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Recently, the popular television quiz program "Jeopardy!" had a special "greatest of all time" competition. Those who are familiar with the long-running show know the contestants respond to answers rather than questions. In fact, Merv Griffin, talk-show host and "Jeopardy!" creator, originally planned to call the show "What's the Question."

This comes at a time when we need factual answers on such categories as impeachment, national security, military action, international relations, intelligence information and briefings, the congressional role and war powers, presidential politics, media relations and more.

Like "Jeopardy!" we have many questions and some answers. In some cases, they can provide a different way of looking at the current state of affairs. "Jeopardy!" involves knowing facts and they are especially elusive these days. Factual information is vital in public-policy making and in "Jeopardy!"

Here are some "Jeopardy!"-style answers/questions:

What are the effects of the air strike on the Iranian general? It made us safer, according to Trump administration officials. But House Speaker Pelosi says this made the U.S less safe.

Who is "In love with terrorists?" The Democrats are smitten with the terrorists, according to Rep. Doug Collins, top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. (He later apologized for that statement.) The only ones mourning the loss of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani "are the Democrat leadership and our Democrat presidential candidates," according to Nikki Haley, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

A national public-opinion poll indicated a significant majority (52%-34%) viewed Trump's behavior toward Iran as reckless.

What is the AUMF and the role of Congress in war powers? The Authorization for Use of Military Force permitted military action against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks and is still cited by some as a legal basis for further action. However, Congress has ceded its constitutional power to the executive over several decades. Last week, the House of Representatives passed a measure that would limit the president's authority to undertake military action. However, it is unlikely the Republican-controlled Senate will concur. Critics have called the measure empty symbolism and lacking in teeth.

What is the role of nationalism? This refers to identification with a group based on a sense of common heritage including such factors as language, ethnic or racial origins, religion, geographic location or political base. Often this is related to the belief that the nation or nation-state merits loyalty. Nationalism is a primary factor in world affairs and while the United States is highly nationalistic, we frequently fail to recognize it in others.

What has been the American role in nation-building around the world? Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, as well as Trump have promised to get the United States "out of the nation-building business." However, relatively little has changed.

Which president is the most frequent golfer? Upon being elected, Trump said, "I'm not going to play much golf" but has exceeded his predecessors in times on the links, one of every five days in 2019.

Who is blamed for problems or when things go wrong? No "the buck stops here" a la Harry Truman. Trump tends to shift blame to others, particularly Obama, and especially in regard to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) involving Iran, the U.S. and other major powers, which he calls a disaster. Ironically, that agreement would have blocked Iran's nuclear development more than with Trump's withdrawal.

What is the status of ISIS? Trump regularly boasts the Islamic State has been "100 percent defeated." The Islamic State has been pushed out of Syria and Iraq but still has a presence in those countries and others in the region and in West Africa. It would be foolhardy to claim that ISIS isn't a significant concern.

What was the "imminent threat" cited as the reason for assassination and military action in Iran and Iraq? President Trump said there was possible threat to four American embassies, but top officials said there was no hard evidence and we are left with shifting rationales.

What was congressional reaction to briefings by administration officials? Lacking specifics was a common complaint from those who were briefed. Republican Sen. Mike Lee labeled it as probably the "worst" briefing he had received in his nine years in the Senate. He was particularly distressed by the message from the briefers that there should be no debate or discussion on the issue of military intervention. Senior administration officials have struggled to explain intelligence behind the killing of Soleimani. Meanwhile, Iran has belatedly acknowledged that the Ukranian airliner that crashed after taking off from Tehran was downed by an Iranian surface-to-air missile

What have we learned? Over the past 50 years we have failed to learn important lessons about military intervention and have too often actively impulsively. Mission creep and escalation can lead to unintended consequences. What we have are more mixed and muddled messages -- lots of contradiction-laden answers and many unanswered questions.

They might help explain or exemplify what is happening in government, politics and foreign policy in this chaotic time when escalation and brinkmanship could lead us into real jeopardy.

Commentary on 01/15/2020

Print Headline: The question is, what puts U.S. in 'Jeopardy!'

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