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United States of America

The Liberty of Defense

Sworn To Support And Defend The Constitution; Not Land, Government Or Even People

By Steve Schippert

National Security and Defense are no longer apolitical issues. In reluctantly acknowledging this fact, more thinking and writing on political issues has gradually made its way into the ThreatsWatch space. To put it succinctly, it's not just about Defense. It's about what we defend.

There are two disparities at play in the American body politic that cause this deep politicization of Defense and National Security. The first is a wide disconnect between the leadership of both major parties - and to a greater degree the Democrat party - and the American voting public from which they have historically drawn their support. The second, a specific subset of the first but requiring its own elaboration, is the radical nature of the leadership of the Democrat Party.

When asked what it is exactly that I do and why, I've given many variations of the National Security answer. Passion for National Security is only a partial answer. The next question, though rarely asked, is and should be, "National Security to what ends?" Eight words explain it best and most concisely.

The Defense of Liberty - The Liberty of Defense.

The Defense of Liberty is straight forward and needs no elaboration. There are many patriots - and more and more each day - who have embraced the Defense of Liberty. But 'The Liberty of Defense' is much more revealing.

The Military Oath of Service begins, "I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; ... "

We do not swear explicitly to defend soil or borders. Nor do we swear explicitly even to defend people, citizens. We do not even swear explicitly to defend the nation explicitly as a geographic, social or economic entity. It could be said that these are implied, and indeed they are.

It is, however, absolutely vital to understand what it is that we do swear - explicitly - to support and defend: The Constitution of the United States. And as I had previously written, that oath stands honored - and, frankly, more thoroughly understood and respected - to this day, long after my 8 years of active duty service as a United States Marine.

The Oath was carefully written to ensure that the Constitution has guardians. Those guardians include not only those in military service, but also the President of the United States, members of both Houses of Congress and other civil servants. The various versions of oaths of service were never intended to simply defend the nation as a geographical entity. Nor, it should be consciously acknowledged, do they command the defense of its government.

The Constitution is the very codification of our Liberty and American Liberty has always been truly exceptional in the world in its scope and near-holy reverence. The only time it should not be exceptional is if and when other nations of the world embrace the same. Likewise, never should we squander or dismiss American Liberties in order to conform with perceived standards as set by other nations of the world.

And swearing to defend this - the exceptional idea, the very codification of Liberty, the heart and soul of the great American experiment - is the Liberty of Defense. The two are inseparably intertwined. To remove one from the other condemns Liberty to a memory in short order and reduces its Defense to just another military force on the globe protecting soil, people and power interests and little more.

Thankfully, more Americans are beginning to consciously think of more than a cracked bell when they hear the word Liberty. And, likewise, they are also beginning to think of more than just an old historical museum relic when they hear the name of its codification, the Constitution of the United States.

The critical and central importance of Liberty is again being recognized and no longer taken for granted by a majority of Americans. Americans of every race, color and creed have taken common cause in the Defense of Liberty.

And for men like me, we are driven by the Liberty of Defense: The fact that we have sworn to support and defend the very proclamation and codification of that uniquely American Liberty, not merely soil, borders, people or government itself. America is not its government nor its soil or borders. Our Constitution is what consititutes us - not land masses or any ethnic culture, as are the primary identifiers for so many nations in the world. America is Liberty and, on an order of magnitudes, its defense is much more difficult than that of merely borders and people.

Liberty requires that its defense never rest. For as difficult as defending that which exists may be, recovering that which is lost is an infinitely more daunting task. And to that extent, National Security and Defense are indeed no longer apolitical issues in the current political climate.

So may we each pause to reflect the vital necessity for the Defense of Liberty and, in so doing, acknowledge the very Liberty of Defense as so explicity and purposefully stated in the Oath of Service.

