Seven Questions for the Next Commander-in-Chief

 

I just came across this item in the Huffington Post, suggesting that the target audience is left-leaning, but I think these questions should be asked — and asked often — of anyone running for the office of Commander-in-Chief. I don’t think I’ve heard any of the candidates offer any kind of specific response to these questions, alone or together, so I thought I’d reproduce them here. Maybe a Ricochet member will get a chance to ask them at a campaign event.

If you do, please share what you learn, because I genuinely don’t know how any of the candidates would answer. The seriousness and sobriety of a candidate’s answers to these questions would be very important to me in deciding for whom to vote:

1. After the war in Iraq, we have seen the problems associated with deploying our forces without a specific endgame and exit strategy. If you believe we should deploy more of our military forces to Syria and Iraq now, under what circumstances would you envision bringing them home?

2. After seeing in Iraq and Afghanistan less than one percent of our population fighting our nation’s battles, which often resulted in multiple tours of duty, what do you think about imposing a draft like we have done in the past?

3. Many military servicemembers state that the current services provided to them as they transition from the military to the private sector are not helpful and do not prepare them for their new lives. How would you improve this process?

4. Studies show that the financial costs alone of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will reach at least $5 trillion dollars. There were also approximately 7,000 lives lost, 50,000 wounded in action and hundreds of thousands with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. How does that affect your decision to send American troops back into the Middle East?

5. Many senior officers argue that our military cannot solve all of our problems, and that Congress should give the State Department and USAID larger budgets so that they can help countries be more stable on the front end. What is your opinion on that?

6. Our government has clearly not provided many of our veterans the care that they need and deserve. Appeals of their cases can take close to a decade to adjudicate, the veteran suicide rate is through the roof, and Post Traumatic Stress still has a huge stigma attached to it. What specific measures would you take to rectify these problems?

7. Recently 20 national security leaders including General Petraeus, General Casey, Michael Chertoff, Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft authored a bipartisan letter opposing efforts to deny refugees from Iraq and Syria access to our refugee program in the United States. If you disagree, please explain why you think these experts are wrong.

These are good questions, and serious ones. If you’ve already heard any the most prominent candidates (of either party)  answer these questions in a serious, specific way — in a written proposal or a speech — could you tell me where and post the link? If you think any aspect of a candidate’s voting record would be an answer in itself, could you explain which vote or votes make you think so?

There are 85 comments.

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  1. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    This is loathsome lefty push-polling, with junk premises baked into the questions.

    • #1
  2. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Ball Diamond Ball:This is loathsome lefty push-polling, with junk premises baked into the questions.

    I think they’re good questions, and I’m not a leftist. Why do you think these aren’t entirely legitimate questions to ask?

    • #2
  3. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    You can’t find anything to object to in question number one?

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    They are good questions.

    • #4
  5. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Ball Diamond Ball:You can’t find anything to object to in question number one?

    Of course one can, and the candidate’s abilities to formulate the objections to the questions and to redirect into better questions and serious answers is part of what we should be looking for.

    I don’t want a candidate who accepts the premises presented. I want one with values and views of his (her) own and with enough knowledge of history to explain why what a lefty thinks just isn’t so.

    • #5
  6. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Ball Diamond Ball:You can’t find anything to object to in question number one?

    Here’s the question:

    1. After the war in Iraq, we have seen the problems associated with deploying our forces without a specific endgame and exit strategy. If you believe we should deploy more of our military forces to Syria and Iraq now, under what circumstances would you envision bringing them home?

    I would phrase the question this way:

    1. After the war in Iraq, we’ve seen numerous problems associated with deploying our forces in this region, with withdrawing them prematurely, and with failing to deploy them at all. What have you learned from this? If you to believe  we should deploy more of our military forces to Syria and Iraq now, how many troops do you think would be required to complete the mission, and how long do you think it will take to complete it?

    I think that’s a better way to phrase the question, but the essence of the question, to me, is “What have you learned from the experience of the past twelve years in this region, and how would it shape your approach to Iraq and Syria?”

    How would you answer that question? It doesn’t seem to me different, in essence, from questions you’ve asked on Ricochet.

    • #6
  7. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    My biggest push back would be on questions five and seven, by the way, but all of them could use at least a kick to align them into the proper orbits.

    • #7
  8. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:1. After the war in Iraq, we have seen the problems associated with deploying our forces without a specific endgame and exit strategy. If you believe we should deploy more of our military forces to Syria and Iraq now, under what circumstances would you envision bringing them home?

