Posted by: Scott Groves | February 27, 2012

What happens when you’re not a cowboy?

One of the ongoing critiques of President George W. Bush is that his “cowboy” mentality inappropriately lead us into a war with Iraq.  Never able to prove his claims regarding Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, “Bush Lied, People Died” has become a favorite bumper sticker of left leaning voters who don’t care to read past the headlines.

The truth is, WMDs or not, it is my humble opinion that the war in Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein was a net-positive for our country, the citizens of Iraq and the middle east.  Although you may have to dig deep to page A30 or so of the Los Angeles Times (or any other liberal periodical) to find the information, the truth is that most Iraqi citizens are better off today than they were a decade ago.

The torture camps are gone, a democratically elected government is in place and foreign governments (and companies) are pouring billions of dollars into the country’s infrastructure in hopes of securing contracts for cheap oil .

A majority of women and child have more rights and opportunities today than they did under Hussein.  And the country, though still a work in progress, seems to be moving in the right direction.

Yes, a lot of U.S. soldiers paid the ultimate sacrifice for what many claim to be a pointless military action.   Yes, the United States spent a massive amount of money to finance a war we really couldn’t afford.  Yes, it may have been Bush’s cowboy mentality that got us into the situation in the first place.

However, lets look at what happens when the President of the United States and de-facto leader of the free-world doesn’t “cowboy up”.

The situation in Somalia during the early 90’s and especially the condition of the country between 1993 and 1994 was barbaric.  Warlords ran the country, women were raped at will, the country became a trading depot for guns and drugs and the citizens who didn’t join a military faction or gang were starving to death.

In the Fall of 1993, after the events of what would later become the Hollywood blockbuster Black Hawk Down unfolded on live T.V., President Clinton had the following to say:

“We face a choice.  Do we leave when the job gets tough or when the job is well done? Do we invite the return of mass suffering or do we leave in a way that gives the Somalis a decent chance to survive?  … We started this mission for the right reasons and we’re going to finish it in the right way.  [if we withdrawal now] Our leadership in world affairs would be undermined at the very time when people are looking to America to help promote peace and freedom in the post-Cold War world.  And all around the world, aggressors, thugs and terrorists will conclude that the best way to get us to change our policies is to kill our people. It would be open season on Americans” – Clinton (exert from his 11 minute speech in October 1993)

Clinton was giving the command to deploy 5,500 more troops to Somali in an effort to help the countries starving citizens and apparently to overthrow the warlords.  Clinton appeared to be taking American into battle, both for humanitarian efforts and to avenge the recent deaths of 13 Army Ranger and Delta Force soldiers who died during the fight for Mogadishu.

Presiding as President of the United States throughout a generally peaceful period in world history, this appeared to be Clinton’s chance to show the world he could be a military leader as well as a great politician.

Unfortunately Clinton was President who governed based on polls and political maneuvering and not from a place of first principals.  Knowing that a fight in Somalia, a small African country few Americans could find on a map, would be unpopular, Clinton put a 6 month time horizon on operations in Somalia.

It turned out that Clinton’s words would turn out to be sadly prophetic.  It is my humble opinion that as American were participating in the largest financial and technical boom of my generation, and because Clinton was unwilling to make the hard military decisions that accompany the Presidency, the country got complacent about the real threats that were building against America throughout the world.

Having not completed the mission, having missed his chance to be a “cowboy”, Clinton pulled American troops out of Somalia in the summer of the 1994 and the UN mission fell apart shortly thereafter.

I believe our lack of resolve, show of weakness and eventual withdraw in Somalia did allow thugs and terrorists to conclude that the best way to get America to change our policies was to kill our people.  Osama Bin Laden, a fugitive the CIA had plenty of opportunities to kill or capture during Clinton’s tenure as President, didn’t wake up on 9/11/2001 and decide he could execute a massive plan to kill Americans.  This decade long plan that lead to those horrible events were conceived in the 90’s.  As Clinton had suggested during his 11 minute address to the nation regarding the loss of troops in Somalia, our lack of military resolve in foreign operations did in fact lead to  “open season on Americans.”  It just took 10 years for the terrorists to finally attack.

This week, 18 years later, Secretary Hillary Clinton will gather in London with foreign diplomats from 20 countries.  Their goal is to spend about six hours trying to solve a problem that has torn apart the country of Somali for more than 20 years, establishing a functional government.

It turns out, 18 years after Bill Clinton missed out on his “cowboy” opportunity, his wife Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State,is now trying to figure out how to address the same problems.  Warlords are still running the country, human rights violations are occurring daily, the country is still a trading depot for illegal weapons and drugs, and the citizens who don’t join a militia or gang are starving to death.  Sound familiar?  Additionally, in an attempt to expand their illegal enterprises, many Somali warlords have expanded their operations to the ocean and have become the most feared of modern-day pirates.

It many ways, President George W. Bush’s Presidency will be remembered for the military action he took during his 8 years as President.  However, I think it’s just as important that we judge Presidents, Like Bill Clinton, based on the military action they didn’t take.  Who knows for sure what the long term implications would have been, but as it pertains to Somalia, I wish Clinton would have had a little bit more cowboy in him.


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