Gaza Strip

Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad

But Direct Israeli Negotiation With (Some) Palestinians Is Over-Sold

By Steve Schippert

Every American administration seeks to publicly position itself as the harbinger of Middle East peace and the new collection of minds capable of resolving a conflict beyond the reach of all others. It was true of the Bush administration and those before it and it is true of the Obama administration. So, before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President Obama and the media get too carried away with a rare foreign policy achievement by the Obama administration, let's take care to temper expectations with reality over desire.

The announcement that direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians is set to resume this September is welcome news. Of course, there will be the usual mediators: the "Quartet." And, before considering the suggestions to follow, it must be stated that Israel is right to talk to any adversarial group that is willing to engage. The problem is one of unrealistic expectations from the US and the West amid minimal tangible returns possible between Israel and any solitary group absent the other.

The most glaring obstacle to any meaningful and tangible resolution(s) from the direct Israeli-Palestinian talks to be held in Washington, DC, is the list of participants. Or, more accurately, the list of non-participants. I'm talking about Hamas. The Hamas terrorist organization runs one of the two Palestinian territories, the Gaza Strip, without any discernable Palestinian Authority presence, participation or influence. Hamas effectively 'cleansed' Gaza of PA presence with brutal and bloody force. Hamas has effectively neutralized with blunt intimidation those it didn't kill or drive out.

In the larger West Bank territory, the Palestinian Authority - aka Fatah, and the current iteration of Yassir Arafat's PLO - has control, but not nearly the absolute control exercised by its rival Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Hamas has a sizable presence in certain towns of the West Bank.

Hamas is definitely not at the negotiating table. Nor, most certainly, will it ever be.

This means that, no matter what is agreed upon by the parties negotiating in Washington, expecting ground-breaking developments is delusional. Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas can agree to peace and the establishment of a Palestinian state. Without an aggressor like Hamas party to the agreement, it means nothing.

Absent Hamas' consent to any meaningful agreement, rockets and missiles will rain down on Israeli cities and towns as far as they can reach from Gaza, and likely from Hizballah as well to the north in Lebanon. Egypt and Jordan's presence does not compel Hamas to accept, nor will they be able to exert influence and pressure to bring Hamas in line for any agreed peace or any step in that direction.

To be sure, even though the rhetoric is positive and championing the talks as a major success and a foreign policy breakthrough, no one within earshot is suggesting hopes to the degree described above. But the above description is to illustrate a very vital point regarding the entire overall process going forward.

Israel can talk to the Palestinian Authority until the cows come home. The two parties can even reach truly monumental agreements. But it is all for naught unless and until Fatah (Palestinian Authority) and Hamas resolve their differences enough to reliably and trustfully address Israel with a joint, unified voice.

They may resolve their differences through bludgeoning and violence until one power reamins standing with authority. They may resolve their differences through negotiation and trade-offs and share power. They will decide the process. Eventually.

But until they do and resolve the current Palestinian split, negotiating with one party without the other - no matter which - will prove as fruitful as producing water with either oxygen or hydrogen rather than both.

This is not a criticism of the participants, the talks themselves or the effort to engage in whichever process avails itself this side of carnage. It is a criticism of those who talk this process up and employ rhetoric that leads others to believe there is greater hope than is warranted. In a very basic sense, uncomplicated by nuance and intellectual horsepower, it is more important in the longer view to bring Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to a table than it is to bring Israel and either party to another.


Wikileaks Hath Spoken

Now Step Aside Or Get Stampeded By Journalists Seeking Pulitzers

By Steve Schippert

Wikileaks has spoken. Again. And surely the news cycles I will miss while basking in sand and saltwater will be nearly breathless in their coverage.

Personally, I find this latest episode amusing at best and reckless at minimum. There's nearly nothing (that I've seen thus far) new here. If you've paid attention to the Afghanistan conflict over the years, ask yourself if you really learned something you didn't know or definitively confirmed something you didn't already suspect or presume. The answer will probably be an honest "no" twice in a row.

