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J.F. Kelly, Jr. - Contributor

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

Getting Back to Business
The election is behind us... finally...

[J. F. Kelly, Jr.] 11/10/04

Politics aside, President Bush’s convincing reelection victory had to cause a collective sigh of relief in the military community as well as among all Americans who believe that the war on terrorism remains the gravest challenge our nation faces. A change in leadership at this critical juncture would surely have caused an interruption in that effort, if not a significant change in direction.

Like the stock market, the military dislikes uncertainty and responds best to strong and decisive leadership. Change is often unsettling and a change at the top most unsettling of all. Inevitably, an election defeat of a wartime president would be perceived by our enemies and allies as a rejection of the president’s prosecution of the war and would raise questions among our real allies, i.e., those nations that supported us in Iraq, regarding the implications of a transition to a new, less assertive strategy that John Kerry would have initiated.

Kerry’s approach would have featured greater reliance on the United Nations and renewed appeals to reluctant allies like France, Germany and Belgium. A Kerry presidency would undoubtedly be characterized by much greater reliance on diplomacy, persuasion, summit conferences, and repeated UN resolutions warning of stern consequences that are never imposed.

These approaches in dealing with international terrorism have been tried before and they have failed repeatedly. Terrorists cannot be stopped or dissuaded by diplomacy or by concessions. Successes to date have come only as a result of President Bush’s willingness to act, with a coalition of the willing if possible but alone if necessary, to preempt terrorism before it could reach our shores.

The armed forces have a somewhat different stake in the outcome of a presidential election, especially in wartime, than most of the rest of the population. The president, to them, is more than just the chief executive of the nation, responsible for the conduct of government. He is also their commander-in chief. This is a real, not just symbolic function.

While they will always rally around and follow a new elected civilian leader of any political persuasion, trust in a leader must be earned. Mr. Kerry, despite his military decorations, has done little to merit that trust. A Kerry victory would have installed, as commander-in-chief, a man who dishonored the military by voicing opposition to its mission and its leaders and, worse, accusing his comrades-in-arms of atrocities and war crimes. Imagine the irony of that.

The military is, by tradition and policy, non-political. Its members do, however, exercise their right as citizens to vote. There is little question as to whom they supported in this election. By most estimates, at least 84% of them supported President Bush, a resounding vote of confidence in their commander-in-chief.

After his reelection, Mr. Bush spoke of his intention to use his newly won political capital. Here’s hoping that, as a first order of business, he authorizes our forces in Iraq to take whatever action is necessary to neutralize the insurgents in Fallujah and other terrorist sanctuaries that are hampering our efforts to establish sufficient security to permit scheduled elections in January. His biggest mistake in the prosecution of this war has been the failure to establish adequate security and disarm the insurgents. Fallujah, called the City of Mosques, was spared by advancing U.S. forces in the initial assault because of its religious significance and the fear of inflaming the Sunnis. It immediately became a sanctuary for terrorists. The Sunni clerics who warn against attacking the city, have only the terrorists to blame for the damage and deaths that inevitably will result.

Americans are an impatient people. They will not indefinitely tolerate a protracted military involvement in a hostile land where terrorists and insurgents are free to exact a steady toll on them and on cooperative civilians. They want to see steady progress, leading to the promised elections that can at least start us on the long road to disengagement. That progress is threatened as long as the terrorists are permitted to operate out of sanctuaries. CRO

copyright 2004 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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