Mil­i­tary com­man­ders as pres­i­dents

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Amer­i­cans face a clear choice in Novem­ber, be­tween one can­di­date who has demon­strated ex­cel­lence in one mea­sure of re­spon­si­bil­ity and lead­er­ship, while the other can­di­date’s lead­er­ship and ex­pe­ri­ence cre­den­tials are hard to find.

One can­di­date, of course, has proven his cre­den­tials through mil­i­tary ser­vice, not to men­tion his 25 years in Congress. From my own ex­pe­ri­ence, I can at­test that the cap­tain of a naval ship or the leader of an air­craft squadron is a time-hon­ored po­si­tion. He is given ex­traor­di­nary re­spon­si­bil­ity and au­thor­ity earned through demon­strated per­for­mance, which is eval­u­ated at ev­ery level of his pro­fes­sional ca­reer. He is re­spon­si­ble for main­tain­ing his ship and squadron in a high state of readi­ness so it is ready to carry out any mis­sion as­signed in peace or war. Fail­ure is not an op­tion.

The ship’s and squadron’s op­er­at­ing per­for­mance will be a di­rect re­flec­tion on the lead­er­ship of its cap­tain. He will be held ac­count­able for the proper train­ing and mo­ti­va­tion of his crew to carry out any as­signed mis­sion. A key el­e­ment for suc­cess is a high crew morale. A crew’s con­fi­dence in the cap­tain, which must be earned, is cer­tainly a key el­e­ment.

Com­mand­ing a ship or a squadron re­quires clear di­rec­tion. Ex­pe­ri­ence gained through years of train­ing gives the cap­tain the con­fi­dence and judg­ment needed to make crit­i­cal de­ci­sions that in many cases in­volve life-and-death sit­u­a­tions. There is no Teleprompter or “bug” in your ear to tell you what to do. As cap­tain, you can­not avoid th­ese crit­i­cal de­ci­sions by declar­ing “Present.”

The cap­tain of a nu­cle­ar­pow­ered air­craft car­rier, the most so­phis­ti­cated naval ship in the world, has had at least 22 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in de­mand­ing po­si­tions. He has proven to his peers and su­pe­ri­ors that he is ca­pa­ble of be­ing given the re­spon­si­bil­ity to com­mand this multi­bil­lion-dol­lar ship with a crew of 5,500-6,000 men and women, in­clud­ing an air wing of about 85 air­craft.

One day a fresh-caught en­sign who just re­ceived his com­mis­sion from of­fi­cer can­di­date school re­ports aboard for duty. He is well-groomed, bright and ar­tic­u­late. He holds a mas­ter’s de­gree from a pres­ti­gious uni­ver­sity. He was ed­i­tor of the school’s pa­per. As a ju­nior of­fi­cer he is as­signed to the deck divi­sion for ba­sic in­doc­tri­na­tion and train­ing. Be­cause he is so per­son­able, he is also as­signed ad­di­tional duty as the ship’s com­mu­nity re­la­tions of­fi­cer. Af­ter 145 days aboard, most of which is spent off the ship do­ing com­mu­nity re­la­tions, he ap­proaches the cap­tain and in­forms him he be­lieves he is now ready to re­lieve the cap­tain and as­sume his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. If the cap­tain agreed, you would say “have you lost your mind?” And rightly so.

So why af­ter about 145 days in the Se­nate did the ju­nior se­na­tor from Illi­nois an­nounced he is now ready to be­come the next pres­i­dent of the United States and leader of the Free World and be­come em­braced by mil­lions of Amer­i­cans as the next mes­siah? They ba­si­cally know noth­ing about him or what he stands for, other than he is for “change.” You need to un­der­stand that Barack Obama’s use of the word “change” is a code word for a so­cial­ist re­dis­tri­bu­tion of wealth.

While China and Rus­sia are rapidly mod­ern­iz­ing their mil­i­tary forces, in­clud­ing their nu­clear weapons, Mr. Obama has made clear how he in­tends to cut our mil­i­tary bud­get, leav­ing us at a clear dis­ad­van­tage. His past as­so­ci­a­tions, which in­clude left­ist rad­i­cals and anti-Is­rael Is­lamic groups, plus ques­tion­able fi­nan­cial deal­ings, should be suf­fi­cient cause for con­cern. The Democrats are sad­dled with Mr. Obama. Let’s keep it that way.

The Repub­li­cans have John McCain, whose char­ac­ter has been tested many times and has never been found want­ing. Af­ter com­ing home from the “Hanoi Hil­ton” in 1973, Mr. McCain over­came tor­tur­ous in­juries to re­gain his flight sta­tus, and in 1976 gained com­mand of VA-174, re­spon­si­ble for train­ing A-7 Cor­sair at­tack jet pi­lots.

Dur­ing his year­long com­mand of this squadron with 1,000 per­son­nel and about 75 jets, dur­ing the pe­riod of bud­getary hard­ship fol­low­ing the Viet­nam War, Mr. McCain suc­ceeded in in­creas­ing readi­ness and safety. While this is just a foot­note in the record of ac­com­plish­ments for John McCain, there is just no com­par­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ence of com­mand or re­spon­si­bil­ity in the other can­di­date’s record.

We need a pres­i­dent at this crit­i­cal junc­ture who has the proven strength of char­ac­ter to lead this great na­tion and who can reach deep within him­self to pro­vide the moral lead­er­ship and courage to han­dle any crises this coun­try and our al­lies may face.

The dif­fer­ences be­tween the two candidates is stark. This pres­i­den­tial elec­tion should not even be a close call for the Amer­i­can vot­ers.

James Lyons, U.S. Navy re­tired ad­mi­ral, was com­man­der in chief of the U.S. Pa­cific Fleet, se­nior U.S. mil­i­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the United Na­tions, and deputy chief of naval op­er­a­tions, where he was prin­ci­pal ad­viser on all Joint Chiefs of Staff mat­ters.

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