But Wikileaks.org seems intent on driving its own relevance. That's why it fed the New York Times, the UK's Guardian and Germany's Der Spiegel. See their original reports, embargoed until Sunday, below.

New York Times: Pakistan Aids Insurgency in Afghanistan, Reports Assert

Guardian: Massive leak of secret files exposes truth of occupation

Der Spiegel: Explosive Leaks Provide Image of War from Those Fighting It

Each has its role in the "joint venture," as described by the UK's Guardian. From surface sheen, the New York Times has the duty of how Pakistan is undercutting the American president with its military intelligence rubbing elbows and more with the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The Guardian has its familiar role of portraying the United States military as civilian butchers without a leash, murderous and wanton. Der Spiegel, meanwhile, has seemingly settled, initially, for a select summary of reports, including documents related to Task Force 373 - one of America's top hunter-killer task forces for the worst of the worst.

Each of them collude and abet - no matter how you shake it, stir it or serve it - in the public release of classified information. Congratulations are ongoing and Pulitzers are being slated, to be sure.

But what have the documents, on an initial cursory read, revealed?

Pakistani military intelligence is double-dealing with the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Really? Shocked? Then you haven't been paying attention for at least 9 years, probably longer. It's a fact, not a 'Wikileak' ™. The thing is, before you permit yourself to engage in a bit of New York Times-inspired righteous indignation, do an inventory of your solutions to this real world problem first. It's akin to complaining about how someone else is keeping you poor while you refuse to work. Righteousness is cheap. Solutions? Not so much.

A U.S. helicopter was brought down by a shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile (MANPAD), similar to how the mujahideen brought down Soviet Hind's in the late 1980's. A sexy headline story, to be sure, and a troubling one indeed. Check the sources on that one first though. Fuzzy. But that doesn't mean it didn't happen. Which brings me to the larger point, however: The idea of this story is to create panic amid the ten-foot-tall mujahideen imagery and the defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan. That would be a fair story to tell. Except for the fact that American Apache's and CH-47's and Blackhawks aren't falling out of the sky like Soviet Hinds. There has always been a fear that they may, that the enemy would get hands on the good toys.

But it just. Hasn't. Happened. And if it does? Well, to can any flowery language, that would suck. Immensely. And we might just have to adapt and overcome. You know, like in a war when the enemy wants to kill you but you still want to kill him first? Yeah. Something like that. If wars were easy, no one would die. And if they were unnecessary, no one would fight them.

US soldiers are murdering civilians. Again. In case you forgot. No war has ever been fought without civilian loss. Ever. Likewise, no war(s) has been fought with one side (American fighting men and the West) so keenly aware of and determined to avoid civilian casualties. Ever. For crying out loud, the loudest debate from Washington to Kabul was just over rules of engagement that are so heavily weighted toward the avoidance of civilian casualties that its criticism is that it is killing more American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. The media & Wikileaks can try all they like, but they just can't have it both ways all the time.

And so it goes. If you are inclined to either believe that the United States is what is wrong with the world or that no matter what we do we are going to lose and die, then you will read their accounts with breathless interest, if morbidly so. Otherwise, have a peek and move along. Why? Never trust a journalist who insists that he has the keys to understanding a war, particularly a largely intelligence war.

Contrary to Wikileaks' founder's claims, the uncovering and publication of these classified documents has little to do, at best, with "transparency in government activities" or any other disingenuous claim. Wikileaks is run by a fervent anti-American and intended to be a vanguard against all-things US military and capitalism. And that's the long and short of it.

When Wikileaks becomes an equal opportunity leaker and starts thumbing its nose at Vlad Putin, for instance, then maybe we'll talk. The thing is, journalists and intelligence folks who run afoul of Vlad have a strange habit of getting dead. (One would think there would be a story to be leaked in there somewhere to the industrious folks at Wikileaks.)

But stand clear. There's a Pulitzer at stake, and it's being pulled violently by teams in New York, London and Berlin.

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