With the end of the Cold War and the knocking down of the Berlin Wall, there’s no need for national defense any more.
Right? cut the defense budget! Demobilize our troops! Close our bases! Cancel SDI!
In the middle of 1993, American troops found themselves in combat with real enemies, after all. The worst part, however, was that American troops found themselves in faraway Somalia under the direction of foreign commanders, and it was predicted that more thousands would soon be in Bosnia under foreign commanders.
This unprecedented situation came about because of proposed “Presidential Directive 13,” under which American troops would be permanently assigned to United Nations Command. The Directive also endorsed the beefing up of the U.N.’s military headquarters staff with 100 new officers, an intelligence unit, airlift resources, and an operations division on call around the clock.
According to U.S. News & World Report, “The presidential plan envisions a vast expansion of the U.N.’s responsibilities for keeping order in the new world. Intervention would occur whenever ‘a sudden and unexpected interruption of established democracy or gross violation of human rights occurs.’ “
The State Department said in August 1993 that an executive order for Presidential Directive 13 was ready for the President’s signature, and the New York Times reported that the President was prepared to sign it.
When news of this proposal leaked to the press, Members of Congress told the White House to slow down on any plan to permit U.S. combat forces to serve under foreign commanders. Senator Malcolm Wallop denounced the plan as a “nutty idea,” and other Senators raised a host of important questions such as whether U.S. forces could disobey a UN commander’s orders they found to be immoral or militarily questionable.
Nevertheless, the White House was determined to go ahead with this directive. According to the New York Times: “Mr. Clinton, the Presidential candidate, was one of Mr. Boutros Ghali’s greatest fans, endorsing his proposal for creating an international standing army from perhaps a score of countries whose troops would be ready to risk their lives for making peace. The force would, said Mr. Clinton in an April 1992 speech, carry out such operations as ‘standing guard at the borders of countries threatened by aggression, preventing mass violence against civilian populations, providing humanitarian relief and combatting terrorism.”
Secretary of State Warren Christopher enthusiastically endorsed this idea during his confirmation hearings in January 1993, calling the creation of such a force “a noble endeavor.”
Miraculously, history intervened to prevent Presidential Directive 13 from being signed. Events made it obvious, even to the most diehard advocates of turning U.S. sovereignty over to the United Nations, that Somalia had become a disaster area.
By late summer, the U.N. peacekeepers were dragged into a guerrilla war in which they were attacked by mobs, shot at by snipers, and blown up by land mines. The U.N. military command was undisciplined, disorganized, and hampered by poor intelligence and bickering among the contributing nations.
The Administration learned the hard way – after American troops were killed, wounded, captured, and dragged through the streets in humiliation – that putting them under U.N. command was, indeed, a “nutty idea.” The chorus of criticism from the halls of Congress was best summed up by West Virginia Senator
Robert Byrd: “I have never saluted the U.N. flag. I salute Old Glory, the American flag.”
The New York Times ran a front-page report on October 9 entitled “The U.N.’s Glow Is Gone.” It reported that, regretfully, the President has come to the conclusion that “the United Nations is not up to the job.”
Continuing, the New York Times reported that “The President has also effectively turned his back on an experiment he initiated earlier this year in Somalia, when he allowed some of the American forces to serve under foreign command. Now, the Administration has returned to one of the guiding principles of post-World-War II foreign policy: if American soldiers are put in harm’s way, they take orders solely from American commanders.”
It’s very unfortunate that scores of Americans had to be killed and wounded in order to teach the Clinton Administration such an obvious lesson.
Before we rejoice too much about the outcome, however, we should note that the same Times article ended with this paragraph: “Senior Administration officials acknowledged that the unpredictability of the Somalia operation has frozen a much debated draft of Presidential Directive 13, a classified paper initially intended to codify the Administration’s new activist strategy for UN peacekeeping.”
Presidential Directive 13 should be dumped permanently into the deep freeze. Every member of the U.S. Armed services take an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution. It cannot be constitutional to assign U.S. service personnel to take orders from foreign commanders who take no such oath.