Policy makers might think national security is an area of expertise. As opposed to a life lived. Many SOFREP readers have lived and experienced our Foreign Policy, its actors and understand the atmosphere. Most importantly, they know how politics can affect all of it on the ground. But this knowledge ingrained is not necessarily valued by policy makers who believe they can visit programs and read reports and come away with the same understanding. That’s like thinking you could marry someone solely based off a questionnaire without taking the time to understand them.
To live and experience life at the knife’s edge is exactly that, an experience, not a theory. Herein lies the fundamental problem of politics and its servants on the foreign policy and defense positions. They’re practicing something with a similar understanding as they have of the world in Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. There’s history; it’s real – but they’ve never touched it.
The chasm between the ground and the higher level of government is a frustrating reality of the political arena. We need more veterans to get involved. I have deep respect for think-tank giants like Fred Kagan, who actively contribute and have gone abroad and experienced foreign policy and war at work in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Many however, lack that fortitude. We see this play out time and time again as politicians gather talking points from people who have lived and worked in D.C. their entire lives. The result is, sometimes, we’re going to bomb the sh*t out of them or disarm them with democracy and hugs. Both are equally disillusioned and reveal a misunderstanding of war and the current state abroad.
We need more veterans to call their congressman, visit D.C. Don’t settle for the staff assistant who answers the phone – ask to speak with whoever handles a particular issue. For SOF and Military related issues, please, talk to your member’s military legislative assistant and discuss the upcoming NDAA and extend your experience. Help them understand the end user – the operator. Without extra help, each member might miss something that could improve operations. If no one tries, the legislative assistant’s opinions might be formed by the media, hearsay, rumors and whatever they’re told. But, not by ground truth.
If nothing else, a holistic perspective lacks. Staff and Congressional delegations visit projects and receive dog and pony shows. That doesn’t somehow give them insight to anything other than being told what they want to hear. Because otherwise it might take too long and be far too complicated to explain in a visit. After all, the American voter seems to be more pre-occupied with jobs, the economy, and healthcare than foreign policy. It’s tough for their elected representatives to have a different focus.
To me, foreign policy is the de facto charter of a modern president. Foreign policy ultimately affects our economy and our people in the long run to a greater extent than domestic policy, which can be amended. Fractured relationships and loss of influence cannot be altered over a congressional year. But appropriate funding, encouraging new, albeit disruptive, technology to improve our effectiveness overseas and a better understanding of servicemembers is needed and could be enhanced by a more constant dialogue with members of Congress.
Featured image courtesy of www.fixthedebt.org.