As we count down the final days of 2014, it is a good time to look back on the biggest stories of the year and the issues mattering most to us at Veterans for a Strong America.
We wish there was more good news. Instead, it was a year of upheaval. But such is the way of things when those in charge don’t prioritize policies intended to keep America strong.
10. Rand Paul vs. Rick Perry in a 2016 preview
Back in July we got a preview of the Republican presidential nomination by way of a debate between Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Texas Governor Rick Perry. Their pointed and testy exchange played out in the pages of the Washington Post and Politico, where each presumptive presidential candidate made the case for how his foreign policy vision best follows the blueprint of former President Ronald Reagan. Rest assured, this was just an opening salvo. Paul’s continuing challenge is to clearly define how closely aligned he is with his non-interventionist father.
9. The Threat to Religious Liberty in the Military
Earlier this year the Family Research Council released a 20-page report titled “A Clear and Present Danger: The Threat to Religious Liberty in the Military.” Featuring over 100 footnotes, the report documents “a growing hostility towards religion” in the U.S. military, which it says has “intensified tremendously during the Obama Administration.” The report zeroes in on the Air Force in particular: “Regrettably, some of the highest-level officers within the Air Force appear to be cooperating with this effort.”
The long-awaited deal to permanently stall Iran’s push for a nuclear weapon never materialized. A temporary deal was struck in late 2013 — in which the Obama Regime essentially told Iran “if you like your current nuclear program you can keep it” – and included a deadline of November 24th of this year to make final. However, as is typically the case when dealing with terrorist regimes, the deadline came and went without consummation. Secretary of State John Kerry now thinks a deal is possible by next July. In the meantime, Iran continues to receive relief from sanctions, gets to keep Pastor Saeed Abedini in prison, and probably gets to continue working covertly on its nuclear program without fear of retribution.
7. Putin’s Incursion into Ukraine
In what analysts like Michael Auslin at the American Enterprise Institute described as an attempt to “re-form the Soviet Union,” Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, ahem, “annexed” Crimea in February and launched what amounts to an invasion of the strategically vital Ukraine. The U.S. responded with sanctions that did little to slow Putin’s ambitions. However, there is evidence this month that Putin may be re-thinking his quest in the wake of mounting Russian military casualties, not to mention a bruised economy marked by a tanking currency and collapsing oil prices.
6. The Search for Benghazi Answers Continues
The liberal media cheered and conservatives sneered at the findings of a Congressional investigation into the CIA’s involvement in the Benghazi terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2012. Supervised by outgoing Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, the investigation largely backs the Obama Regime’s narrative of that fateful day’s events while providing a few light criticisms. But as Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist noted, the investigation was narrow in scope and leaves a lot of unanswered questions that Congressman Trey Gowdy’s investigative committee will attempt to answer once and for all next year.
5. Chuck Hagel Resigns
In November, President Obama accepted the resignation of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel after it was clear he had lost the support of the White House. Despite being a former U.S. Senator, Hagel went through a brutal confirmation process thanks mainly to his fellow Republicans. Once confirmed, his brief tenure as the head civilian at the Pentagon proved just as tumultuous. Credit goes to the Obama Regime’s feckless foreign policy, as well as its attempts to use the military as a vehicle for Leftist social engineering.
4. Plummeting Morale
The Military Times ran a compelling three-part series titled “America’s Military: A Force Adrift.” The report included some startling polling data of our active-duty troops. Only 56% described their quality of life as “good” or “excellent,” when 91% of them did back in 2009. In addition, the percentage of those who would recommend a military career to others declined by 12%, and the percentage of those with a desire to re-enlist dropped by 9%. Furthermore, only 44% described their pay as “good” or “excellent” when 87% percent did five years ago, and only 27% agreed with the statement “the senior military leadership has my best interests at heart.”
3. Mounting Tension between U.S. and Israel
It’s really been brewing every year since Obama assumed the presidency, but now even the liberal-leaning The Atlantic notes the relationship between the U.S. and Israel is “the worst it’s ever been and it stands to get significantly worse” next year. There’s talk the Obama Regime may outright abandon Israel at the United Nations, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is said to have “written off” the White House. Exactly how things got to this point with arguably our most important ally is a whole other column unto itself, but in the grand scheme of things it comes down to this: Netanyahu does not trust Obama.
On April 30, CNN broke the inexcusable and tragic story that at least 40 military veterans died while awaiting healthcare from the V.A. The resulting outcry was rightfully overwhelming, but little did we know the story was just getting started. Within four months an internal V.A. audit revealed over 120,000 other veterans were left waiting for or never received their healthcare, the FBI had opened a criminal investigation into the V.A., and heads were rolling. Rest assured, this story will be on the front burner next year once the new Congress takes over.
Although the V.A. scandal was the most impactful story of the year, it’s the rise of ISIS/ISIL that grabs the top spot because it potentially will have the most long-term impact. After months of underestimating the threat and passing the buck, the Obama Regime finally decided to confront the new face of Islamic Jihad — a threat so ominous even Iran is opposed to it. (Not that Iran is opposed to restoring the caliphate, mind you, it’s just opposed to this caliphate.) Once labeled the “junior varsity” by President Obama, ISIS/ISIL quickly emerged from the bowels of Al-Qaeda to become a threat “beyond anything we’ve seen.” Its trademark viciousness provided some of the vilest pictures of death and devastation the world has seen since the Killing Fields of Cambodia. The rise if ISIS/ISIL once again proves the amorphous state of Islamic Jihad. Nations surrender when defeated, but this ideology knows no borders and simply evolves after a setback.
(Steve Deace is a nationally-syndicated talk show host and also the author of the new book “Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again.” You can “like” him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.)