Our Achilles’ Heel

by PETER FARMER August 1, 2012

The United States possesses the most powerful military on earth; by virtually any standard one can name, the U.S. armed forces rank at or near the top in capability, global presence, force projection, fighting power, technology and other measures. They are also combat-experienced after a decade of unrelenting operations. Despite the fact that the People's Republic of China (PRC) has closed the gap considerably in recent years, U.S. defense spending still dwarfs that of the PRC. Indeed, the annual U.S. defense budget is larger than the next ten nations combined; for fiscal year 2011, U.S. defense outlays totaled $739.3 billion USD, while the next ten nations spent slightly less than $500 billion USD. The next-largest military budget was that of China, which spent $89.8 billion dollars.

In addition to its structured military, the armed citizenry of the United States comprise one of the largest de facto militia forces on earth. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of the Pearl Harbor attack, once observed (perhaps apocryphally) that it would be folly to invade the United States, "You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass."

While Americans have just cause to be proud of their military and national security accomplishments, we should not become complacent. Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese military theorist, once said, "So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak." Our adversaries, military and non-military alike, know that we are very strong militarily and thus prefer not to challenge us in this sphere of conflict. Instead, they will seek to attack us where we are weak, or where they are not expected. Therefore, in securing our nation, communities and homes, it is important that we should ask "Where are we weak?" It is also vital that we expect the unexpected, and at least attempt to see ourselves as our competitors and adversaries do. The following discussion concerns itself with one such weakness, a seam or loophole in our system of governance and national security.

Consider the means by which Americans choose the president and commander-in-chief, arguably the most powerful leader on earth. Most of us are familiar with the basic process by which the respective political parties cultivate, groom, select and run candidates for high office. This process, for reasons of brevity, will not be recounted here. Rather, let us contrast the open and non-secure manner in which presidential candidates are chosen without the strict background checks and rigorous vetting to which members of the military, law enforcement and intelligence communities are subject.

It is not hyperbolic to note that members of president's Secret Service detail have undergone a much more rigorous security background check than Mr. Obama himself. Nor is it hyperbolic to note that the most junior officer in the military has been subject to a more thorough vetting than that received by current residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Indeed, we can go further - it is a near-certainty that Obama could not have passed such a security screening process, had it been administered. Why? Because of his association with admitted domestic terrorist and former Weather Underground bombmaker William Ayers, to name one of many such radical associations by the current chief executive. Even one such "red flag" during a routine background investigation would be enough to disqualify a typical would-be soldier, spy or cop from moving into one of these positions.

Barack Obama's highly-questionable and alarming associations did little to hold him back, however, as informed readers know. Why? There are any number of reasons, including a leftist mainstream media that acted more like a propaganda ministry/cheerleading section for Obama than a legitimate fourth estate, and undoubtedly the endemic corruption within both major political parties played a part. Article II, section I of constitution specifies that a presidential candidate must be a natural born citizen of at least thirty-five years of age, who has been a resident of the United States no less than fourteen years. However, with Senate Resolution 511, passed in 2008 with bipartisan support, both parties cooperated in an end-run around the provisions of the constitution, igniting a de facto constitutional crisis about Obama's eligibility that has still not been resolved today.

However, there is at least one more very important flaw in our system: the process by which both parties select and nominate candidates for president is virtually unregulated and unsupervised by the electorate. Amidst the pomp and circumstance of campaign politics, the process by which our future leaders are chosen is actually rather opaque; there is entirely too much in the way of smoky backroom deal-making and too little in the way of transparency. There exists no formal vetting process by which a candidate's provenance can be independently verified or checked. Informal vetting done by the parties is nil. Moreover, there is no process by which a candidate and would-be president can be rejected or disqualified for the kind of security flags that would see even the most humble of military or law enforcement applicants disqualified for service. As the candidacy of Barack Obama proved, it is now possible to become president of the United States while revealing almost nothing of substance about your past life. Does such a system best-serve the needs of our nation? It does not, and more to the point, it is now dangerous and poses an enormous security risk to the country.

The Founding Fathers carefully weighed the benefits and risks of the current system, and it has served us well for most of our two hundred years. However, in that now-distant time when the Constitution was written, atomic weapons did not exist, nor did the rockets to deliver them. We now have in the Oval Office a man who can rightly be called a cipher; moreover, that man - whose friends include a terrorist bombmaker - now commands the most lethal military force in human history, and has access to the launch codes for the nation's nuclear weapons. Yet, ironically - even absurdly - the same man couldn't even serve as a member of his own protective security detail. Is this author the only American alarmed at this state of affairs? Are you frightened yet? You should be.

Poor-to-non-existent vetting procedures and lax security standards also plague other elective and appointed offices within the federal government. It is now common knowledge that sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood have been appointed to high office within the Obama administration. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's aide, Huma Abedin, is only the latest example. Partisanship is one thing; allowing the enemy inside the gates is another. 

Achilles, the great warrior of Greek mythology and a central figure in Homer's The Iliad and the Odyssey, was invulnerable and unbeaten in battle until Paris found a single unprotected place upon his body - his heel - and slew him with an arrow. Like Achilles, America is powerful, but not so powerful that it is invulnerable. We'd best close this chink in our armor before Paris' arrow finds us.

Copyright 2012 - Peter Farmer

Peter Farmer is a historian and commentator on national security, geopolitics and public policy issues. He has done original research on wartime resistance movements in WWII Europe, and has delivered seminars on such subjects as political violence and terrorism, the evolution of conflict, combat medicine, and related subjects. Mr. Farmer is also a scientist and a medic. 



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