Monday, November 12, 2012

Voting Present in the War on Terror

Our House of Representatives should pass an authorization to use force resolution and send it to the Senate to remind the administration that we are still at war with Islamist terrorists.

I can't speak to the issue of whether Benghazi rises to the level of a scandal of a government cover up. But I can't say the accusations are ill-founded given the sequence of events following the 11 SEP 12 attacks. What I am most concerned about is the apparent failure of our government--starting with our president--to believe we are at war with Islamist jihadis.

Congress still has questions about Benghazi that can't be stonewalled forever. The administration delayed past the election, but interest is not fading:

No fewer than four House and Senate panels plan to hold closed-door briefings with administration officials about the attack this week, while one committee is holding a public hearing. Members of both parties say they expect the Benghazi probe to last well into Obama's second term.

I'm open to the idea that we couldn't have done anything once the attacks started. That's separate from the pre-attack period where we ignored threats and the issue of the shifting administration explanations after the attacks that do not seem like mere fog of war confusion.

My working assumption is that once the attacks started, we couldn't save the consulate. But the annex held on long enough for forces to arrive if we had quickly scraped together some ground forces in Europe and sent in air power from Italy. We might have been able to get on the ground at the annex and inflict a visible defeat on the jihadis by holding our ground and killing more of the attackers.

I'm open to the possibility that it was not possible to get ground troops on the ground at the annex within 6 or 7 hours. But it is possible that the quick intervention of American fighter jets could have scared away the attackers or even bought time for American ground forces to reach the annex before we had to evacuate the whole complex in the morning and get out of Dodge. Those troops could then have reclaimed the consulate grounds.

The basic problem--demonstrated so clearly two days before the attack--is that our government does not really believe we are at war with jihadis. The attack didn't dent that world view. They really believe that we were at war with al Qaeda and the fact that Osama bin Laden is dead is the final word on that war. Mission accomplished. Let's pivot to the Pacific.

But we remain at war with jihadis who want to kill us. We can't wish it away. We can't pretend that it takes two sides to make war. Actually, the jihadis prefer it if we don't wage war like we believe it since it makes their attacks so much easier to pull off. Benghazi is a case in point. We go through the motions of war (essentially voting "present" for the war), but when a surprise enemy attack takes place (aside from whether that thinking made us unable to see the "surprise" coming), we fail to react like we are at war. If our leaders believed we are at war, they'd have moved to the sound of the guns.

So let's adapt to this. President Obama has long said that pre-Obama American was a totally different nation that is separate from the new America he represents. Maybe the authorization to use force that Congress passed after September 11, 2001, just doesn't apply to him as far as he is concerned.

So the House of Representatives should pass a new authorization to use force against al Qaeda, other jihadis, and Iran and their proxies to be on the safe side. Pass it as a reminder that the original authorization to use force still stands as effective law, and send it to the Senate to see what they do with it.

We're at war. We should act like it.