As someone who has been involved in national security my entire adult life, I will be the first to tell you that I’m biased, I have to think about foreign policy, international affairs, threats to the homeland and more all the time. That has been my reality since working at the Pentagon during the Clinton Administration. Thankfully, not everyone has to concern themselves with some of the truly awful realities of a dangerous world on an ongoing basis.
But candidates for the United States Senate should have to. And voters should have an opportunity to hear how candidates think about the gravest of our national concerns before making a decision about who to vote for.
This year’s candidates to represent Wisconsin in the US Senate – incumbent Tammy Baldwin and State Senator Leah Vukmir have faced off in a pair of hour long debates recently without being asked a single question about national security or war and peace. It’s not the candidates fault, but it’s wrong. And there is only one chance remaining to right that wrong – in their final debate this Friday, October 19th. Here is just a sampling of what voters should get the opportunity to hear their next US Senator discuss their thinking on.
1. Google CEO Eric Schmidt has stated that China will dominate the United States in the industries of artificial intelligence by the year 2030. The implications of that possibility will have consequences both on our economy and on our national security. How concerned are you about the potential for an “AI gap” militarily with an ascendant China? And what role should the US be playing as new technologies like artificial intelligence continue to reshape the battlefields of the future?
2. President Obama signed the Iran deal in an effort to prevent them from developing nuclear weapons. President Trump is currently negotiating with North Korea in an effort to prevent them from developing nuclear weapons. Partisan critics of each Commander-in-Chief have criticized their respective approaches even though they both boil down to diplomatic efforts towards a goal we can all agree makes sense. What is your position on each of these diplomatic engagements and if called on to ratify them as formal treaties in the Senate, how would you vote?
3. The only invocation of Article 5 of the NATO charter came after the 9/11 attacks. If Russia were to continue their encroachments upon the sovereignty of nations and threaten to, or physically invade NATO member countries such as Estonia or Latvia – would you support invocation of Article 5 and bringing American military might to bear against such an incursion?
4. Seventeen years ago this month the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan began in the wake of 9/11. There hasn’t been a day since when American service members weren’t deployed there. Is this war winnable? What conditions would you need to see before we could bring those women and men serving in theater home?
5. How important a metric of success is denying ISIS a physical caliphate to you in the war against violent extremism? When you think about countering violent extremism broadly, and preventing the terrorists of tomorrow from ever taking that first step towards a life of violent extremism – what should America be doing globally to counter this threat?
Unfortunately, our next Senator is going to have to grapple with at least one, if not all, of these questions in the next six years. More importantly than how they answer any of these questions this week though is the insight any discussion at all in a debate format would give into how they think about our role in the world. These questions are all ones we know matter. The harder problems will be the ones we’re not yet aware of.
What a shame it would be to deny voters a window into the worldview of these capable, qualified women seeking to represent us in such times.
John Rogers was a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. He is the CEO of RL Leaders which works with the national security community and those from the creative arts community in bringing new perspectives and holistic approaches to protecting American interests at home and abroad. He is also the founder of Capstone National Partners, a full-service government relations firm running advocacy campaigns in Washington D. C. and Milwaukee WI.