    I think this question is slightly off, or — at the very least — missing some important stuff. We ran into trouble in Iraq for two reasons:

    1. The mission was poorly defined. Depending on who you asked (and when) it was either to deny Saddam WMD, to overthrow a nasty regime whose trouble-making was no longer tolerable in a post 9-11 world, or to liberate an oppressed people and spread freedom. This, unsurprisingly, led to a muddle. Without a clear and agreed-upon purpose, articulating an exit strategy makes no sense.
    2. Having eventually adopted an “all of the above” approach in terms of purpose, we elected a president who chose to leave before that job had any chance of success.
    • #8
  9. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Arahant:My biggest push back would be on questions five and seven, by the way, but all of them could use at least a kick to align them into the proper orbits.

    Question five is open-ended, it’s asking, “Where do you stand on this?” Question seven is one we’ve debated at length here. I’d certainly like to ask the candidates who oppose refugee settlement why they disagree, if not with those 20 national security leaders, than with me.

    • #9
  10. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    #2, #3, #4, and #6 are all important matters. I don’t have much of an answer other than “If we’re going to have a volunteer army, we need to take very good care of it and the men and women who serve in it.”

    • #10
  11. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:I think this question is slightly off, or — at the very least — missing some important stuff. We ran into trouble in Iraq for two reasons:

    That’s why I suggested the rephrasing. But however the first statement is phrased, it gives the candidate the chance to suggest the lessons he’s drawn from the experience, to explain to the public what his policy would be, how he proposes to handle the question of military deployment to this region — and it will be a question — when elected.

    (NB: I’m using the generic pronoun “he,” but I think these questions should be asked of Hillary, too, and of Fiorina, until she formally drops out.)

    • #11
  12. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    I don’t think they are bad questions, but somewhat agree with BDB that they are structured as a political mine field.

    The essence of the questions boils down to what does our next CIC view the proper role of the U.S. military? Part of the reason we have spent so much blood and treasure since 2001 with little to show for it is that we continue to try and use our military to achieve goals they were never intended and ill suited.

    Our armed forces should be the most efficient in the world at killing people and breaking things. They are not extensions of the state department to force democracy on people that have little if any ability or desire to live free.

    This idea of exporting our version of democracy around the world at gunpoint is both deadly and expensive.

    • #12
  13. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: 5. Many senior officers argue that our military cannot solve all of our problems, and that Congress should give the State Department and USAID larger budgets so that they can help countries be more stable on the front end. What is your opinion on that?

    My push back would be, “Where in the Constitution does it say the job of the Federal Government is to make other countries stable?”

    Now, it can be argued that stability in other countries is good for the United States and United States Citizens. That doesn’t mean it is the job of our Federal Government to make it happen.

    If, after a war where we have defeated a country, we decide to do a Marshall Plan-style rebuilding, that’s a decision Congress should debate and make with the approval of the people whose taxes will be used for it. But otherwise, it looks like scope creep to me.

    • #13
  14. ToryWarWriter Thatcher
    ToryWarWriter
    @ToryWarWriter

    . Many senior officers argue that our military cannot solve all of our problems, and that Congress should give the State Department and USAID larger budgets so that they can help countries be more stable on the front end. What is your opinion on that?

    –Really name me 3 senior officers of 3 star or better who have seriously asked that Congress should give the State Dept and USAID larger budgets? I find the entire question preposterous and misleading.

    As to the draft I would say create a Foreign Legion based along French lines.  The problems identified require a different solution and a longer essay.

    • #14
  15. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: 7. Recently 20 national security leaders including General Petraeus, General Casey, Michael Chertoff, Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft authored a bipartisan letter opposing efforts to deny refugees from Iraq and Syria access to our refugee program in the United States. If you disagree, please explain why you think these experts are wrong.

    There are several issues with the question, so I’ll summarize:

    1. Where in the Constitution does it require the Federal Government to make of the United States a dumping ground for the rest of the world’s problems?
    2. If these twenty signed a similar letter for fully open borders would it be a good idea? Or does this appeal to authority only come into force when you agree what they see as the best course? Are there any other experts, maybe even thirty of them, who disagree with these twenty? The Constitution is a higher authority to what a President does than any twenty current or former advisors.
    3. Is this just saying let a few who meet certain criteria in? Or let any of the “refugees” into the refugee program?
    4. Will the Federal Government settle these refugees in the several states, or will they be limited to Federal Territories?
    • #15
  16. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    ToryWarWriter: As to the draft I would say create a Foreign Legion based along French lines. The problems identified require a different solution and a longer essay.

    I’ve been thinking along those lines, too.

    • #16
  17. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    ToryWarWriter: Really name me 3 senior officers of 3 star or better who have seriously asked that Congress should give the State Dept and USAID larger budgets?

    General John Allen, Admiral Mike Mullen, General James Mattis?

