This originally appeared in my townhall column: John Kerry called the Istanbul airport attack a sign of desperation on the part of ISIS. The following observations suggest American leaders are the ones desperately clinging to failed strategies.
- Choosing symbolism over substance: Whether or not expressed explicitly, the administration demands uniformity of thought and diversity in appearance. As a result, upwards of 200 military officers have been “purged” for failing to acquiesce to a rudderless national security strategy that, among other things, subjects the military to costly and fruitless social engineering projects. A dangerous future awaits a country that diverts defense spending to that which offers no measurable benefit to military readiness. Woe to them who funds appearance over capability.
- Dangerous growth in government: Any expansion in government inevitably gives leaders an unwarranted sense of self (see the European Union). That remarkable hubris leads officials to believe, for instance, that they have identified the primary cause of weather patterns, and thus, have the power to fix it. A lack of consensus among specialists in this area is no match for such vanity. Assured of their position, big government saddles the military with climate directives that only serve to undermine its effectiveness. (see here)
- Faking moral outrage: The administration’s moral high ground is nothing but a false summit. And the latest sprint to the top in the wake of the Orlando massacre is fueled by widely vague notions of gun control and a staunch resistance to define the enemy. Government plans to drag America uphill to “Assault Rifle Ridge” only then to demand that citizens ignore the greater peaks that loom overhead, with names like “Emboldened Russia” and “Radical Islam.”
- Misinterpreting American exceptionalism: Some modern conservatives continue to rely on a misguided notion that all things American – democracy, capitalism and hot dogs – are inherently exceptional and, therefore, easily transferrable to all people. Such a simple interpretation inevitably leads to clumsy nation-building projects and unproductive security assistance programs. Both have increased defense spending, while doing little to enhance U.S. security. I call this defenseless debt.
- Misunderstanding American exceptionalism: John Kerry “cringed” at hearing the term. President Obama has lectured about its use. They incorrectly believe it to be a pompous vision of America where the ignorant believe the United States represents the climax of human culture, government and economy. Progressives then, ironically, respond with another form of American exceptionalism, which says the country’s faults and past misdeeds are, in fact, exceptionally American. Such a premise concludes that America is uniquely bad and all others endure as victims of that legacy. This leads to number 6.
- Prizing reputation over defense: The administration seems to be more concerned with its reputation among America’s adversaries than among those it governs. For this reason, we have the Iran nuclear deal. For this reason, what might inspire terrorism goes unstated. For this reason, Marines changed out of their uniforms four different times while readying themselves to respond to Benghazi, all because state officials felt embroidered American flags were potentially harmful to local sensibilities. We know the end of that story.
- Negotiating national security: The government must provide for the common defense. That’s non-negotiable. But 2015 marked the first time in history the Commander-in-Chief vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act for reasons unrelated to defense (he wanted more domestic spending). And when Congress acquiesced, both branches set the wrong precedent that the government’s constitutional duty to provide for the common defense matched their imagined duty to provide for the domestic welfare.
- National secrets taken lightly: The former Secretary of State completely compromised U.S. national security secrets, and still feels qualified to request a promotion. Either she displayed premeditated disregard for America’s security or, see number 5, excused the behavior because it only harmed an exceptionally unjust and discriminatory security apparatus. This breach is incredibly dangerous, as I have previously explained here.
America is a constitutional republic founded on a special of rule of law that allows for the truest expressions of personal liberty. And officials will not have a shared interest in preserving that legacy until the government can agree that defending America is truly its top priority.