The Lack of Military Experience Among Presidential Candidates Raises Questions
The number of Republican presidential candidates for the upcoming election is very high. So high, in fact, that for the first GOP debate, the candidates were split up into two sections, with those polling highest being grouped together, and those polling lowest being grouped together. In the group of 10 being polled the highest, not a single one has any military experience. This is unusual, but it also calls into question whether the presidential field at large will have the interest of veterans and the military at heart. In a time when we are facing threats from ISIS, Russia, and the need to artfully work with Iran to prevent them from gaining nuclear capabilities, the lack of military experience in presidential hopefuls may be cause for concern.
In fact, of all the GOP presidential hopefuls, only Rick Perry and Lindsey Graham have any meaningful military experience. Perry served in the Air Force as a pilot in the ‘70s, and Graham served 33 years in the Air Force Reserve, having retired only this year. Significant questions have been raised about Graham’s service, as well as why Donald Trump and Jeb Bush received draft numbers but were never drafted. It has also not been discussed why Dr. Ben Carson and Governor John Kasich never served despite being old enough for the draft. This lack of military experience would not be nearly as concerning if it weren’t for the subsequent lack of military-related discourse since the beginning of the campaigning. Candidates have stayed relatively silent on military matters and veterans affairs in their speeches.
This could have more to do with a lack of significant disagreements among the candidates about required action on military and VA matters, but it may also signal a significant disconnect between the presidential hopefuls and the military and veterans of our nation. You know it’s a bad sign when the only major military or veteran-related issue to come up in the race so far is when Trump said that McCain wasn’t a war hero for being a POW. Instead of this comment being a catalyst in starting conversations about better serving veterans and our military, it was washed away as soon as Trump said something else controversial.
Even among the few Democratic candidates, none of the prominent hopefuls has military experience, with only Jim Webb having military service in his background. While this lack of military experience among the hopefuls doesn’t mean that veterans or the military will be neglected, it does cast shadow on the possibility that we’ll see meaningful veteran and military reform over the next 4-8 years. Unfortunately, even with the VA scandals and other bad press that has come about over the last while, veterans issues just aren’t at the forefront of the majority of Americans’ minds. Immigration has pushed itself to the forefront of the discussion, as well as healthcare and government overreach. These issues are what most Americans are looking to have fixed, and while everyone agrees that veterans issues need to be addressed, no one seems to have any idea where to start.
Beyond talking points and rhetoric, there seems to be no clear plans of action to address the issues at the VA, which may be because no one can figure out the root cause of the negligence and poor care that has come out. It’s much easier to talk about putting up a fence on the mexican border than it is to talk about launching an investigation to figure out the root cause of the VA’s issues and then address them accordingly. There’s a reason mobs grabs torches and pitchforks instead of clipboards and pens.
Hopefully by the time the nominations occur we will have had discourse on the ever-present veterans issues that are defining our military and veterans, so we will have a clear picture of the candidate that will do the best in representing the members of our armed forces.
Even if non-veteran presidential hopefuls can give domestic military and veteran issues the attention they deserve, how will they handle the tricky and complicated military matters of ISIS, Russia, and Iran? Not to mention North Korea and China. We live in an increasingly dangerous world, with threats from many different sources, and military experience can be the tempering that turns an iron president into a steel president.