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  The Perils of the President
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. [writer] 2/1/07

It can’t be easy being George W. Bush these days, facing the final two years of his stressful presidency with a hostile Congress to deal with and a public deeply divided over his handling of the war. He is visibly ageing and the responsibilities of the most powerful office in the world must surely be wearing on him. But with two immensely challenging years of his stewardship remaining, it is critical that he not go wobbly, to borrow Margaret Thatcher’s words.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

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]

Other presidents have survived the final years of their terms with low popularity and enemies in Congress but these are exceptionally dangerous times. A weakened, hesitant and indecisive commander-in-chief preoccupied with trying to get along would not bode well for the security of Americans or for national interests. Fortunately, Mr. Bush still displays resoluteness—some would say stubbornness—even if some of the swagger is gone. A crippled presidency may enhance Democratic election chances in 2008 but it is certainly not in the best interests of the country in the meanwhile.

It is important that Democrats not read too much into their election victories. Gaining control of Congress doesn’t mean gaining responsibility for foreign policy or the conduct of military operations, notwithstanding a recent opinion poll showing that over half of the respondents would prefer it. The facts remain that Congress is primarily a lawmaking body and functions like a huge committee, its authority over the president largely limited to financial matters. The security of the country cannot be entrusted to an unwieldy group that often cannot even agree on its own agenda and rules and whose members do not represent all the citizens as only the president and vice-president do. Members of Congress are primarily responsive to the people of the state or congressional district they represent.

Foreign policy and the conduct of war cannot be effectively planned and directed by committees. These functions are solely within the purview of the executive branch. It is only a measure of the polarization that grips our nation that so many people surveyed say that they would prefer that Congress exercise such authority. It would, in my view, be a prescription for disaster. Nevertheless, right on cue, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who represents a state containing less than half of one percent of the country’s population, warned the president not to take any military action against Iran without first obtaining congressional authorization. That must be rather reassuring to Iran’s mullahs and lunatic president, knowing, as they do, that such a restriction would ensure months of debate, remove the element of surprise and provide time for evasive or even preemptive actions while mustering Muslim support for terrorist actions against the American “aggressors”.

Meanwhile, Iran proceeds toward the acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability which would virtually ensure further nuclear proliferation among Arab and Muslim nations. We have said that we will not permit this to happen. Israel, the nation most imperiled by a nuclear-armed Iran, cannot allow it to happen. But does anyone really have confidence that some fortuitous combination of UN resolutions and sanctions or hoped-for revolt by voices of reason in Iran will defuse this danger? Can we take the chance of just hoping that it all works out for the best? Will Israel take that chance with its very existence possibly at stake?

The danger grows with each passing day. Defusing this ticking time bomb will probably require more than just resolutions and economic sanctions. We should spare no diplomatic effort, of course, but meanwhile we must also convince Iran’s leaders that the United States, with or without a coalition of other nations, many of which are, unfortunately, in denial, will take whatever actions, including the use of military force, as may be necessary to ensure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons or the means to produce them. They must be made to understand that our decision will not be subject to world opinion or UN approval and that any military action we deem necessary would commence at a time of our choosing. They must get this message clearly. Sending an additional aircraft carrier battle group to the Persian Gulf and naming the immensely capable Adm. William Fallon, a carrier aviator, as Commander U.S. Central Command, the unified military commander with area responsibilities are, hopefully, part of this message.

The element of surprise can be critical. We may not wish to telegraph our plans by debating them in Congress or the UN. Our best chances of avoiding the need for military action is to convince Iran’s mullahs that we will take it if necessary, without any UN or congressionally imposed restrictions. I, for one, want authority for such a decision vested in the nation’s top decision maker, the elected commander-in-chief who has access to all the intelligence and military advice available, not in a committee of lawmakers in Washington or world diplomats at Turtle Bay who can seldom agree on anything without months of debate. CRO

copyright 2007 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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