One thing our leading politicians agree on: our past national leaders from both parties have given us the strongest, most sophisticated armed forces in the world, arguably in the history of the world. There is some discussion about, is it enough? Is it enough that our military spending exceeds that of the next seven countries combined, three of which are among our closest allies (the UK, France, and Japan)? As a former career military officer, I know that we can always use more, newer, and better in military matters. The goal, after all, is to be so powerful that other countries would be deterred from starting a military campaign against us in the first place.
The calculations break down a bit when one considers unconventional warfare: “asymmetric war” against stateless organizations whose aims are not world conquest but rather a more local hegemony. How much do we need to combat that threat? Should we of necessity be the country who does it all, or should we insist that our allies do a part that is proportional to their economic size? And if they don’t, then what? And how should we deal with countries that don’t necessarily oppose us militarily – at least at present – but who oppose us in some other way?
Those are all questions that are part of the politics of 2016, perhaps the most important part: National Security. Republicans and Democrats differ on the approach, but both argue that we as a nation need to remain on top of the heap. As voters, we need to ask: whose approach is more likely to work, that of Donald Trump or that of Hillary Clinton – two flawed candidates to be sure, but one of whom is virtually certain to become our next President?
Not being a true “expert” myself, notwithstanding decades of military experience, I plan to see which people whom I consider to be National Security experts support which candidate, and why. If I had to vote right now, I would note that no living former President has endorsed Mr. Trump, but several have endorsed Secretary Clinton. All former presidential candidates from her party have endorsed Mrs. Clinton, but not so with Mr. Trump. All former National Security experts from past Democratic administrations who have gone public have also endorsed Mrs. Clinton, but at least 50 such experts from past Republican administrations have signed a statement that Mr. Trump is too unstable a leader to be trusted as our Commander-in-Chief.
This is only September, and the election isn’t for eight more weeks. How will those whose National Security experience I respect line up later, after three debates and many more interviews and statements? Time will tell. My own goal is to listen to them all, and not to become so partisan that I decide “anybody who doesn’t agree with me cannot be trusted.” My advice: don’t get into the “Never Hillary” or “Never Trump” camp without weighing the consequences of either candidate to our National Security. To weigh those consequences, listen to those whose expertise have in the past caused us, after all, to become and to remain the strongest military nation in the world.