    • #17
  18. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Arahant:

    There are several issues with the question, so I’ll summarize:

    I’d be happy with knowing why they disagree with my arguments. No need to appeal to anyone else’s authority. We needn’t have the debate about my views again here, but I’d like to know how the candidates would reply to what I assume are the similar, underlying arguments of the people who signed the letter. (I don’t know that the signatories’ concerns and mine are the same, because the letter they signed was quite brief, but I’d like to know how the candidates would reply, at least, to the points I’ve made.)

    • #18
  19. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    I thought the question was what have our candidates said that provides insights to how they would answer these questions.  The only one they’ve all addressed is about refugees.  Can’t imagine why these big hitters would say they support Islamic refugees.  I’d guess because you stop these things through bureaucratic barriers while admitting the groups unambiguously fleeing for their lives,  Christians to begin with.  You just do things you don’t talk about them.  These players know this.  As to more money for AID and State to fix these places.   I’d like to know how our candidates would answer that question.  If any of them think more money spent by our Congress, shaped by special interests, run through careerist bureaucracies to gin up photo ops, bonuses and promotions, and enrich a few locals  makes sense, I want to know.  They aren’t my candidate.

    • #19
  20. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    BrentB67: They are not extensions of the state department to force democracy on people that have little if any ability or desire to live free.

    That seems to me the inbuilt assumption of Question 5. As for the ability or desire of certain people to live free, that’s an open question. But the ability and desire of certain people to live in a manner hostile to our security and our interests isn’t. So the question, as I see it, is whether the candidate sees any way for the US to influence these people other than killing them and breaking things; if so, whether he believes US diplomatic and economic tools of persuasion (be it in the form of aid, trade deals, sanctions) are useful non-military tools of influence or coercion; if so, whether State and USAID are the right institutions to carry out these policies; and if not, why not — and what institutions would be?

    • #20
  21. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Arahant:

    There are several issues with the question, so I’ll summarize:

    I’d be happy with knowing why they disagree with my arguments. No need to appeal to anyone else’s authority. We needn’t have the debate about my views again here, but I’d like to know how the candidates would reply to what I assume are the similar, underlying arguments of the people who signed the letter. (I don’t know that the signatories’ concerns and mine are the same, because the letter they signed was quite brief, but I’d like to know how the candidates would reply, at least, to the points I’ve made.)

    I don’t have any insight as to how the candidates would respond. I think the questions have some substance, but given their biased (Huff) and the treacherous nature of affirmatively responding to them I think at best you would get a lot of blustery, non-committal, responses.

    Who among the candidates has considered reinstating the draft? I think there is an equal chance of reinstating prohibition than the draft.

    Answer #4 at your own peril without making it sound like those 7,000 lives were wasted in war(s) of choice/adventure.

    #5 assumes it is the proper role of the USA to stabilize nations using more treasure and less blood while we are sitting on $19T of debt.

    I think Sanders or Clinton could answer these. Republicans only have degrees of losing.

    • #21
  22. James Madison Member
    James Madison
    @JamesMadison

    Bon Courage.

    Answer the question instead of complaining about them. Stand for something.

    It is not right to complain about the system, the establishment, the print font – but never, ever, ever get caught in writing.

    Who takes anyone seriously who fears a few questions? Answer them.

    PS. I have. I have here on Ricochet. And, I ask myself these questions and similar ones over and over. The time dimension affects the risk and seriousness of foreign policy and military application and demands constant reflection.

    BTW, the Constitution is pretty clear on who makes foreign policy and can commit forces. The criteria – the purpose of these questions – are not defined – that is the squishy part and gives so much room for interpretation.

    • #22
  23. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Ball Diamond Ball:You can’t find anything to object to in question number one?

    Here’s the question:

    1. After the war in Iraq, we have seen the problems associated with deploying our forces without a specific endgame and exit strategy. If you believe we should deploy more of our military forces to Syria and Iraq now, under what circumstances would you envision bringing them home?

    I would phrase the question this way:

    1. After the war in Iraq, we’ve seen numerous problems associated with deploying our forces in this region, with withdrawing them prematurely, and with failing to deploy them at all. What have you learned from this? If you to believe we should deploy more of our military forces to Syria and Iraq now, how many troops do you think would be required to complete the mission, and how long do you think it will take to complete it?

    I think that’s a better way to phrase the question, but the essence of the question, to me, is “What have you learned from the experience of the past twelve years in this region, and how would it shape your approach to Iraq and Syria?”

    How would you answer that question? It doesn’t seem to me different, in essence, from questions you’ve asked on Ricochet.

    To me, the essence of the “question” is: Don’t blame Obama for ISIS — this is all Bush’s fault.

