Letter to the Editor: Suggestions for Just Security’s Questions to the Presidential Candidates

I like the idea of Just Security‘s listing questions for the presidential nominees. As you ran them again before last night’s debate, and presumably may run them at subsequent times, I thought you might care for some suggestions:

Veterans Issues

  • It’s interesting that veterans issues are first, and within them, sexual assault. Certainly sexual assault remains an issue within the military, but statistically significantly less so than in college campuses or civil society writ large.  But I suspect we can agree that being less bad in response isn’t where we want the military to be. I think the broader question sexual assault has highlighted is the role of military commanders in military justice. I would consider reframing the sexual assault point to one on whether the candidates believe commanders, military lawyers, or some other entity should exercise prosecutorial discretion.
  • I think your question about vets and depression, anxiety, and PTSD unintentionally reinforces the stereotype of vets as needing mental health services. I would suggest changing the reference to “many” veterans to “some.”
  • The vet suicide question reflects statistical misperceptions. When you factor in that a majority of vets are white males, comparing the vet suicide rate to the general population does not seem the best comparison, its white males in the general population.  The vet suicide rate is thus not as starkly disparate as reported. That said, suicide in general remains a large problem for the US writ large.

Partnering

  • On partnering with foreign forces; what about adding a question related to those partner forces violating International Humanitarian Law? This could tie into investigations, transparency, accountability.

Lethal Autonomous Weapons

  • Referring to lethal autonomous weapons as “killer robots” is not framing the issue for substantive discussion/debate. I would refer to them as the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons does, lethal autonomous weapons.
  • Finally, what about adding one or two questions related to law enforcement use of UAVs and robotics? Do the candidates support domestic US law enforcement using unmanned systems? What about arming those systems as the Dallas police recently did?

 

About the Author(s)

Chris Jenks

Assistant Professor at the SMU Dedman School of Law, Formerly Served in the United States Army, Former Chief of the Army’s International Law Branch in the Pentagon Follow him on Twitter (@ChrisJenks_SMU).