Robert Hurt: America must lead on the world stage


Robert_HurtLast Thursday, U.S. Army Master Sergeant Joshua L. Wheeler was killed during a mission, which ultimately rescued sixty-nine hostages being held by the Islamic State in Northern Iraq.  Sgt. Wheeler, a father of four stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, is the first American to die in combat since the President initiated U.S. involvement in the campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq‎ and Syria.

We mourn the loss of Sgt. Wheeler, and we thank all of the heroes involved in this rescue for their extraordinary valor.  It is because of men and women like Sgt. Wheeler that we continue to live in the freest and most prosperous nation on Earth.  Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with his wife, his four children, and his entire family.

Over a year ago, President Obama promised the American people that we would not put boots on the ground to fight the Islamic State – explicitly stating that he would not send our brave men and women into combat in Iraq.  But Sgt. Wheeler’s death suggests that, despite the President’s assurances, there are many U.S. soldiers who are, in fact, engaged in combat operations in the fight against ISIS.

This tragic loss gives rise to the obvious question of why the President and the White House choose to parse words to fit the political‎ promises he made on the campaign trail.  And this is also a painful reminder that this President has failed – now one year into his initiative – to obtain from the Congress an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) before committing U.S. troops to combat operations. And while the President submitted a proposed AUMF to the Congress more than six months after he launched this military initiative, he has failed to ‎outline a comprehensive, honest strategy that defines our objectives and what will be needed to fulfill them.  It is ultimately the responsibility of the President alone to articulate to Congress and to the American people a comprehensive strategy for victory over ISIS and to abide by the constitutional limitations that require congressional approval before further combat operations in Iraq and Syria continue.

Likewise, it is the obligation that the Congress take up and debate the President’s proposed AUMF. It is my hope that Congress will take up this proposal and engage with President as soon as possible.  If the President convinces the U.S. Congress to act, then act we must. And if he fails to articulate a winning strategy to defeat ISIS, then he should withdraw from combat engagement until that time that the President makes the case.

Unfortunately I believe that America’s posture in this untenable situation also reflects the President’s policies that leave America in the position of leading from behind – especially in the Middle East.  Since reaching a nuclear agreement, Iran has tested a nuclear capable missile – a direct violation of a United Nations Security Council Resolution.  Additionally, Iran’s military has joined with President Assad’s Syrian troops and President Putin’s Russian troops in an effort to recapture the most populous city in Syria.  In each case, Iran has situated itself in a position of power, asserting its dominance in the region and highlighting the United States’ weak position. Iran’s growing influence in the region is ultimately the greatest threat to the United States and her allies in the region and elsewhere. ‎

Ultimately, we must remain vigilant and resolute to ensure our national security and to stand with our allies.  It is my fervent hope that with pressure from Congress and the American people, this Administration will develop a strategy that will indeed stop the evil force that is the Islamic State and once again establish itself as a beacon for freedom and peace.

If you need any additional information or if we may be of assistance to you, please visit my website at or call my Washington office: (202) 225-4711, Charlottesville office: (434) 973-9631, Danville office: (434) 791-2596, or Farmville office: (434) 395-0120.

Robert Hurt represents the Fifth District of Virginia in Congress.

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