    • #23
  24. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    BrentB67: but given their biased (Huff) and the treacherous nature of affirmatively responding to them

    Well, let’s consider these my questions, not Huff’s — I suspect they were the author’s questions, originally, not Huff’s, but Huff liked the piece he submitted and published it. Most freelancers don’t care about the ideology of the publication that runs their articles so long as said publication pays promptly.

    Anyway, consider them my questions. I don’t see that any of them are yes/no questions, or why answering them would be treacherous. Now, I may be — okay, I am, certainly — different from most voters, but I think it makes sense for me to feel that a candidate’s views about these questions are important, and that his ability to explain his views and persuade Americans that his views are well-considered and wise is a critical aspect of leadership. A candidate who answered straightforwardly and without prevaricating or resorting to empty soundbites would earn my respect.

    And it’s not as if the odds he’ll be making these decisions are remote: He will, absolutely, be the Commander-in-Chief. He’ll be making decisions like this every day.

    If I hired someone for a job on which many lives depended (commercial airline pilot, nuclear power plant safety inspector) without asking basic questions about how he’d handle various life-threatening scenarios — and getting an answer that made sense — I’d probably be considered negligent in a court of law if things went pear-shaped.

    • #24
  25. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Ball Diamond Ball: To me, the essence of the “question” is: Don’t blame Obama for ISIS — this is all Bush’s fault.

    I think you’re reading that into it. If we’re going to read into it anything but the plain meaning of the question, I’d say the essence of it is, “Where do you stand on the Powell doctrine.” That was formulated well before anyone had dreamt of ISIS, and the questions have been around since long before Powell.

    • #25
  26. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    Claire, I think any republican candidate addressing these questions in any specific way is risking political suicide with typical republican voters. I think Rand Paul’s approach would address some of these and he has been relegated to the kiddie table until he drops out.

    I don’t think any candidate addresses them in any meaningful way.

    • #26
  27. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    BrentB67: Who among the candidates has considered reinstating the draft?

    I don’t think anyone has suggested it, but I think only because it would be hugely politically unpopular. Candidates who say they’ll achieve certain military objectives, though, should be asked how many troops they believe will be required to achieve them, and asked whether, if the number we have proves insufficient, they’d consider a draft.

    For example, candidates who say their objective is to destroy ISIS should be asked whether they agree with this assessment. Sadly, I suspect it’s probably correct. If they do, I’d like to know where they expect the troops to come from.

    Military recruitment is declining, and I have a feeling Americans won’t volunteer for that war. Whether they’d be right or wrong not to volunteer, I don’t know, but you go to war with the American public you have. And I don’t think they want to go into Syria in the numbers it would take to achieve the objectives many of the candidates are promising.

    • #27
  28. Tom Riehl Inactive
    Tom Riehl
    @TrinityWaters

    Ball Diamond Ball:You can’t find anything to object to in question number one?

    To state that “we have seen problems” completely sidesteps and ignores Obama’s sabotage of a delicate but stable situation.  It conflates Bush’s decisions with Obama’s.  As with many of the gotcha type of questions bandied about these days, the real answer must begin with a thorough dissection of the question’s premises.  Then maybe an informative answer to the policy issue may emerge.

    • #28
  29. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Tom Riehl: To state that “we have seen problems” completely sidesteps and ignores Obama’s sabotage of a delicate but stable situation.

    I don’t want people in the audience putting up their hands and relieving themselves of a lecture before asking the question. If someone gets a chance, rephrase the first part however you see fit, but ask, “In light of this experience, how will your administration approach this problem.”

    I agree that Obama sabotaged a delicate but stable situation. But a lesson we can learn from that, and should, is that the US electorate won’t support a war effort beyond a single term. Or at least, this has proven true often enough that it has to enter any responsible CoC’s calculations.

    • #29
  30. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    BrentB67: Who among the candidates has considered reinstating the draft?

    I don’t think anyone has suggested it, but I think only because it would be hugely politically unpopular. Candidates who say they’ll achieve certain military objectives, though, should be asked how many troops they believe will be required to achieve them, and asked whether, if the number we have proves insufficient, they’d consider a draft.

    For example, candidates who say their objective is to destroy ISIS should be asked whether they agree with this assessment. Sadly, I suspect it’s probably correct. If they do, I’d like to know where they expect the troops to come from.

    Military recruitment is declining, and I have a feeling Americans won’t volunteer for that war. Whether they’d be right or wrong not to volunteer, I don’t know, but you go to war with the American public you have. And I don’t think they want to go into Syria in the numbers it would take to achieve the objectives many of the candidates are promising.

    I agree it will be tough to sell a war against ISIS for 2 reasons.

    ISIS hasn’t killed enough Americans here. yet.

    ISIS is just a symptom of a bigger problem.

    • #30

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