Donald Trump: The leader who will take us forward

Donald Trump's full National Security speech
Donald Trump's full National Security speech

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Donald Trump's full National Security speech 33:11

Story highlights

  • Keith Kellogg and Michael T. Flynn: This election is an opportunity to elect a president not bound by the policies of the recent past
  • Given his ability to learn and willingness to hold others accountable, Donald Trump is that president.

Lt. Gen. (retired) Keith Kellogg is a national security adviser to Donald Trump. He has served in combat operations in Vietnam, Panama and Iraq and served on senior level staffs in the Pentagon and Europe. Lt. Gen. (retired) Michael T. Flynn is a senior adviser to Donald Trump. Flynn served as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance and chair of the Military Intelligence Board. The views expressed in this commentary are their own.

(CNN)While we respect former Secretary Robert Gates for his service to his country, we disagree fundamentally with respect to his criticism of Donald Trump in a recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal. His incorrect assertion on matters of foreign policy undermines both the significance of this election and Trump's proven track record of leadership.

This is a change election with the opportunity for a true reset by a presidential candidate who is unbound by the policies of the recent past.
    This same past has given us over a decade of war without conclusion, a past that has allowed a fundamentalist radical Islamist terrorist group to grow and metastasize internationally, a past that has contributed to failed states, a past that has allowed our military to atrophy and a past that has our allies questioning our true resolve. A past whose lack of coherent policy has granted 3 million refugees a home in the United States since 1975 and left close to 500,000 dead in Syria in the last five years alone.
    Unfortunately, this is the past, in part, that Gates is associated with.
    If Americans are satisfied and believe that past policies are the shining path forward, then the choice for them is clear. If they believe we can do better, Trump is their man in the room. His desired path is derived from the strength of the American people and Trump's belief that their welfare comes first. It is a path of strength, of consideration and of the future.
    Those that argue differently have been proven wrong in so many ways in the past decade, so why should we give them credence now? Americans should not trust the intelligence and motives of those who, despite senior positions or degrees and credentials, have been so wrong so often. Those who have created or tolerated the foreign policy failures of the past decade are not capable of fixing it.
    Gates' argument is not an argument at all but, once again, an ad hominem attack on Trump with regard to his experience and qualifications. Perhaps a historical perspective of the military experience of past presidents and the civilian-military relationship at the senior-most levels can shed some light on the matter.
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    Implicit in Gates' attack on Trump is either that a nation at war cannot afford for a president to learn on the job or that a potential commander in chief should enter the office with some sort of explicit military or defense experience.
    Of the 43 people who have served as president of the United States, 32 recorded some level of service in either the Continental Army, regular Army, National Guard or Reserves. Of those 32, 23 saw wartime action. Of those 23, only 15 reached the rank of colonel or higher — a rank considered a "strategic leader" or one able to provide professional military advice to civilian leaders, i.e. the president. Of those 15, in modern times, only Dwight D. Eisenhower had senior military wartime experience and faced a major U.S. conflict as president.
    In other words, every other U.S. president -- James Madison during the War of 1812, Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, Woodrow Wilson during World War I, Franklin Roosevelt during World War II, Harry Truman during the Korean War, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War, George W. Bush and Barack Obama during the War on Terror -- had to learn on the job.
    They had never faced commander in chief issues previously. Meanwhile, despite all of Hillary Clinton's vaunted experience, her critical decisions at key points, be it Iraq, Syria, Russia or Libya, have failed.
    Despite Gates' concern, history shows us that every U.S. president has faced a learning curve in the face of armed conflict. Yet for Gates, and perhaps others, a president who actually learns or is open to large scale change is too bizarre a notion — possibly because we have not experienced such a president in recent years.
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    Of those presidents capable of learning on the job, one fact becomes distinctly clear: each president held senior military leadership accountable. Lincoln replaced the commander of the Army of the Potomac several times until he found George Meade and put him in command three days before Gettysburg.
    Leading in to World War II, hundreds of officers were relieved for ineffectiveness and over a dozen general officers were relieved during the war itself. Yet, in the face of several campaign shake ups, Trump has been criticized for removing ineffective staffers and bringing in new advisers, claiming that his is a "campaign in chaos."
    Despite these criticisms, history shows that two traits are indispensable for effective presidents: an ability to learn and the willingness to hold people accountable. Time and time again Donald Trump has shown both of these traits, while time and time again he has faced criticism for the same. A president who listens to advice, learns and changes direction? A president who will hold subordinates accountable? We should be so lucky.
    Actually, we don't have to be lucky. This election season we get to vote, and the choice is clear and is why we support Trump for president.