Escondido, CA

The power of deterrence: America’s most valuable tool

Corey Gustafson is a candidate for Congress in the in the 50th Congressional District.

 Last month, our country remembered those who perished on September 11th, 2001. Terrorists killed almost 3,000 Americans that fateful day, aided by the safe refuge provided by the Taliban in Afghanistan. America eliminated this terrorist haven at a cost of 2,456 courageous American servicemen and servicewomen’s lives.

Through their sacrifice, and the sacrifice of the Afghan people, Coalition forces quickly removed the Taliban from power. But they never went away, fighting Afghan and US-allied forces from caves and Northern Pakistan for decades.

Over the next twenty years, America helped build up Afghan infrastructure—its electric grid, roads, and women’s schools–while conducting counter-terrorist missions.  By August 2021, American had not lost a soldier in over a year, while keeping a small American force in Afghanistan to support the Afghan military to keep the Taliban and terrorists at bay.

Last August, President Biden scuttled these achievements and left billions of dollars of US military equipment as a gift to the enemy.  Make no mistake- this choice did not represent a “withdrawal” as the Biden administration claimed. It amounted to an abrupt and shameful surrender to the same group of murderers that America went to war to remove in 2001. President Biden left Afghanistan to a brutal group that denies women and minorities basic human rights and dignity. Moreover, the Taliban once again have begun to provide a haven for al-Qaeda.

The hasty American surrender also left us with images of desperate Afghans clinging to and falling off US airplanes, American helicopters fleeing the embassy and the murder of 13 American soldiers trying to protect civilians in the chaos of a poorly planned retreat.

In a time when Americans rightfully worry about rising inflation and the cost of living, we must neither forget 9/11 nor the mismanaged surrender in Afghanistan two decades later.  Not only did this failure lead to Afghanistan returning into the grip of the medieval, barbaric reign of the Taliban, it emboldened America’s enemies around the world. As President Biden celebrated his retreat from Afghanistan on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, surveillance images showed Vladimir Putin beginning his buildup of 130,000 Russian troops along the Ukrainian border. This was not a coincidence.

The Afghan surrender encouraged Putin to build on his 2014 annexation of the Crimea. As Russia’s intention to invade Ukraine became clear in early 2022, President Biden equivocated. Instead of sending a clear message to Putin that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would not be tolerated, the President ruled out American military support and empowered Putin by declaring that America would tolerate “minor incursions” by Russian forces in Ukraine.

Let me be clear- America did not have to commit troops and forces to defend Ukraine. It would have been unwise and dangerous for America to corner itself into a military conflict with nuclear armed Russia. However, as former Presidents like Barack Obama knew, America should not completely rule out military intervention because it limits its options and removes American deterrence from the calculus of our adversaries.

Emboldened by Afghanistan and President Biden’s equivocation over defending Ukraine, Putin decided to invade. Only after the invasion occurred did Biden and the European community inflict harsh sanctions on Russia and begin to supply Ukraine defensive military aid.

These actions came too late to dissuade Russia from invasion. International sanctions should have been imposed by the West as Putin amassed troops on the Ukrainian border to demonstrate Western resolve. Military aid should have started before the invasion as well, to deter a Russian invasion.

The most important tool America possesses to prevent conflict and actively preserve peace around the world centers on the power of deterrence. Deterrence can be defined as capability times political will.  We have the world’s largest military capability. Our hapless surrender in Afghanistan demonstrated a lack of political will.  Our allies noticed, as did our enemies.

We cannot bolster American security through appeasement and weakness.

We must hold our leaders accountable for their mistakes.  Most of us who witnessed the Afghanistan “withdrawal” shuddered at its implications.  Yet where was the outrage by members of Congress?  Where was Congressman Scott Peters after the botched event?  Falling in line with Biden policies, as usual, and worrying more about cutting American energy production at home to the detriment of our national security abroad.

Congress has not investigated the Afghan withdrawal. Nor has it scrutinized the administration’s appeasement of Russia before the Ukrainian invasion. This lack of oversight amounts to Congressional dereliction of duty. Scott Peters’ approach to foreign policy is to react, rather than shape, events. He brags about his work to help Afghan refugees, yet his inaction enabled their predicament to begin with.

I’m running for Congress because I am tired of leaders like Scott Peters saying one thing and doing another. We need a strong voice in Congress that understands national security issues and how to defend America.

The Biden-Peters policies of appeasement and weakness undermine American security. When I am elected to Congress, I will work to shape events by reaffirming America’s deterrent power so we can stop conflict before it begins. A foreign policy dedicated to “peace through strength” must return to Washington DC.  This remains the best way we can remember and honor the victims of 9/11 and the sacrifices made by our troops in its aftermath.



*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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