BOISE, Idaho -- Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, last week signed a pledge sponsored by the national veterans group BringOurTroopsHome.US, promising that in the future, he will "insist that Congress exercise the Constitutional authority granted solely to the legislative branch to declare war" as provided by Article 1, Section 8, Clause II of the U.S. Constitution (See Photo of Signed Pledge). Signing the pledge, coupled with his largely unreported repudiation last year of the policy of so-called “nation building” in the Middle East, puts Risch in the forefront of the move to dramatically redefine U.S. foreign policy.
BringOurTroopsHome.US, led by Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans, has drummed up support over the last year for President Trump's attempts to withdraw U.S. troops from military conflicts in the Middle East, most recently circulating a petition and video urging the president to start by immediately recalling 30,000 National Guard troops stationed overseas to assist in their home states' response to the coronavirus pandemic. (Watch video).
Former Sgt. Dan McKnight, who served for eighteen months in Afghanistan with the Idaho Army National Guard, said Thursday he is proud of his home state senator "for setting the example and joining Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans in insisting that Congress do its job under the Constitution, and if military action is required, declare war before asking America's fighting men and women to do their job."
"Before U.S. troops put their boots on the ground on foreign soil again," McKnight said, "politicians in Washington should be forced to put their names on the line. We're encouraged that Sen. Risch agrees, no more fighting other people's civil wars overseas for decades unless Congress declares war first."
McKnight's group has pushed efforts nationally and at the state level to ensure U.S. troops are not committed to future foreign conflicts, and state National Guard units are not federalized for that purpose, unless Congress formally declares war as provided by the U.S. Constitution. Among all the 2020 candidates for federal office the group has contacted so far, Risch is the most prominent to respond to the group's pledge, promising to adhere to that standard.
Risch's pledge followed his response to a question from McKnight during a question-and-answer session last year before the Boise Chamber of Commerce, in which he said he agreed with the Idaho veteran's objectives, repudiating the two-decade old Bush-Cheney policy of attempts at democracy- and nation-building in the Middle East.
"I agree with you," Risch told McKnight. "Let me tell you why I share your feelings," he said, recounting America’s success at building viable democracies in post-war Germany, Japan, and South Korea.
“We’ve been at this now for over two decades," Risch said, "trying to replicate that success in the Middle East, and what do we have to show for it? A goose egg. …If you’re going to give somebody a gift of democracy, a free market system, human rights, of basic rights stated in our Bill of Rights and Constitution, they’ve got to want it, and if they don’t want it, it doesn’t matter how much you shovel at them, it isn’t going to happen.”
"We’ve spent $2 trillion now in Afghanistan," Risch said, "and we’ve shed lots and lots of American blood there. I’m with you. I am through trying to do nation-building with countries that don’t want it."
"They’ve got to show some type of an appreciation, some type of an embracement of it," he said, "and they simply don’t.” (See full video)
McKnight said his organization will ask Risch to urge other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to join him in signing the group's pledge, and to hold public hearings on Congress's abdication of its exclusive authority to declare war to the executive branch over the course of multiple presidential administrations of both parties.
McKnight said BringOurTroopsHome.US will also continue to support President Trump's promised efforts to end U.S. military involvement "in other people's civil wars, which some evidence suggests is what won him the 2016 election, and push him to recognize that he will never have a more perfect opportunity to keep that pledge than right now, when we're facing the most serious public health challenge of our lifetimes."
"There would be no stronger demonstration of the President's promise to put America first," McKnight said, "than to bring our troops home right now to help safeguard American cities, construct new medical treatment facilities for American coronavirus victims, and protect American medical supplies and infrastructure."
McKnight said bringing U.S. troops home is not just the right thing as a matter of policy and Constitutional principle, but politically as well.
His organization last month released a Tarrance Group poll (read news release) which found that among Trump supporters in three key, previously Democratic "blue wall" swing states -- Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, which gave Trump the White House in 2016 -- 86 percent supported the President's withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, 62 percent supported withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and 58 percent supported withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.
McKnight said the poll appears to validate a 2017 study (read study) by Boston University and the University of Minnesota, which concluded that Trump's pledge as a candidate to bring U.S. troops home was key to his winning the three Midwestern swing states, where researchers found "a significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump."
"Our statistical model suggests that if three states key to Trump’s victory – Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin – had suffered even a modestly lower casualty rate, all three could have flipped from red to blue and sent Hillary Clinton to the White House," the study concluded. "If Trump wants to win again in 2020, his electoral fate may well rest on the administration’s approach to the human costs of war."
A YouGov poll (read poll) in January found that nearly 70 percent of all Americans also support withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.
McKnight also said resolutions urging the President to bring U.S. troops home, approved last month by state legislative bodies in two strongly Republican states -- the Idaho House of Representatives is comprised of 56 Republicans and 14 Democrats, and the West Virginia House, 58 Republicans and 41 Democrats -- are a sign of growing support on the right for ending the two-decade old Bush-Cheney policy, continued under President Obama, of trying to export Western-style democracy to Islamic countries.
At this time of national emergency, state National Guard troops should be here at home, not half way around the world fighting other people's civil wars. Sign our petition below urging President Trump to order the immediate return of all National Guard troops to the U.S. to help protect our own communities and assist healthcare workers in responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Put America first!