On National Security, Be Not Hawks or Doves; Be Eagles

by Whitney Pitcher


It seems that often in politics–at least with our media–political views are too often dichotomized rather than seen on a continuum or through the lens of circumstances. The recent discussion of likely intervention in Syria has been a fascinating  display of this common practice of categorizing political views into tidy categories for intellectually incurious journalists and commentators. These individuals try to pigeon hole people as either isolationists or neo-conservatives, doves or hawks, etc. These are false choices. Those who want America to be secure and strong without being the world’s policeman are neither isolationists “doves” or neo-conservative “hawks”.  Such individuals could be better defined as by our very own national bird–the eagle. An eagle is neither a docile dove, nor a hawk, or even a vulture, which seems to characterize some who think that America must be involved in every civil war or skirmish throughout the world. An eagle is a strong, noble bird, who is both territorial and protective of its interests.

Eagles are known for being territorial when nesting, aiming to keep other eagles out of their area.  They only leave their nest to build another nest if they feel threatened. The male and (mostly) the female eagles take turns sitting on the eggs to protect them from squirrels and other animals. Furthermore, because of their great size, “eagles often ignore the mobbing behavior of smaller birds”. 

American foreign policy should be seen in the same way. Eagles protect their own territory and their own interests only. They protect themselves and their interests–their future generations–by staying at home to protect.  They are not like hawks or vultures swooping down preying on any opportunity to “intervene” to pad their own political pocketbooks. They are not doves who won’t intervene even when they are truly being threatened. When they are being threatened, they act in overwhelmingly, quickly, and with great strength. Look no further than the philosophy of Ronald Reagan during his presidency and the five point approach suggested by Governor Sarah Palin just a few years ago.

Last week in a post at the American Spectator, former Reagan adviser Jeffrey Lord re-iterated Reagan’s rules for military intervention:

Which prompted Reagan to eventually write out a set of four principles. Four principles, he would write in his memoirs, that were specifically designed “to guide America in the application of military force abroad, and I would recommend it to future presidents.”

Here they are:

Reagan Rule 1: The United States should not commit its forces to military actions overseas unless the cause is vital to our national interest.

Reagan Rule 2: If the decision is made to commit our forces to combat abroad, it must be done with the clear intent and support to win. It should not be a halfway or tentative commitment, and there must be clearly defined and realistic objectives.

Reagan Rule 3: Before we commit our troops to combat, there must be reasonable assurance that the cause we are fighting for and the actions we take will have the support of the American people and Congress. (We felt that the Vietnam War had turned into such a tragedy because military action had been undertaken without sufficient assurances that the American people were behind it.)

Reagan Rule 4: Even after all these other tests are met, our troops should be committed to combat only as a last resort, when no other choice is available.

Similarly, Governor Palin offered her own approach to military intervention in a speech roughly two and a half years ago:

First, we should only commit our forces when clear and vital American interests are at stake. Period.

Second, if we have to fight, we fight to win. To do that, we use overwhelming force. We only send our troops into war with the objective to defeat the enemy as quickly as possible. We do not stretch out our military with open-ended and ill-defined missions. Nation building is a nice idea in theory, but it is not the main purpose of our armed forces. We use our military to win wars.

Third, we must have clearly defined goals and objectives before sending troops into harm’s way. If you can’t explain the mission to the American people clearly and concisely, then our sons and daughters should not be sent into battle. Period.

Fourth, American soldiers must never be put under foreign command. We will fight side by side with our allies, but American soldiers must remain under the care and the command of American officers.

Fifth, sending in our armed forces should be the last resort. We don’t go looking for dragons to slay. However, we will encourage the forces of freedom around the world who are sincerely fighting for the empowerment of the individual. When it makes sense, when it’s appropriate, we will provide them with material support to help them win their own freedom.

Like the eagle, America is strong and should seek to protect its own interests. This does not include potentially siding with the very evil that killed thousands of Americans twelve years ago on American soil this week or those who trained the jihadists who killed four Americans in Benghazi last year this week. This does not excuse the evils perpetrated by Assad, but there is no need to choose sides in a civil war between two evils.

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