A lot has been said and written about the GOP presidential candidates’ preparedness to be Commander in Chief of the United States military. Indeed, it should be. Leading the most powerful nation and military in the world should not be taken lightly.
What would prepare someone for such responsibility? Does political experience prepare one well? Our current Commander in Chief, Barack Obama, has seemingly made decisions primarily according to his political views. In doing so he has forced resignations of many military leaders with invaluable experience that our country needs right now. The regions where we are in conflict are in shambles and nothing seems to be going right for our military. Perhaps politics and military directions aren’t all that compatible.
So what would prepare a person to make that most difficult decision, to send our young men and women into harm’s way, with full recognition that some will die? Several of our current candidates are experienced prosecutors, perhaps that is what’s needed. Yet prosecution really is pretty black and white, isn’t it? A prosecutor compares objective proof of a person’s actions with relevant laws and decides whether to attempt to convict them of a crime. This is certainly an important job and one that we want done well but it doesn’t prepare a person for life and death decisions.
We have some governors running for president. Perhaps that prepares people for such responsibility. Governors understand the ins and outs of the executive branch of government but they have not had to make life and death decisions. Certainly poor decisions by a governor could put some in their state at risk, even of death. And yet, such risk is generally an inadvertent problem created by someone deciding NOT to take action in challenging circumstances. The job of governor is impactful and important but it doesn’t really prepare someone to make the ultimate decision.
Perhaps a member of the US Senate or the House of Representatives is well prepared for the Commander in Chief role. Some may be on committees that deal with military spending or oversight. Certainly that must prepare them. Or maybe not. Members of Congress don’t really decide anything on their own. They vote along with many others to see if a majority want to pass a certain law relating to our military. Hopefully they support good legislation that will provide our military the tools they need to do their important work. Yet they don’t really have to make that tough decision as to whether or not to ask our military to sacrifice of themselves for our nation.
A business career? Not many would argue that a career in business prepares one for such grave responsibility.
There are only two things that would realistically prepare someone to be Commander in Chief. Either a military career that included developing strategies and tactics that put people in harm’s way or some other career that included making regular life and death decisions.
As we survey the field of GOP candidates, none is a former military strategist. Only one meets the second criteria. Dr. Ben Carson spent 35 years working with families to make life and death decisions that would impact their dear child. His decisions didn’t relate to people who had volunteered for such risk or had been trained to deal with and even minimize the risk. His decisions related to children. Victims who were in such a position through no fault of their own and who could do nothing about it. The decisions Dr. Carson had to make were on the leading edge of what the medical field could accomplish. In some cases, it involved surgeries that had never been completed successfully before. The risks were incredible. Yet Dr. Carson considered every alternative and discussed them with families. He communicated the risks and rewards of each and recommended a set of actions that, by his assessment, was appropriate for the situation at hand.
Many have been concerned that Dr. Carson’s demeanor is not what they expect of someone who is ready to make tough decisions. “He is so soft-spoken,” they say. Neither the volume of one’s voice, nor the enthusiasm with which they speak make their decisions good ones. It is the steel in their spine and the calculation of their options that accomplish the most. In Reykjavik, Iceland, at the high stakes summit with the Soviet Union, Ronald Reagan did not lose his temper as Gorbachev demanded more than he was willing to give. He simply got up from his chair, walked around the table and whispered “Nyet” in Gorbachev’s ear and walked away from the table. Strength is not in boisterous statements or in knowledge about things. It is in principle and in resolve. Ben Carson has both.
Military details are important. Yet military details are handled by military leaders. The president must listen to the experts, assess the risk and potential reward and decide how to proceed, giving clear direction so that everyone is on the same page. Ben Carson has done this his entire career. He is ready to lead our military.