I dare say that none of us will ever forget where we were that Tuesday morning on September 11, 2001, when the world’s turmoil landed squarely on America’s doorstep. We were stunned, bewildered, fearful, and angered.
Thirteen years have now passed since that day. We have waged war in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have reached into Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen to attempt to strike at terrorist targets. We have watched the Arab Spring disintegrate into violence and turmoil throughout the Arab world from Syria to Egypt to Tunisia and all points in between. Now, after all this time, we are confronted with a new dark challenge.
President Obama last night broadly outlined the need to engage militarily against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. In response, Congress now has both a Constitutional and moral duty to speak but not quibble. Neither a blank check nor handcuffs should be handed to the President and our military. Instead, Congress’ role should be to insure that the principles outlined originally by former Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger, and later utilized by General Colin Powell in the First Gulf War, be followed. They were:
- Commit U.S. forces to combat only when the vital national interests of the United States or its allies are involved;
- If U.S. forces are to be committed, do so wholeheartedly and with the clear intention of winning;
- If U.S. forces are to be committed, there must be clearly defined political and military objectives, and our forces must be given the capacity to accomplish those objectives;
- The relationship between the objectives and the size and composition of the forces committed should be continually reassessed and adjusted if necessary;
- U.S. forces placed in harm’s way must have the sustained support of the American public and Congress; and
- The commitment of U.S. troops should be considered only as a last resort.
When and how this struggle against terrorism will end is unknown but the actions of ISIS in Syria and Iraq clearly remind us that this is a fight we cannot ignore. Theirs is a world view that does not tolerate coexistence with anyone or any culture that does not bow to their extreme beliefs. In short, regrettably sometimes war is the only answer.
So today, we must once again mourn our dead, steel our resolve to press on, and remember that what binds us together is greater than what tries to tear us apart.