As a former senior policy adviser to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Dr. Lani Kass knows better than most the importance of our leaders’ having a strategic vision.
That goes double for whoever wins the presidential election.
Writing an open letter to the next president of the United States, Dr. Kass explains:
This week you will have been the one chosen by the American people to place your left hand on the Bible on January 20, 2021, raise your right hand, and “solemnly swear to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”
This may be your first time assuming this great responsibility, or you may be continuing in this role.
In either case, this letter humbly offers a framework for how you should think and act from that day forward. Inaugurations are always an opportunity for a new beginning and refocusing.
The Constitution sets out, clearly and unambiguously, the priorities on which you must focus: “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”
Values and strategic coherence matter — now more than ever. You should develop a clear intellectual roadmap and explain to the electorate how you would approach the challenge of providing for America’s security and prosperity.
You will take office at a unique inflection point: an intersection of history and destiny, with many lives and livelihoods in the balance. The clock cannot be rewound, and the conditions you will inherit at home and abroad will be your inescapable starting point.
The Constitution vests you, the president, with the dual role of chief executive and commander in chief. Invest time in understanding the institutions that will serve you or they will hinder your progress through bureaucratic inertia.
Being America’s Commander-in-Chief is probably the most awesome responsibility in the world. Understanding our nation’s military — its values and ethos, how it operates, its capabilities, as well as its limitations, is a never-ending process, for non-traditional incumbents and the most seasoned politicians alike.
Continue learning all you can about the military — its capabilities, its role in the national security architecture, and its values and ethos. Strive to earn our service-members’ trust, not merely their obedience.
Unleashing the dogs of war is truly an act of kings. Remember that Congress declares war and commits the nation to a fight. Seek their advice and consent, or they will stymie you at every step. Do not commit force unless you are fully committed to win.
You owe it to those who would sacrifice life and limb — and their families — to ensure the cause is just, the mission achievable, and the resources sufficient to the task at hand.
Besides providing our soldiers with exceptional equipment and clear directives, it is imperative to the success of their objectives in a constitutional republic to have the people’s support.
Make sure the American people fully understand the nature of the fight and the value of the objective — in both magnitude and duration. Without candor on all fronts, political support will evaporate when you need it the most.
It is impossible to win unless you lay out clearly what is at stake. Sun Tzu’s admonition to “know the enemy and know yourself” is as resonant today as it was when it was first written millennia ago.
Never trivialize or equivocate when it comes to declarations of hostile intent. Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto were both initially dismissed as delusional ravings.
The ensuing cost was millions of lives, two continents in ruins, and repercussions still felt around the world.