On Monday as you go to caucus, remember that the first duty of your pick for president is as commander-in-chief of our military. The threat matrix arrayed against the United States is as bad as I have ever seen it, and our relationships around the world with our allies are the weakest they have been in years. The name of the candidate you write on your caucus ballot may soon be leader of the free world, so remember that without safety here at home, and peace abroad, our prosperity cannot be assured.
After leaving Congress last year, I founded Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security (APPS) to educate Iowans on vital issues of national defense, and urge presidential candidates to go behind campaign talking points and deeply discuss the threats facing us. APPS has hosted 26 forums in four early nominating states, eight in Iowa alone. We have had 14 different candidates talk with thousands of politically active Americans who are asking tough questions of those men and women seeking to be our next president.
We have also reached out to thousands of caucus goers and voters through social media and digital engagement, because we know that national security is the most critical issue we face today. Iowans agree. In a recent polling commissioned by APPS, 44% of Iowans see national security as the most serious issue in this election, with 60% citing terrorism as the biggest threat this country faces. Be sure that as you caucus, national security is your first priority; choose a candidate that has the temperament and experience to lead us through dangerous times.
Recent attacks in San Bernardino, Jakarta, Istanbul, and Paris, and continued threats from terrorism make this an issue of global importance. Instability in Yemen, Libya, Syria and Iraq provide safe havens for terrorists to plan, recruit and finance operations. Our current strategy to fight ISIS is clearly not effective enough, and the next president must have a detailed plan to address this failing.
The Iranian nuclear deal has incentivized an arms race in the Middle East, and freed billions in frozen assets for the Ayatollah, the Revolutionary Guard, and the Quds Force. Iran is the world’s largest state exporter of terror and is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of our troops in Iraq by providing IED materials to militias.
The threat from terrorism is great, but our “peer competitors” are also advancing their own interests, at the expense of the United States, our allies, and the neighbors of those aggressors.
China is expanding beyond its coastal waters, building island fortresses in an area claimed by its neighbors, and its naval publications talk about creating a blue water navy to project more power outward. To that end it is building its second aircraft carrier. China is also establishing its first overseas military installation in the horn of Africa. Meanwhile, the Chinese army and intelligence services steal billions in American intellectual property through cyberespionage, and then turn those products over to Chinese companies to directly compete against us in the international marketplace.
Russia has proven itself willing to invade and occupy its neighbors to expand its military reach, seizing vital waterways by annexing Crimea, and increasing its territory in the country of Georgia a few years ago. Putin has expanded his presence in Syria, and shown a willingness to attack Syrian and American interests directly by bombing U.S. trained rebel forces.
The next president will have a world to help repair, while defending us here at home. It is your responsibility to help choose that next commander-in-chief. Think “national security first” as you exercise your duty on Monday.