If the campaign promises for more aggressive use of the U.S. military, especially in the Middle East, do come to pass, they will certainly damage the nation’s military - the one American institution that really works.
Now politically, I’m an Independent, and don’t really focus on the Presidential races until after both parties’ Conventions are over. But my professional focus on foreign policy and national security, and my regular interaction with military men and women have convinced me that some of the ideas I’m hearing in this campaign season are simply not in the military’s best interest.
To suggest that our military has become weak and ineffective may be great for the blood sport that is the American primary season, but is completely inaccurate. The American military is, in fact, still the most potent and best trained force in the world. No other country, or combination of countries even comes close.
The real reason America hasn’t been able to prevail in conflicts for the past decade isn’t because the U.S. military lacks resources or will. It’s because America’s political leaders have used our military to fight wars that had no military solution – like Vietnam under President Johnson, Iraq and Afghanistan under President George W. Bush, and Libya under President Obama.
A promise to use the military in the Middle East and elsewhere even more aggressively is reckless and dangerous – serving only to continue the same failed foreign policies that, after a decade of conflict, have resulted in failed states, more terrorism, and a generation of American military casualties.
Notions like making torture a routine American policy, and promising to indiscriminately bomb forces of the Islamic State and other enemies, whose soldiers are embedded with civilians, are even worse. This would result in massive civilian casualties, which in turn would lead to more hatred for Americans – thereby making our country and ourselves even less safe.
Finally, the indiscriminate use of firepower would ultimately force military officers to choose sides between following the orders of their Commander in Chief, or following the dictates of their own conscience and going public with their objections. Some would go one way, some another – and it would tear military cohesion apart.
A rupture like this within the U.S. military would be hugely damaging to America’s national security and its armed forces. We should all think at least twice before starting down this dangerous path.