All Things Soldier: Can SECDEF Carter Cut It?

3-5-2015 2-02-10 PMGiven yet another well-deserved drubbing on Iranian nuclear proliferation delivered on March 3rd by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, all eyes may not now be on President Obama. Some may understandably lock on to recently appointed Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. It is not in any way unkind to refer to him as a “wonk,” that is, someone who is immersed in the minutiae of science and/or politics. In Carter’s case, it is both. And, it could just work to provide some much needed spine in the High Noon that is coming with Iran.

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By way of background, Ash Carter is no naisant when it comes to nuclear capabilities. As a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, he earned a doctorate degree in theoretical physics and studied sub-atomic particles. He also knows his way around the political world, having been a Pentagon insider for years, and having served as well as a faculty member at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. As a Yale grad, his degrees were in physics and medieval history. Considering the recent description by former UN Ambassador John Bolton of ISIS’ atrocities as “medieval acts of barbarity,” Carter may just have an insider’s view there as well. This is in stark contrast to the miserable foreign policy fiasco of announcing to our enemies that we were leaving in 2010, thus giving them the chance to re-organize as the Islamic State, and just wait us out, which clearly they have done.

He has made several unannounced trips to visit troops in Afghanistan, and he and his wife have made it a point to visit wounded warriors at Walter Reed Hospital on the weekends. He has vowed to recommend that we stay in Afghanistan if ISIS gets traction there, rather than uphold another ridiculous decision to announce to our enemies that we are leaving there in 2016.
In the process of Carter being confirmed, Senator John McCain painted a bleak picture of the Pentagon Carter would be inheriting: “Despite the growing array of complex threats to our security, we are on track to cut $1 trillion out of America’s defense budget by 2021.”

“Readiness is falling across the services, and morale is falling right along with it.”

“Army and Marine Corps end-strength is dropping dangerously low. The Air Force is the oldest and the smallest it has ever been. The Navy’s fleet is shrinking to pre-World War I levels,” McCain also said.

No matter how it goes, Ash Carter is going to have a tough row to hoe. He has made some pretty gutsy statements that do not exactly square with the West Wing, such as an article on North Korea that he co-authored with former SECDEF William Perry wherein they said, “Diplomacy has failed, and we cannot sit by and let this deadly threat mature.” Considering NK’s partnership with Iran, his views published in 2006 are more than timely.

Carter is in a unique position, seeing as he is neither ex-mil, nor has he held any political offices. The lack of military service makes me nervous, because he has no firsthand experience at being trained for battle, but the lack of political experience in the usual sense makes me want to dare to hope that perhaps at last in this Administration we have someone who will both see and tell it like it is, and will stand.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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