Pacepa writes of his gratitude for his adopted nation in this WSJ op-ed article. “During these years I have lived here under five presidents--some better than others--but I have always felt that I was living in paradise. My American citizenship has given me a feeling of pride, hope and security that is surpassed only by the joy of simply being alive.”
But the gist of Pacepa’s article is the assertion that President Bush’s harsh critics are following the old KGB game plan for beating America, and that they are doing so very effectively. Pacepa is talking about “top political leaders [that] can dare in a time of war to call our commander in chief a "liar," a "deceiver" and a "fraud."” His basis for this claim is his observation that “international respect for America is directly proportional to America's own respect for its president.”
Let me point out that in our democratic republic, we are completely free to criticize our government and our political leaders. We encourage debate about the issues of the day as a way of working out acceptable courses of action. The idea that we should remain mum about perceived leadership deficiencies is … well … un-American.
But has the rhetoric gone too far? It’s interesting to read Pacepa’s recounting of various KGB-sponsored efforts to discredit whoever happened to be our president at a given time in order to discredit America. For example he notes with sorrow the communists’ success in using propaganda during the Vietnam War to convince millions of Americans “that America's presidents sent Genghis Khan-style barbarian soldiers to Vietnam who raped at random, taped electrical wires to human genitals, cut off limbs, blew up bodies and razed entire villages.”
While Pacepa is enthusiastic about competition, he asserts that “unity in time of war has made America the leader of the world.” For example, he notes, “Republican challenger Thomas Dewey declined to criticize President Roosevelt's war policy [in 1944].” He parallels this with today’s situation:
“Now we are again at war. It is not the president's war. It is America's war, authorized by 296 House members and 76 senators. I do not intend to join the armchair experts on the Iraq war. I do not know how we should handle this war, and they don't know either. But I do know that if America's political leaders, Democrat and Republican, join together as they did during World War II, America will win. Otherwise, terrorism will win. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi predicted just before being killed: "We fight today in Iraq, tomorrow in the land of the Holy Places, and after there in the West."”
While I believe that Gen. Pacepa’s observations are highly valuable, I can’t help but think that he’s comparing apples and oranges. We did not get directly involved in World War II until Congress formally declared war against Japan and Germany. It took a lot of sacrifice, but we won the war decisively. Since that time our nation has avoided direct declarations of war, opting instead for resolutions such as the one that authorized the president to use “necessary force” to combat terrorism that threatens the U.S. or its interests.
Oh, we’ve done alright in some small military actions, such as Grenada and Panama, but other larger actions haven’t been so successful. The Korean War ended in a draw. We allowed ourselves to be defeated in Vietnam. We won decisively in Gulf War I, but failed to eliminate the threat, resulting in a decade and a half of problems. A dozen years after starting to bomb, we’re still hanging around in Kosovo keeping people from killing each other. It’s not clear if we’re going to ultimately achieve a stable situation in Afghanistan or in Iraq.
Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX, current GOP presidential candidate) contends that the U.S. tends to win when it formally declares war and tends to lose when it takes military action without declaring war. (I’m not sure how he thinks the War of 1812 fits into this assertion.) While Paul was opposed to war in Iraq, he “introduced legislation in October 2002 for Congress to declare war on Iraq. He said he would not vote for his own bill, but if his fellow members of Congress wished to go to war in Iraq, they should follow the Constitution and declare war.”
Paul understood that declaring war requires more than a simple majority; it requires a relatively broad consensus. When a consensus of this nature exists, political leaders and citizens are willing to line up behind the effort and make the sacrifices necessary for success. When a declaration of war can be achieved, then the unity that Pacepa observes with respect to WWII is a natural result.
Congress would have voted overwhelmingly to declare war on Afghanistan. But does anyone think that it would have declared war on Iraq? Although 296 representatives and 76 senators effectively voted to allow the President to invade Iraq, this move afforded members of Congress that were lukewarm to the idea cover for their ambivalence. It gave them flexibility to be fluid in their support of the war. But the main point is that a declaration of war could not have been achieved because there was no broad consensus among the American people to do so.
When Ron Paul wanted an up or down vote on declaring war on Iraq, Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) responded, “There are things in the Constitution that have been overtaken by events, by time. Declaration of war is one of them.” There are people on the other side of the aisle that also believe that some elements of the Constitution are outdated. They might disagree with Rep. Hyde on what those elements might be. But the point is that leaders in both major political parties are willing to toss the Constitution aside whenever its provisions seem inconvenient.
We have, for example, Senator Hatch (R-UT) who is willing to ignore constitutional provisions so that Washington, D.C. can have a full voting seat in the House of Representatives. He notes the injustice of the District’s plight, and makes convoluted arguments suggesting that the plan is actually constitutional. Like Rep. Hyde, he is willing to ignore the Constitution when its provisions seem inconvenient.
Constitutional injustices or inadequacies should be repaired per the provisions in the document. That is, the document should be amended. Yes, it’s almost impossible to amend the Constitution. The Founders purposefully set a very high bar for achieving amendments. That is one of the Constitution's great strengths, but only if we actually honor it in deed.
Back to Gen. Pacepa’s point. Regardless of how we ended up in Iraq, the fact of the matter is that we are there now. We have to deal with the situation we have rather than the situation we wish we had. Pacepa is surely correct when he opines that if political leaders from both sides of the aisle line up behind victory, we will win. But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that we’re suddenly going to get the President’s opponents to stop their anti-Bush rhetoric. While their gnashing may diminish our nation’s stature abroad, the fact is that this is a natural result of going to war without sufficient consensus to achieve a formal declaration of war.
But we can’t go back to what should have been. Since we are now at war in Iraq, political leaders should ask themselves what outcome would truly be best for America. They should approach this question with a blind eye as to who controls the White House, because in a little over 16 months it will be somebody else and we will still likely be in Iraq. And then they should consider how to best achieve what is best for our nation. Is it too much to ask that politicians put the welfare of their nation ahead of their own political careers?