Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America we will have the opportunity to listen to both presidential candidates on Wednesday evening in a “commander in chief” forum focused on national security, military and veteran issues.
This forum presents an opportunity for both candidates to discuss how we as a country need to fulfil its obligations to our veterans and to layout a clear intent for those currently serving that recognizes our service men and women are still in harm’s way regardless of the current political narrative that seeks to minimize battlefield realities.
Our next commander in chief will assume command of a military whose budgetary strains have reduced its ability to train and fight as they should.
The veteran population has seen the sacrifices made for battlefield gains over the last 15 years squandered away. And just as troubling has been our inability to take care of those who were lucky enough to come home at all. This is a national disgrace, it's no secret, and yet it still is allowed to fester.
We’ve had over a decade of confusion from the White House to the Pentagon to the Battlefield. We’ve had no coherent strategy. We’ve had no clear end-state. We’ve had no consistent guidance, and in a vacuum of clarity, when our leadership has no real idea of what it is we are realistically trying to accomplish, they start to take less risk, and “success” becomes “don’t screw up.”
And while we are still counting the cost of our forever wars in both blood and coin, our men and women in uniform will always be willing to undertake any mission that the American people and our commander in chief ask of them. They deserve to know he or she will unfailingly support them and more importantly, has the capacity to ensure those sacrifices will not be in vain.
Our pattern of following up initial battlefield successes with our intransigent bureaucracy and political gamesmanship is why, after 14 years, we see an Iraq and Afghanistan with little to show for our efforts and sacrifices.
Operation Enduring Freedom, while certainly enduring towards an unspecified end, finds an Afghanistan where the Taliban have been given the freedom to gain more territory since our initial success, which came at the cost of over 2,300 American lives and $800 billion taxpayer dollars.
Operation Inherent Resolve, the muddled sequel to Operation Iraqi Freedom, has been an inherently disjointed effort led by a political leadership resolved to call combat anything but. All despite the recent deaths of American soldiers in direct action, on top of the over 4,000 killed and $1.7 trillion spent already.
We’ve had over a decade of confusion from the White House to the Pentagon to the Battlefield. We’ve had no coherent strategy. We’ve had no clear end-state. We’ve had no consistent guidance, and in a vacuum of clarity, when our leadership has no real idea of what it is we are realistically trying to accomplish, they start to take less risk, and “success” becomes “don’t screw up”.
So…they tighten the Rules of Engagement, they deny air support, they confuse a soldier’s reality with that of a policeman, they listen to the lawyer instead of the warrior. In turn we hear vague clichés like “advise and assist” and “non-combat roles”.
It’s why, until recently 75 percent of bombing runs in Iraq and Syria returned without actually dropping their bombs because they’re more afraid of bad press than the enemy. We pretend that 9,000 soldiers in Afghanistan will make a difference when 100,000 was just starting to see progress. That’s madness and maddening to those who have and do serve this nation in the armed forces.
To say this is an unsustainable path for our country, never mind our military is an understatement.
It is my hope that this Wednesday night we start to see the recognition that it is past time we started to hold our candidates and leaders accountable and that as moderator, NBC’s Matt Lauer demands real answers to the hard questions. We cannot be content with the vague and incomplete “safe” campaign drivel we’ve become accustomed to.
What’s the plan to win the war and keep the peace so that my kids aren’t fighting on the same battlefields against the kids of the enemy I fought?
What does “winning” even look like?
To allow just one soldier to leave his family and head towards the sound of the guns without those answers is a failure.
Every generation of Americans has proved equal to the challenges in our greatest times of crisis. I have seen incredible bravery and heroism from our young men and women…they might be playing video games and texting non-stop one minute… but they’re earning the Medal of Honor the next. It’s time they had a commander in chief they deserve. It's time we had the leader we all deserve.
Benjamin Collins is a decorated U.S. Army Special Forces veteran (Green Beret) who completed multiple combat rotations in support of the Global War on Terrorism. As an expert on national security and foreign policy matters Collins is a regular guest on Fox News as well as a frequent radio show expert on US radio stations from Arizona to NYC and the BBC World Service.