First he fought in Iraq, now he could battle Trump, Clinton

Possible independent 2016 candidate David French

Story highlights

  • Writer and lawyer David French served in Iraq
  • He's criticized both Barack Obama and Donald Trump on military matters

Washington (CNN)David French, eying a run as an independent presidential candidate, has at least one position all to himself: Unlike the Republican and Democratic contenders, he proudly supports the Iraq War.

In fact, he backed it so strongly that he decided to enlist and serve there.
    He has also staked out controversial national security positions ranging from prohibiting women from serving in combat roles to defending the European knights who went on crusades in the Middle Ages against "Muslim jihadists" -- and has sharply condemned Donald Trump for some of the presumptive GOP nominee's policy prescriptions.
    French, who conservative intellectual and Weekly Standard magazine editor Bill Kristol is looking to as a challenger for Trump, said he felt it was his moral obligation to enlist in the Iraq fight.
    Writing two years ago in the National Review, a publication he still works for, French detailed his rationale for joining the military at 36 years of age.
    He said he made the decision in 2005 after reading a series of articles about the war. "It was 2005, and the war was going badly," he wrote.
    French added that in particular it was a story focusing on a wounded American officer, about his age, with a family that compelled him to take action.
    "That's when my conscience stopped me cold," French wrote. "America wasn't too soft to fight a long war. I was too soft. And I had no excuse ... So I enlisted."
    If he does decide to make a long-shot independent bid for the White House, French would also stand out for his military service.
    Trump received education and medical deferments that prevented his being drafted during the Vietnam War, while Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders applied for conscientious objector status during the same period. Sanders' application was denied, but by that time he was too old to be drafted. Hillary Clinton, who is on track to receive the Democratic nomination, has claimed that her attempt to enlist in the United States Marine Corps in 1975 was rebuffed by a recruiter.
    Kristol confirmed to CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel on Tuesday that his search for an alternative to Trump and Clinton has zeroed in on the largely unknown French.
    French, who is also a constitutional lawyer, has not confirmed that he is considering a third-party campaign but took to Twitter Tuesday after word of a possible run circulated to write: "All the normal political rules apply. The conventional wisdom has been right. An underdog can't win. Right?"
    On Wednesday night, French's wife, Nancy, tweeted that her husband "is in Vermont thinking and praying" and she included a video clip from "Lord of the Rings."
    According to French's official record with the Department of Defense, his military career was as follows:
    French joined the Army in 2006, being appointed as a 1st lieutenant into the U.S. Army Reserve. He was part of the Judge Advocate General Corps, the Army's legal branch.
    As an Army reservist, French was deployed to Iraq from November 2007 to September 2008. While there he was assigned as the squadron judge advocate, legal advisor. His service in Iraq earned him the Bronze Star, among other awards.
    He was promoted to the rank of major in 2013 with his reserve obligation ending in April 2014, after which he transferred to the Inactive Ready Reserve.
    At National Review, French has written extensively on military and national security issues.
    In May, shortly after President Barack Obama's visit to Hiroshima, French called America's decision to use atomic bombs in World War II "perhaps the most critical -- and wisest decision -- of any American commander-in-chief in our history."
    During the debate over whether to declassify the 28 pages of a report pertaining to the role of Saudi Arabia and Saudi nationals in the 9/11 attacks, French said, "My general philosophy of the Middle East is simple -- however bad you think the place is, in reality it's far worse. Even our 'allies' will constantly surprise even the most hardened cynic with their mendacity and double-dealing."
    He is a staunch opponent of allowing women to take on combat roles in the military, writing in September, "If you integrate infantry units by gender, more Americans will die, and our enemy will have a better chance to prevail on the battlefield."
    French also slammed Trump in March, shortly after the presumptive Republican nominee suggested he would allow the torture of terrorists and the intentional targeting of their families.
    French tweeted, "Not one person I served with in Iraq would kill a mother and child on order. Not one. It's murder, plain and simple."
    He has condemned Obama's decision to withdraw from Iraq in 2011, calling it an "unpardonable sin," but credited the President with not abandoning Iraq entirely by authorizing anti-ISIS airstrikes -- yet still criticized this "incremental" approach.
    French has called for much more robust military intervention against ISIS, saying that the U.S. should arm the Kurds and that American ground troops should be deployed if they were needed to rout ISIS from Mosul.
    "It's time for the world to see ISIS fighters flee for their lives. It's time for the world to see ISIS flags in flames, stomped on in the streets. Slow-motion warfare has to end," he wrote in the National Review.
    He has also taken on historical military campaigns, at one point defending the Medieval crusades. He wrote that they were launched as a defensive measure to protect Christian kingdoms against "Muslim jihadists."
    He concluded that article by saying, "We owe the Christian knights of Western Europe a great debt. It's time we recognized them as heroes."