As has been widely reported, President Obama has announced his new security team of John Brennan as head of the CIA, John Kerry for Secretary of State, and former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense; next step, the Congressional approval process. Here are four questions I’d like to see asked during the proceedings:
1) Have you forgotten about Al-Qaeda?
General Carter Hamm, U.S. Africa Command Commander, recently stated that each day Al-Qaeda is gaining strength in northern Mali. This situation began last March. The U.S. military is providing planning assistance. The United Nations, African Union, and the Economic Community of West African States are reportedly working out the details of a proposal to use African military forces, but nothing is expected to happen for the next several months. The State Department has said any military action must be African led. Are we or are we not at war with Al-Qaeda? If so, why have we been so slow to respond to the situation in Mali?
2) Was the Iraq War a failure?
There has been much criticism of the Bush administration's decision to go to war with Iraq in 2003, yet most Americans are unaware of what Time magazine famously called “The Forgotten Iraq War,” the time between the end of Desert Storm and 2003. During that period, the U.S. was a major player in enforcing UN sanctions against Iraq. Each day, the U.S. and its allies conducted military operations which at times became quite intense.
For example, on the first day of Desert Fox in 1998, an operation aimed at destroying suspected WMD-related facilities in Iraq, the U.S. launched more cruise missiles than had been used during the entire Gulf war. Many blame faulty intelligence. ould it be that the reason no WMD wer found was because the policies of the Clinton administration against Iraq were more successful than he was given credit for? As a follow up, in your opinion, were the problems we faced in the most recent Iraq conflict before the "surge" a result of failed policy, failed execution, or both?
3) Under what circumstances whould we ever go to war?
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell stated:
When the political objective is important, clearly defined and understood, when the risks are acceptable, and when the use of force can be effectively combined with diplomatic and economic policies, then clear and unambiguous objectives must be given to the armed forces. These objectives must be firmly linked with the political objectives. We must not, for example, send military forces into a crisis with an unclear mission they cannot accomplish.
He also stated, when referring to successful operations like the first Gulf War:
The reason for our success is that in every instance we have carefully matched the use of military force to our political objectives. We owe it to the men and women who go in harm’s way to make sure that this is always the case and that their lives are not squandered for unclear purposes.
What are your thoughts on under what circumstances we move from diplomacy and economic policies to use of military force?
4) Is the Navy capable of carrying out its mission?
Last year the aircraft carrier USS Stennis deployed four months early because of operational requirements. This would seem to contradict statements that although our Navy is smaller than it was during World War I, it’s still capable of carrying out its mission. Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Donley recently stated:
While the Air Force has met the demands of a high operational tempo in support of these and other operations, this has inevitably taken a toll on our weapon systems and people, putting a strain on the overall readiness of the force. We have seen a steady decline in unit readiness since 2003.
In human costs last year, more military members died as a result of suicide than died in combat. What are your thoughts, Senator Kerry, since the military is used in support of both foreign and national security policy. I would like you to weigh in on this as well.
Again these are just some of the questions I would like to see asked. It will be interesting to see how the nomination process works out.