Douglas Macgregor: Great nations don’t fight endless wars, allow undefended borders
“Great nations don’t fight endless wars,” President Trump said in his State of the Union address.
That bold declaration comes as the president seeks to bring to a close nearly two decades of bloody foreign interventions and refocus our military on the much more pressing duty of defending America’s borders.
The president might also have said, “Great nations don’t emerge with undefended borders.”
In only a matter of months, American troops who were not even born when al-Qaida murdered thousands of Americans in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., could be headed to Afghanistan to carry on the longest war in American history. Since 9/11, American taxpayers have spent nearly $6 trillion on foreign wars. Nearly 7,000 American servicemen have been killed in the Middle East and Central Asia.
I was intimately involved in the planning of America’s response to the worst attack on its soil since Pearl Harbor. Our cause was just and our military has carried out our plans with the utmost professionalism. But, as Trump said of his plan to seek a negotiated truce in Afghanistan, “After two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace.”
As with the defeat of Osama Bin Laden and his co-conspirators in Afghanistan, our primary goal in Syria, destroying ISIS’s brutal psuedostate, has been largely achieved. The security interests of the United States no longer lie in protracted, costly conflicts thousands of miles from our shores, but much closer to home.
The first duty of any sovereign state is to secure its own frontiers, and great nations’ militaries have always been tasked with doing so.
In 1963, President Lyndon Johnson closed the U.S. border with Mexico after the assassination of his predecessor, John F. Kennedy. While Johnson’s example was unique, his action was consistent with a president’s authority to act on the border during an emergency.
Presidents Nixon and Reagan also found it necessary to temporarily close the border. The reason is now all too familiar to Americans: Close the border to vehicular traffic and individuals walking into the United States to suppress drug trafficking.
Now, Trump has accurately identified a new national emergency on the border: The deliberate assembly and movement of “caravans” containing tens of thousands of people from Central America with the goal of penetrating the border of the United States.
Trump’s strategy, including advocating for new physical barriers and deploying the resources of the American military to help secure the border, is in keeping with that of these earlier presidents. So is his willingness to consider the emergency measures those presidents historically applied when they deemed them necessary to execute their duties as chief executive and commander-in-chief.
Discretionary funding at the Departments of Defense, State, and Homeland Security has been set aside for natural and other disasters as may befall the United States or its allies. At the fraction of the cost of American intervention abroad, these resources can be redirected to fulfill the first duty of a great nation: defending its borders.
Trump’s State of the Union Address asked us to “choose greatness.” He recognizes that our military does not serve greatness in endless wars. It does when it defends our borders and secures our sovereignty.