The following is a guest column from Mike Rogers, host of the Westwood One radio program “Something to Think About,” a CNN national security commentator, a Distinguished Fellow at the Hudson Institute, and the past chairman of the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
This Tuesday, as you go to vote in the first-in-the-nation primary, remember that the most important duty of your pick for president is as commander-in-chief of our military. The threats facing the United States are as dangerous as I have ever seen them. The candidate you vote to become our party’s nominee may well become the leader of the free world. With all we face, I hope that you will select a candidate who will repair our relationships with our allies, defeat our enemies, and deter our adversaries while ensuring our prosperity here at home.
After I left Congress at the end of 2014, I founded Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security (APPS) to educate voters on vital issues of national security, and to urge presidential candidates to lay out specific policies on America’s national security challenges. APPS has hosted 26 forums in four early nominating states, eight here in New Hampshire. We have had 14 different candidates talk with thousands of politically active Americans. Granite Staters have been asking complex policy questions of those men and women seeking to be our next commander-in-chief.
APPS has reached out to tens of thousands of voters through forums, email, social media and digital awareness campaigns, because, like you, we know that security is the most vital concern we face. In a recent poll commissioned by APPS, 38% of likely New Hampshire Republican primary voters viewed national security as the most serious issue in this election. Of those polled, 54% cited terrorism as the biggest threat to our way of life. As you vote next Tuesday, be sure to select a candidate that has the character and know-how to lead us through these dangerous times.
Attacks in San Bernardino, Jakarta, Istanbul, and Paris highlight the ongoing struggle against terrorism that make this an issue of global importance. Instability in Yemen, Libya, Syria and Iraq provides safe havens for terrorists to plan, recruit and finance operations. Our current strategy to fight ISIS is clearly not effective enough, as fighters disperse from one targeted region to others. ISIS communications today suggest fighters from Syria and Iraq are migrating to Libya and recruits are being told to avoid coming to the “caliphate.” The next president must have a nuanced plan to defeat, not contain ISIS.
The Iranian nuclear deal has incentivized an arms race in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia and Jordan seeking their own nuclear programs in balance. The deal freed billions in frozen assets for the Ayatollah, the Revolutionary Guard, and the Quds Force and made available billions more in the international commercial market. Meanwhile, Iran is the world’s greatest exporter of terror and is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. troops in Iraq by providing sophisticated IEDs to Iranian-backed militias. The Ayatollah recently pinned “medals of conquest” on the commanders involved in holding our sailors at gunpoint.
The threat from terrorism is great, but our adversaries are also advancing their own interests, at the expense of the United States, our allies, and the neighbors of those aggressors.
China is expanding beyond its coastal waters, building island fortresses in an area claimed by its neighbors, and its military publications talk about creating a naval force capable of projecting power beyond Chinese coastal waters. To that end it is building its second aircraft carrier and building its first overseas military installation in the horn of Africa. Meanwhile, the Chinese army and intelligence services steal billions in American intellectual property through cyberespionage, and then turn those products over to Chinese companies to compete directly against us in the international marketplace.
Russia has proven itself willing to invade and occupy its neighbors to expand its military reach, seizing vital waterways by annexing Crimea, and increasing its territory in the country of Georgia a few years ago. Putin has expanded his presence in Syria, and attacked Syrian and American interests directly by bombing U.S. trained rebel forces fighting against the Assad regime.
The next president will have work to do to repair alliances overseas, while defending us here at home. I hope that you will think “national security first” as you exercise your civic duty this Tuesday.