The political decay of Duty, Honor, Country?

January 15, 2019

 

Many American are concerned about the recent resignation of the US Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis, and the continual divide that our President has created amongst our allies.  In his resignation letter, General Mattis wrote that he believes America “must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours.”  Translation…Russia and China are not our friends and will continue to find strategic opportunities to disrupt our national security.

 

In 2008, I was promoted to Brigadier General and was afforded the opportunity to attend a Russian course at the Harvard Kennedy School.  The course previously was called the Black Sea course and had included all the countries surrounding the Black Sea.  The course was suspended after Russia invaded Georgia and disrupted relationships throughout the region.  Fast forward a year and the Harvard Kennedy School reinstated the course, but only included Russia fearing a potential for major friction if the other nations were included.  I’m not sure why the school chose Russia rather than excluding them and inviting the other nations.  Regardless, the audience consisted of US and Russian General and Flag officers.  You could cut the tension in the room with a knife. 

 

The Russians obviously were intent on creating a disruptive environment during the 5-day course, were critical of everything “American” and very outspoken about their opinions.  I was surprised at the lack of response amongst the more senior US officers in the room.  By the middle of the week, I had heard enough.  Through the interpreter, I asked how they could be so critical with their comments about my country when they had recently attacked a sovereign nation, Georgia, and the only country in the world that supported them was Nicaragua.  I didn’t get much of a response, but the fact that I stood up to them made me their big buddy for the remainder of the week.  

 

That engagement taught me that these senior officers, like Vladimir Putin, are bullies and will employ bully tactics as long as they can get away with it.  This continues today, and interestingly enough, our own President often uses similar tactics.  The lesson is clear: until someone pushes back, our adversaries will continue to employ bully tactics as long as they are condoned.

 

General Mattis’s resignation will not resolve the problem.  On the contrary, this could mean there is one less credible dissenting opinion in the White House.  However, it has hopefully raised the awareness of our elected officials and the American public to act.  We cannot sit back and watch the destruction of our values.  Our founding fathers designed a government using a series of checks and balances to ensure the U.S. foreign policy reflected the will of the nation and not necessarily the ideas of one person-even if that’s the President. As an example, the Kurds have been by our side throughout our continual engagement in the Middle East.  Pulling U.S. troops out of Syria will open the door for Turkey to punish the Kurds and allow Russia to continue its expansion in that region of the world.  Abandoning our friends is not what we stand for.  

 

James Madison said, “In framing a government, which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty is this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.” The fundamental purpose of the U.S. Constitution is to protect the central values on which our country was founded:  individual liberty, federalism, limited government, representative government, private property, “all men are created equal,” and the separation of powers/checks and balances.  To prevent an accumulation of power in one branch of government and to ensure that each branch can stop the others from growing too powerful, the Constitution establishes a system of distinct powers.  Those checks and balances, a free press, and our democratically-elected representatives are intended to protect the very values our founding fathers held so dearly. 

 

But as General Mattis leaves the  Administration, my concerns regarding the checks and balances in our government grow. It’s time for the elected members of our government to stop the internal bickering and do their jobs, including protecting our country from isolationism.  I’m confident the will of the people will prevail and our democratic principles will remain the democratic model for the free-world to look up to.

 

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Major General Richard S. "Beef" Haddad (Ret) retired as Vice Commander, Air Force Reserve Command. While working in the Air Force Reserve, he served as Deputy Chief in the Pentagon and directed Planning and Programming (A5/8). Additionally, General Haddad sat on the Air Force Board that plans, programs, budgets, and executes future war fighting capabilities for the Air Force.

 

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