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Providing for the common defense is the first object of government
The United States of America is a great and powerful nation. For this reason, many of her citizens believe that she is invulnerable to attack. The attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the simultaneous attack on New York City and Washington D.C. nearly 60 years later should have dispelled that illusion, but for many it hasn’t. We are finding out now what the perils are under a federal government far less energetic than the one designed by the framers of our Constitution.
Because our government is so stable and has passed through numerous crises, less concern is felt about the lack of leadership being displayed by the current administration than is warranted. But make no mistake, we cannot afford indecisiveness, ineptitude and fecklessness in our foreign affairs in a world of nuclear weapons, international terrorism and determined adversaries.
Whether it is those on the left who think nothing of compromising American sovereignty to international organizations or those on the right who think national defense is as much in need of being trimmed as vast entitlement programs, our national security hangs more on the military forces and weapons systems now in place than on the far more crucial element of clear-headed understanding of our national interest.
It is instructive to recall our country’s perilous circumstances and weak government before we adopted the Constitution, when an alliance of 13 states tried to defend the country. To illustrate the perils of weak government, as well as the lackadaisical attitude that often prevails before catastrophe strikes, consider this passage from The Federalist Papers, written by James Madison (modified for our circumstances):
“The inhabitants of the Atlantic [, Pacific and other] frontier[s] are all of them deeply interested in . . . [land, air and] naval protection, and if they have hitherto been suffered to sleep quietly in their beds; if their property has remained safe against the predatory spirit of licentious adventurers; if their maritime (and inland] towns have not yet been compelled to ransom themselves from the terrors of a conflagration, by yielding to the exactions of daring and sudden invaders, these instances of good fortune are not to be ascribed to the capacity of the existing government for the protection of those from whom it claims allegiance, but to causes that are fugitive and fallacious.”
We have, of course, a far more powerful government today than we did in 1787. But if we fail to draw upon our nation’s vast resources to supply a military force more powerful than any potential aggressor or invader, we might as well be limping along under a pitiful federation of loosely organized states.
Nothing has brought our fearful state of affairs home more forcefully than our President being outmaneuvered and outfoxed by the wily KGB-trained president of Russia, Vladimir Putin. He has made mush out of Barack Obama’s incredibly unrealistic “strategy” of a minimal strike against the murderous Syrian regime for its recently documented use of weapons of mass destruction against more than a thousand of his subjects.
The very regime which has been arming and therefore propping up Bashar al-Assad now emerges as a faux peace maker who proposes that Syria surrender its chemical weapons to some sort of international authority. Obama’s delays, shifting signals and buck-passing to others has been salvaged by the most unlikely of regimes, who shows utter contempt for our naïve president by publishing an op-ed in the New York Times that ridiculed Obama’s belated claim of American exceptionalism. What our commander-in-chief previously sneered at he lately felt compelled to honor, but got slapped in the face with his own rhetoric by a hostile power.
The truth is, Russia has very little of the massive military power it possessed when it was ruled by the Communist Party. But it is being ruled currently by a man who knows that the head of the far more powerful American government is reluctant to use that power.
Fortunately, for Obama our media are shielding the public from the truth. For instance, Time magazine’s current cover for foreign readers features Putin and emphasizes his effective putdown of Obama, but the domestic cover has a picture of a football player instead.
One would hope that Obama would abandon his fanciful notions of how the world works, but he won’t and we are every day in potential peril. Personnel determine policy and we have poorly prepared personnel and therefore suffer poor policy.
Richard Reeb taught political science, philosophy and journalism at Barstow College from 1970 to 2003. He is the author of "Take Journalism Seriously: 'Objectivity' as a Partisan Cause" (University Press of America, 1999). He can be contacted at email@example.com