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An excellent executive order option

By Bruce Walker
web posted December 12, 2005

President Bush, according to punditry, is getting pummeled for his policies on Iraq. Ironically, all indications are that this not another Vietnam. The men and women in the branches of our military service in Iraq and in Afghanistan believe strongly and see daily good from our presence in these once tortured lands.

Our constitutional system allows wavering lines between the different branches of government and between the federal and state governments. There are few clear, unmistakable powers which any one part of our federal system can exercise, and even when those powers exist, the diffusion of accountability is so great that, for example, no honest citizen can know who in Congress to blame for the failure to pass a certain law.

The President of the United States, however, is Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces. While that confers some unmistakable powers in the conduct of military operations, it also creates an opportunity which President Bush could and should use in as dramatic a fashion as possible.

What is the screeching on the Left today? "Bring our boys home!" (or rather "Bring our boys and girls home!") The casualty lists grow and the president's popularity drops. There is a very simple way for President Bush to use political ju-jitsu on the Jell-O of Leftism and to demonstrate dramatically that those Americans who see the war most closely see goodness in this war.

President Bush should issue a simple executive order, on national television and after having lured Nancy Pelosi and others as close to the precipice of copperheads as possible, stating that any military personnel currently serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, in the Middle East and West Asia, or in the Indian Ocean who wishes to have an honorable discharge from the military may have that discharge within thirty days.

US soldiers search a building in Baghdad on November 1
US soldiers search a building in Baghdad on November 1

Consider the impact. Those soldiers, sailors and airmen who did not feel that our cause was just would be allowed to go home, with no questions asked. They would not be treated as "draft dodgers" because all were already volunteers. Their career in the military would end, of course, but the impact would be no different than if they had chosen not to reenlist. Unless the benefits, moral and financial, to serving in the military in Iraq exceeded the costs, moral and financial, of serving in the military in Iraq, everyone would come home.

But, of course, the overwhelming majority of troops would choose to stay. They are a revolutionary army, much like the revolutionary army that won independence for the United States from Great Britain. They stay and they fight because they know that they are doing good. They are defending their homeland from real threats and they are liberating people from an awful tyranny. And they, more than reporters who spend a few weeks in comfortable digs and who do not put their lives on the line, know what is at stake.

And what if, say, fifteen percent of the troops wished to be honorably discharged from the military? Would that be a catastrophe? Considering that the administration is already considering withdrawing troops, then allowing these unhappy troops to go first makes excellent military sense.

Great commanders have stated it countless ways, but morale is vastly more important than numbers. The eighty-five percent who really wanted to stay and to liberate these people would be more effective than a current force in which eighty-five percent believed in the mission but fifteen percent did not. The confidence of the noble eighty-five percent would rise, and the moral seriousness of their task in a world filled with squishy relativism made crystal clear.

Finally, those who went home – the tiny few – would be left with no argument as politicians running for office as "veterans." Instead they would be civilians too timid or too selfish to stand by their buddies. Those who stayed, particularly as it become more apparent, as it would after this executive order, that democracy and liberty had won a great victory, would become very attractive political candidates.

This is something that the President of the United States could do, and could do easily. Even if Leftists found some technical objection, raising that objection would make them look ridiculous: Congress could be called into special session to enact a statute specifically allowing President Bush to do this, and who would vote against it (and why?)

When fighting a profoundly moral war, as we are, sometimes it helps to draw hard moral lines. An executive order letting anyone who wishes to resign to resign is just such a moral hard line.

Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.

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