I have over 45 years of public service to my state and country and have spent much of the past seven years back home in Gainesville heavily engaged in public policy as an "active citizen". I will continue to stay engaged, both as a neighborhood leader, and as a monthly contributor to the Gainesville Sun. Visit the "News" section to see a collection of my monthly opinion pieces published in the Sun. Visit the "Issues" section to see other writings.
This piece will be published in the Gainesville Sun on Sunday, January 9, 2022. It addresses the mess made in the city by the 2017 Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code.
This opinion piece was published in the Gainesville Sun, and to my surprise, also in the sister paper, the Ocala Star-Banner, on Sunday, December 5, 2021 Issues Section. It expresses my pessimism that our American legal system may be unable to handle an actual prosecution against the former president, although it remains critically important to establish the principle that "no one is above the law", not even a former president.
Interestingly, on Tuesday, December 7, 2021, a letter writer criticized the piece as an "outdated opinion", stating that recent election outcomes, polling, and approval ratings matter more to the general public. Sadly, the writer may be right about that as altogether too many Americans seem to care more about "here and now" bread and butter issues, such as the price of gasoline, than America's core values, such as the "rule of law". However, as Alexander Vindman, LTC, USA (Ret) has recently written, I prefer to believe that in America, "right matters".
This is the second opinion piece I have written this year about America's withdrawal from Afghanistan. It explains to the objective reader what President Biden was thinking when he withdrew the troops and how his decision-making was based on the "Powell doctrine", the formula attributed to recently deceased former General Colin Powell for every President to follow before committing troops to combat. I believe that was just as it should be. It will be published in the Gainesville Sun on Sunday, November 7, 2021 and is available online at gainesville.com.
Biden courageously applied “the Powell doctrine” in Afghanistan
Lt Col, USAF (Ret); GS-15, DAC (Ret)
In a guest column published in the Sun last spring, I asked “Should Biden pull our troops out of Afghanistan?”, noting that Donald Trump left him with a “terrible mess which must be resolved immediately”, and that “there are no easy answers, only tough choices”, I further wrote “if we pull out, the least we can do is to help those who want to leave, as well as their families, just as we did for some in Southeast Asia” (Vietnam).
Since then, we have seen a massive, and highly successful, effort by the U.S. military to get over 123,000 persons out of Afghanistan, including nearly every American citizen who wanted to leave, all under extremely fraught conditions, and not without tragic mistakes attributable to bad intelligence and the “fog of war” (which our leaders uncharacteristically “owned”).
We have also seen heavy criticism from Republicans and some Democrats, bitterly calling it “a betrayal” and a “disaster”. Another called Biden’s speech defending his decision to end this 20-year war as the “worst speech” he had ever heard.
In recent hearings before Congress, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including Chairman General Mark Milley, grimly testified that their military advice to the President had been to keep a small number of troops in place, about 3,000, in order to prevent the Afghan government from collapsing.
If President Biden had followed that advice, it would have violated Trump’s agreement with the Taliban to pull out all forces by May 1, 2021, which so far had resulted in no more attacks upon the US military, as agreed. As President Biden noted, that would have required a new surge of US and NATO military forces, perhaps as many as 30,000, in order to resume an active war against the Taliban.
So what was he thinking? Simply stated, he was applying “the Powell doctrine”, the notion attributed to former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell (later Secretary of State) before the first Gulf War, that the United States must have a clear national security interest, as well as an exit strategy, before it committed young American lives to military conflict overseas.
Based upon his experience as a Major during Vietnam, General Powell laid out eight questions for President George H.W. Bush that any president must answer affirmatively before authorizing military action by the United States:
1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?
2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?
3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
4. Have all other nonviolent policy means been fully exhausted?
5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
7. Is the action supported by the American people?
8. Do we have genuine broad international support?
President George H.W. Bush heeded that advice. However, after 20 years of “endless war” in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is clear this advice was not followed by his son, President George W. Bush, or even Barack Obama. Under advice from a once respected military leader such as General David Petraeus, the US pivoted to counter-insurgency and nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq. We now know the folly of that policy. We now know, as thehill.com opinion contributor Richard J. Pierce, Jr. has recently written, that we should have applied the Powell doctrine 20 years ago.
To Biden, “enough was enough”. We would no longer expend thousands of American lives and vast treasure to prop up a corrupt and cowardly government that did not have the will to fight. This took enormous courage as it went against the “professional military advice” the President had been given, and carried substantial risks, depending upon the ability or willingness of the Afghan government to hold things together long enough for us to get people out.
Instead, “faster than a New York minute”, they shamefully took what cash they could steal and fled. Biden cannot be faulted for that; the blame belongs to those who gave them trillions of aid without adequate oversight. Then there is what President Dwight Eisenhower once called the “military-industrial complex”, which profits handsomely from such conflicts.
One wonders when we will ever learn. We made the same mistakes in Vietnam, got it about right under President George H.W. Bush in the first Gulf War, and then made the same mistakes again in Iraq and Afghanistan under President George W. Bush. Trump forced Biden’s hand, leaving him few options, but Biden still got it right.
This Op-Ed, focused on American health care issues, was posted online at gainesville.com today (9-27-2021) and will be printed in the Sun's Issues Section on Sunday, October 3, 2021. It is based upon my life-long experience with the US military health care system, as well as long years spent in the Republic of Korea (South Korea) in the service of the United States, watching how others prefer to do health care.
Here is an Op-ED regarding the reluctance of local State Attorney's to investigate and prosecute cases involving political corruption in their own circuit. Posted online on August 31, 2021; to be published in the Gainesville Sun's Issues Section on September 4, 2021.