In matters of national security judgment is critical

By Ken Lynn - Contributing Columnist

The Iowa caucuses are history and the country has taken its first step towards electing our next president. Three days before the caucuses, the Obama administration confirmed Democratic presidential candidate Hilary Clinton’s home server had 22 e-mails containing information that, after the fact, was classified at the highest levels by security officials.

Clinton has long maintained she never knowingly received or sent information marked as classified. Still, she was required to report any information she recognized as classified in e-mails she received, but without existing classification markings this may have been difficult to discern.

In my own view that’s beside the point. While perhaps legally allowed, as Secretary of State and one of the country’s most senior public officials, Clinton violated basic common sense rules of operational security when she set up her home server.

Enemies of America are always looking to gather information, even the unclassified kind. Put together with other data, unclassified information can reveal things we don’t wish our adversaries to know. In opting for “convenience” and not using a government server that theoretically would’ve been more secure, Clinton opened herself up to justifiable criticism concerning her judgment.

But there’s blame to go around. Anyone, including Republicans, getting an e-mail from Clinton could see she was using a private, rather than government server. Why didn’t anyone speak up at the time it was happening?

Clinton made a boneheaded decision and voters should take it into consideration. But she’s in good company when it comes to lapses in judgment concerning national security.

Former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently said of his fellow GOP presidential candidates that “the level of dialogue on national security issues would embarrass a middle schooler.” He characterized candidates’ positions as unaffordable, illegal or unconstitutional.

Jeb Bush struggled mightily to simply answer whether he would’ve supported the Iraq invasion his brother authorized given the facts known today. His answer vacillated between “Yes,” “I don’t know,” “No” or he wouldn’t answer.

Chris Christie said he’d impose a no-fly zone over Syria where the Syrians and Russians are flying. When asked if he’d shoot down a violating Russian aircraft and risk war with Russia, he said without hesitating (and apparently without thinking), “Not only would I be prepared to do it, I would do it.” He also said he’d fly Air Force One over disputed Chinese islands after China ramped up its rhetoric when a U.S. guided missile destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of the man-made islands.

Marco Rubio claims President Obama is “eviscerating the military.” Presumably he’s unaware that for five years in a row the Congress he’s a part of has enacted a defense budget smaller than what the president has requested.

Ben Carson says there’s no such thing as a war crime, implying he would direct U.S. forces to violate established rules of warfare that would put them at risk under international law. Carly Fiorina claimed she had a private meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin when in reality they met in a “green room” at a conference.

Ted Cruz is a special case who doesn’t understand the war we fought 25 years ago in Desert Storm and the fight against ISIS/L are completely different. He’s said he’d “carpet bomb” ISIS/L, demonstrating he has no idea what the term means. In Desert Storm we did carpet bomb Iraqi forces that were arrayed in the open desert. Back then over 65 percent of the bombs dropped were “dumb bombs.”

Contrast that today where ISIS/L operates among innocent civilians in cities and residential areas. Carpet bombing would indiscriminately kill hundreds, maybe thousands of innocents and is why “smart bombs,” with pinpoint accuracy, comprise 100 percent of the ordinance dropped today.

During last week’s debate Cruz insinuated Obama was responsible for cutting the Desert Storm military from 8,000 aircraft to 4,000 and 529 ships to 272 today. Beside the fact Obama didn’t take office until 2009, Cruz seemed unaware the 1990 Desert Storm military was the force we’d amassed to deter the Soviet Union during the Cold War. When the regime collapsed the U.S. gradually took a “peace dividend” downsizing our military based on the threats we faced. Today’s smaller military is much more capable than it was 25 years ago.

Finally there’s egomaniacal front-runner Donald Trump who’s pledged to rebuild our military and make it the most powerful in the world. Really? And just who has a stronger military right now? He’s also going to close parts of the Internet, stop immigration based on religious affiliation and put restrictions on Muslim Americans. Like Nixon during Vietnam, Trump claims to have a “secret plan” to defeat ISIS/L that he can’t reveal until elected.

All this coming from a guy who gets his national security advice by watching the weekend news shows and who claims during his time in a military high school he received “more military training than a lot of guys that go into the military.” Though he’s never served, Trump denigrated former POW John McCain for being captured. Let’s hope if he’s somehow elected none of your relatives or friends serving in the military become a POW as Trump will look down on them.

Voters should exercise their judgment wisely when evaluating the judgment of the candidates as the stakes are very high this election cycle.

Ken Lynn is a retired USAF colonel. He’s an adjunct online instructor with the USAF Air University.

By Ken Lynn

Contributing Columnist

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