Suddenly, the Paris attacks make us want to know who, exactly, is advising the would-be presidents on the world they want to lead and the dangers it contains.
Retired Army Major General Bob Dees has been around and done a few things.
Call up Wikipedia and look him up. I don’t have the space to list his accomplishments or his expertise, but he could serve on any board of any publicly traded company to the great benefit of its shareholders. He is, as is the case with almost every two-star and higher retired military, almost light-years ahead of the average civilian in understanding the dangers of our new world.
General Dees is also Ben Carson’s senior adviser on defense and national security affairs.
I was introduced to him by Armstrong Williams, Carson’s business manager and close friend. “Call him and ask him about Dr. Carson’s grasp of national security matters,” Williams had directed me during our meeting a fortnight ago, moments after he had dialed up the general to ask him to speak with me about Carson’s suitability to serve as commander-in-chief.
So I did. After some phone tag and traded DMs, we finally connected Thursday.
Carson has spent a life in medicine, I began by noting. You as a professional and me as a pundit have spent our lives following national security matters. “How does he catch up,” I asked, noting that the decades and decades of reading and writing the general and his civilian counterparts had spent on the world and not on medical science created a huge learning curve for anyone, even a renowned pediatric neurosurgeon.
“Its not a matter of ‘catching up,'” replied the genial, straightforward Dees.”He needs to load his data banks, and he is doing so.”
Speaking as a military professional of extraordinary achievement, Dees then surprised me by saying that rather than someone who came to the White House steeped in the jargon of Pentagon ways, “I would much rather have, as a national security professional, I’d like to have a thinking commander-in-chief [who] can come up with thinking, common-sense solutions.”
“He has the right reflexes,” Dees continued, and “I’d rather have a thinking candidate than one who can reel off five bullet points.”
“What is the threat? What drives it?” Dees said, describing the now frequent briefings he is giving the candidate. On the level of defense spending how much will Carson advocate? “We are probably in the middle [of the various proposals for a Pentagon rebuild coming from the GOP field.]” We need somewhere around $600 billion a year. We have to repay the Obama cuts, undo the damage of the sequester.”
“With that minimum investment,” he was quick to add, “we also need reform. What are we going to do on the cost overrun problem? We can’t take old solutions there.”
I pressed Dees with a hypothetical: If I asked Carson at the Las Vegas debate where, say, our three deployed carrier groups ought to be right now, could he answer coherently?
Yes, Dees assured me, and he would know that to have three or four operation groups you have to have a minimum of 10, with the rest at some point in the readiness/overhaul spectrum, and that we have a very real carrier gal right now.
Dees then took some time to bring me up to speed on his view of the world’s most challenging hot spots, the places where we should have a carrier operational at this moment, though of course that might change by the time I am asking questions of the candidates on 12/15 or 2/10. What matters to me, to the reader, to the GOP primary voter, should be Dees’ assurance that Dr. Carson Is “a lifetime learner” and that he has for months now been throwing himself into the complex thicket of defense and national security issues, and has assembled a team led by Dees to get him up to speed and keep him there.
“I would welcome a commander-in-chief like Dr. Ben Carson,” concluded Dees, which is the sort of endorsement from the sort of man that every would-be president needs. The GOP has to look behind every would-be nominee for their men and women like Dees. They have to be there. And they have to be accessible.
This column was originally posted on WashingtonExaminer.com.