Over the past weekend, a drone strike killed three American servicemembers and wounded twenty others. Furthermore, the attack occurred in Jordan near the border of Syria. We pray for the souls of the American soldiers who were killed. We are thankful for all of those brave men and women who courageously take the oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. Nevertheless, this is a wake up call to assess U.S. strategy.
In the wake of the attack, the responses are predictable. President Biden vows the U.S. “shall respond.” U.S. politicians discuss “taking out” Iran’s leadership. News outlets lead the question with proposed responses such as the WSJ article titled “Three Ways the U.S. Could Punish Iran After Fatal Drone Attack.”
In none of these instances is there a serious question about what exactly these soldiers were doing to accomplish the oath of supporting and defending the U.S. Constitution. Most Americans probably don’t know that we have bases in Jordan or soldiers that are in harms way in remote bases. In fact, the U.S. has bases all over the Middle East. What purpose are they serving? Are they protecting our rights to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, or due process?
Furthermore, at what point did the U.S. Congress authorize this deployment? Is there a strategic purpose?
What we are witnessing is a total lack of seriousness in strategic thinking. Discussions of punishment and violent responses are childish. This is the stuff of amateurs and not serious statesmen. In fact, a coherent foreign policy should start with the question of U.S. interests. However, Americas current political class does not think that way. It is not clear they are capable of thinking this way. It may be that the waters are permanently muddied with corporate interests, consultant talking points, and ideological commitments. Moreover, upon learning the news of what happened, no American took to the street and demanded accountability. No. Not while the AFC Championship was on.
While the tactics of this attack do matter, the strategic considerations are more important. What would this look like? First, we should ask what we want with respect to Iran. For example, we want them to stop funding and providing material support to proxy groups like the Houthis, Hezbollah, and Hamas. Second, we use diplomacy to negotiate based on these goals. For example, Iran might ask that we remove certain bases from Iraq. We may decline. However, this is part of the negotiation. Finally, if Iran fails to meet U.S. demands and continues funding groups that cause violence and instability in the region, then we would have a congressionally authorized use of force.
If we were to use diplomacy in this straightforward matter, it would clear the air on what we hope to achieve. Furthermore, the American people would understand and be able to approve or disapprove of the policy by holding their elected representatives responsible for the way in which they vote. Finally, our political goals would be unambiguous to all parties involved. Thus, when we do have a congressionally authorized use of force, our military power could be marshalled toward the goal of bringing Iran back to the negotiating table to hear our demands. Tit for tat strikes do not get at the heart of the political question.
Since war is an extension of politics, every military action should have a political end state. What our politicians and reckless news outlets propose is unmoored from a clear end state. In fact, they lack a strategic vision. It is worth noting that a strategic vision could also include regime change. However, yet again, this is something that should be authorized via Congress. The logic is simple in a republic, the people get a say. The people of the United States govern our military via our elected representatives. In principle, this is the case. But, the current reality is far from it.
I fear for the lives of our men and women in uniform. I fear for their lives while the strategic purpose to which they serve is wholly opaque. It is not only opaque but also divorced from the pressing reality of what is actually destroying our country. At the moment, drugs, crime, and the breakdown of the family plague the United States populace. We have unchecked illegal immigration that contributes to the aforementioned factors.
America needs serious statesman. We need foreign policy grounded in reason not emotion and impetuosity. We need a revival of accountability and an education of our electorate. Our deterrent capabilities exist, but are useless. They are useless because there is no guiding vision behind them.