Monday, June 9, 2014

Dangerous Precedents

Barack Obama's Taliban‐for–Bergdahl deal set some dangerous precedents — for the presidency, for the nation and for its people.

For as long as I can remember, the stated policy of the United States has been not to negotiate with terrorists — not for anyone under any circumstances. I always thought the reasons for that were obvious.

If, for example, you are a parent, there are certain behaviors you want to encourage in your children and certain behaviors you want to discourage. Right? If your child is doing something you want to discourage, is it better to punish him when he does it or to offer him something he wants in exchange for not doing it?

Logic tells me that it is better to punish bad behavior than to reward someone for not engaging in that behavior. The latter will only encourage worse behavior (requiring more and more generous rewards for stopping it). Children can be devious, more devious than some adults think, and, when they spot a weakness, they will seldom hesitate to exploit it.

Same thing applies to superpowers and their relationships with lesser powers since smaller powers do sometimes resemble petulant children throwing temper tantrums. I understand that Barack Obama is sensitive to the plight of third–world countries, but, as I presume most parents at least try to teach their children, there is a right way to do something and a wrong way to do something.

Parents learn not to respond to childish tactics like tantrums, crying, holding your breath and the like — and those are tame compared to the tactics that terrorists use.

There are lots of countries that engage in violent acts to get the attention of larger and stronger nations and, hopefully, gain some kind of advantage. American policy, up to this point, has emphasized that is the wrong way to do it. Fortunately, the policy against negotiating with terrorists is perceived as a policy of strength; while someone does see fit to test its resolve now and then, that hasn't been a frequent occurrence in the past.

Now that Obama has traded several high–profile Taliban leaders for one American prisoner whose loyalty is questionable, I'm afraid we may see more and more acts against Americans. Some may be civilians traveling abroad. Given the nature of the Taliban and the leaders we returned to it, I fear we will see Americans being killed at an alarming rate, possibly on American soil.

Given the openness of America's borders, what is to stop them from bringing the fight here? If we fence off our southern border, what is to prevent terrorists from entering the country somewhere along our coasts — or perhaps our northern border?

There are groups in the world — the Taliban among them — that are intent on causing damage and pain to the United States. I have no doubt that the five men who were released in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl will try, at some point, to kill Americans. How and where they will do so is, at this point, anyone's guess, but their histories suggest no other possibility to me.

The president's arbitrary deal has put hundreds of millions of Americans at risk, and I am absolutely convinced that some will die as a result. How many? It could be one big event, like Sept. 11, or it could be a series of smaller events that may seem unconnected at first.

Whatever it is, it might be preceded by a series of abductions that are intended to exploit this new American policy and lead to deals for imprisoned terrorist leaders.

That is the most deadly precedent in this deal, but there are other precedents that I think are almost as dangerous over the long haul.

In this country, we have many elected officials, all of whom are supposed to represent the people. Some are local. Some are state. Some are federal. All are elected to do the people's will.

When the president takes it upon himself to make a deal and doesn't even consult the leaders in Congress, presumably because the majority in one of the legislative bodies is not from his political party, that defeats the purpose of democracy.

Some may say, "Well, the president is chosen by all the people." Such logic suggests that the president will represent all Americans in every decision he makes.

What about the concerns of the people who did not vote for the president? Nearly 61 million Americans voted for Obama's Republican opponent in 2012. No other losing presidential candidate has ever received the support of so many ballots.

Obama is openly disdainful of those Americans and encourages his supporters to dismiss the concerns of their countrymen.

So, rather than consult with congressional leaders, Obama chose to act on his own.

That is a dangerous precedent for the American system of government. From the start, members of Congress were intended to play a big part in national policy decisions. A president who acts on his own like this — routinely — is acting like a monarch, which was the very thing the Founding Fathers wanted to avoid.

It can be a messy business, having to work out compromises, but the presidents who are successful at it have the longest–lasting positive influence on their country.

Obama's actions are setting dangerous precedents.

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