In the second Presidential debate between then-governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore, Mr. Bush made the following announcement: "But I'm going to be judicious as to how to use the military."
Virtually every day we hear reports from Iraq of American military personnel being killed and/or wounded in "post-war action." As this post-war violence escalates and American soldiers pay the price, I am forced to wonder if this rebuilding of Iraq is a judicious use of military force.
We all have different definitions of what "judicious use of force" means. In all fairness to the President, in making this determination for this action in Iraq, I suggest we use the tests advanced by none other than himself in the presidential debate to determine whether or not this use of force qualifies as judicious.
According to Bush, "it needs to be in our vital interest, the mission needs to be clear, and the exit strategy obvious." From the outset of this engagement, the mission was clear: topple the regime of Saddam Hussein. That was a clear, concise mission, a mission that has since been accomplished.
Given that the mission has been accomplished, why are American troops still in harm's way in Iraq? It would seem that the U.S. mission in Iraq has been changed from one of military conquest to one of nation-building. Is this a judicious use of force? According to then-governor Bush, nation-building is not a mission for the U.S. military. "Somalia started off as a humanitarian mission then it changed into a nation-building mission, and that's where the mission went wrong. The mission was changed, and as a result, our nation paid a price. And so I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called nation-building."
However, this is exactly what is being done now. American forces are being attacked and killed on a daily basis in a "nation-building" mission. According to Bush, changing the mission from humanitarian to "nation-building" was the failure of Somalia. This current operation is no different in nature from that one, and American soldiers are again paying the price.
The second test advanced by Bush was that the exit strategy must be obvious. At this point, the administration has advanced no exit strategy for our troops in Iraq. To quote the same debate again: "Our military's meant to fight and win a war. That's what it's meant to do. And when it gets overextended, morale drops..."
And here we are, with an overextended military force that has already accomplished it's primary mission and has now been called upon to complete another mission, a mission for which it has not been trained. A mission with no clear end in sight, and the long road home gets longer with each passing day.
The time has come for the American people to demand a clear mission for our military forces. The Bush administration needs to define the mission and the exit strategy for American troops.