope the key GOP leaders of the new generation like Chairman Paul Ryan and Senators Ayotte, Cruz, Rubio, Thune and Toomey join him, and perhaps even Senator Mike Lee can be brought around.
I don’t see the Republican Party turning for national leadership to any elected lawmaker who fails this crucial test, and the names I have mentioned all may aspire to lead the Party of Reagan someday, and I have no doubt how Reagan would have reacted to the crossing of a red line he had laid down.
Other GOPers in the House and Senate might need a bigger push, however, because they don’t see themselves as on a national ticket someday, and they fear the SMAERLs. My suggestion: Add to the AUMF the restoration to the DOD of the insane spending cuts brought about by the insane sequester that ought never to have been applied to our nation’s national security budget in the first place. Enforcing painful but necessary cuts on domestic spending has been a useful and necessary discipline brought about by the sequester, but the deep DOD cuts came on top of years of tough cuts superintended by Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, and the new cuts are now leading to truly reckless measures such as Secretary Hagel’s threat to reduce the number of carrier groups.
The world’s only superpower and its keeper of the peace (as well as guarantor of the sea lanes and worldwide prosperity) needs its Navy and indeed its fully funded Pentagon. The House GOP should take whatever the Senate sends it in the form of the AUMF 2.0 and attach restoration to it not only of the costs of Operation Restore The Red Line, but of the full DOD budget pre-sequester. The president dares not veto such funding in the face of a national security crisis and will be obliged thereby to stop holding the military hostage to his profligate funding of the vast federal bureaucracy and his political allies.
The president has put the country in a deep hole. The GOP has to rescue him and by doing so save itself from its small but very loud isolationist wing and at the same time help address the concerns of serious critics of the weakest modern president like VDH and Ambassador John Bolton. All of this can be accomplished with an artful amendment of the AUMF when it comes to the House and hopefully the Speaker, Leader Cantor, House Armed Services Chair Buck McKeon, and Appropriations Chair Hal Rogers are planning the particulars through the course of this key week.
No GOP Congressman voting to restore America’s defenses while also voting to uphold its international credibility will pay a price at the polls for such an action. They will instead be rewarded there because they are doing a right and necessary thing, not matter how loud the SMAERLs and how often they Tweet using all caps or how often they dial and dial again their rage against American adventurism abroad. The Party of Reagan has to act like the Party of Reagan and promote the national defense and protect the national interest even when the president won’t.