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Biden forgets the other forever wars

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 9/26/2021 Daniel Davis
Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Washington Examiner

"I stand here today, for the first time in 20 years, with the United States not at war," President Joe Biden declared at the United Nations General Assembly.

Yet mere hours before that speech, some 2,000 new U.S. troops assumed responsibility for the deployment of U.S. combat power in Iraq. The fact is, the U.S. remains at war, and Biden should devote more attention to ending U.S. involvement in other peripheral conflicts.

I unequivocally support Biden’s complete withdrawal from Afghanistan. But a broader point sustains. The U.S. should not use force unless at least three core conditions have been met.

First, there must be a clear, compelling, and imminent threat to national security. It isn’t enough that an adversary might, theoretically, pose a threat to us at some unknown point in the future. Going to war isn’t supposed to be easy; that’s why the founding generation required a congressional declaration to authorize war.

Second, there must be a reasonable presumption that using military power will leave us in a better position after its employment than before. In other words, the medicine can’t be worse than the illness. If the cost of fighting a war is higher than the potential gain from fighting, we must keep the sword sheathed.

Third, the force employed must be given militarily attainable objectives. We set ourselves up for ultimate failure if we send troops to fight, no matter how righteous the cause, for objectives that can't be accomplished within a reasonable time frame.

Unfortunately, Washington has had an atrocious track record on violating all three of these conditions in recent decades. President George W. Bush violated the first provision when he invaded Iraq in 2003. Weapons of mass destruction aside, the Iraqi army had been crippled in the 1991 Gulf War and a decade of sanctions afterward. Saddam Hussein's military was barely able to provide internal security.

President Barack Obama violated the second principle. In March 2015, Obama ordered U.S. military power to support Saudi Arabia’s destructive war in Yemen. Despite Biden slightly reducing our participation, the U.S. continues its pointless involvement to this day.

President Donald Trump inherited a combat operation in Syria when he assumed office in 2017. At least Trump initially gave the troops a militarily attainable mission: deprive the Islamic State of its territorial holdings in Syria. But once that was largely accomplished in March 2019, Trump kept the deployment going. Now, in the Biden administration, U.S. troops remain in Syria without an attainable mission.

Biden was right to end the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan’s civil war but wrong in his U.N. speech to declare that we are no longer a nation at war. The same criteria he used to end the Afghan war properly should be applied to all the combat missions the U.S. conducts around the globe.

If any can be shown to be valid, they should continue. All that cannot, however, should be brought to an end. We must stop paying exorbitant penalties in blood and treasure to fight unnecessary wars that provide no benefit to us.

Daniel L. Davis is a senior fellow for defense priorities and a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army who deployed into combat zones four times. He is the author of The Eleventh Hour in 2020 America. Follow him @DanielLDavis1

 

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Original Author: Daniel Davis

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