Walking The Dog ...


By William Westmiller

On my childhood playground, learning the yo-yo was a major achievement, earning the performer an appreciative audience. If you could perform the trick called "walking the dog", allowing the colorful cylinder to roll along the ground while you followed, then retrieve it with a yank, you earned the broadest admiration and acclaim. I still make an occasional effort to get that toy to simply go up and down, but it remains a childish and frivolous amusement.

America's foreign policy, particularly its military policy, has degenerated to the point that it is little more than a yo-yo exhibition. Up and down, in and out, around and around it goes, with no real strategy or statesmanship. Occasional tactical conflagrations flash and spin on CNN, to no serious purpose and with no realistic objective. Just another frivolous amusement.

Our young men and women who are "put in harm's way" for the greater glory of the "last remaining superpower" are no more at risk than the fabled yo-yo wizards. Even the ground troops in Desert Storm suffered more from friendly fire than they did from Iraqi attacks. The Desert Fox operation was conducted far out of harm's way, pushing buttons on a cruiser that's outfitted more like a video game than a war machine. Push a few buttons, lob a few hundred missiles. Lots of smoke and furry replayed on monochrome green displays. Just a frivolous amusement.

Conducting any military activity for a dubious, temporary or feeble objective denigrates not only the few military personnel who are put in jeopardy but even more so the credibility and reputation of the American will. When military efforts begin to look like yo-yo contests, even with the most impressive technical proficiency, we had better pause to evaluate our motives and objectives. Sure it's fun to beat up on a petty dictator from a distance. Pounce the sassy scoundrel. If he doesn't go away, just press the reset button for another wonderful pyrotechnic display. Another frivolous amusement.

Historians have recorded the deterioration in the motives for military action since our founding. From securing our borders against foreign aggressors, we've slowly devolved to some vague national or international interest. Rather than debating the fundamental rules of international civility and peace, the Congress has abrogated its responsibility to declare and initiate military action. Under the War Powers Act, three civil servants can secretly dispatch the military to a foreign land to drop a billion dollars worth of bombs with no public debate over its merits or objectives. The President, Speaker of the House, and Leader of the Senate can sit down tomorrow and plan the deaths of a few hundred foreigners. No explanation, no discussion, no dissent. Congress will rubber stamp the expenditure, rally 'round the flag, and support our fighting men and women, wherever they may go. Any expression of political opposition or serious doubt is, to them, just another frivolous amusement.

The question that is constantly avoided is whether the proposed military action is truly for a "worthy cause". Is it really worth a billion dollars of taxpayer's money to "degrade" the military power of a devious and cocky, but still very petty dictator? Perhaps yes. Perhaps no. Does the exercise really eliminate "weapons of mass destruction", or is it just a temporary injury to missile threats against Israel? Will the action truly disable the power of a zealot or will it disable any political leverage we might have had in the region? Is this serious policy or just another frivolous amusement?

The yo-yo wars in Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Kosovo will be followed by new exercises next month, probably in Africa or Korea. They may be splendid little exhibitions of military power, much sound and fury, signifying next to nothing. Or, maybe, they are important. Maybe the Congress should debate the merits of these military engagements. Maybe there is, or will be, a worthy cause. But we should not forego debate and discussion in order to simply maintain the arbitrary and unquestioned authority of any secret civilian troika. This ought to be serious business, not just another frivolous amusement.

With foreign policy spinning like a yo-yo, it's not surprising that the there are doubts about the motives of our Commander in Chief. Rather than "wagging the dog" with a totally fictitious war, the executive is "walking the dog" by playing at the timing and extent of military exercises that have been recommended by military experts, experts who are obliged to propose any and all viable options. Any one or all of those options may just keep the yo-yo spinning. The President could have executed Desert Fox on November 5th, the day after Iraq first refused access to UNSCOM inspectors. He could have bombed only those facilities that were declared off-limits. He could have paused to develop more support from allies. He could have waited for a congressional debate and a resolution supporting the use of force. However, "walking the dog" is primarily a matter of timing. If the selected event is timed to serve political purposes, it is a "walk with the dog", whether the specific action is fully justified, or just another frivolous amusement.
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©1998, William Westmiller
California Coordinator of the Republican Liberty Caucus
Past Candidate for the Republican Nomination for (24CA) Congress
Former National Secretary, California Chairman, Libertarian Party
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