The Commander in Chief Test

Philip O’Connor invites you to “Take the Commander in Chief Test” at TCS. It has several questions from the War for Independence through a hypothetical in 2004. A sampling:

Ike in June 1944. Your weatherman tells you he sees a break in the bad weather and a narrow window for your landing forces to get on to the beaches of Normandy. You hope, but can’t confirm, that Allied disinformation has convinced Hitler the real invasion will be north — at the Pas de Calais. Do you risk a quarter million troops and the possibility of a stalemate in Europe? Or do you say, “Let’s go,” rather than wait another month or two for D-Day?

Ike in late December 1944. Intelligence says the Germans are on the run, low on gasoline and ammo. The men deserve a break and many officers want leave for Christmas in Paris. How can the Germans possibly break through the dense Ardennes Forest? And, knowing what we know from test question #1, the Germans don’t like to fight on Christmas. Do you go ignore the intelligence and figure that Hitler will try to catch YOU with your pants down and inflict on the American Army its worst-ever disaster?


JFK (the original one) in the Fall of 1962. The intelligence community gives you aerial photos they believe show Soviet missile installations being built in Cuba. But they do not know how close they are to being operational, whether they are armed with nuclear warheads or whether the crews and workers are Soviet. Do you go on national TV, deliver a withdrawal ultimatum, threaten mass retaliation and set up a naval quarantine, thus risking World War III? Or do you quietly work behind the scenes at the UN, get more information and try to convince the Soviets they’ve done the wrong thing?

President Bush in early 2003, just months after 9/11 and anthrax. The Clinton administration had indicted Osama bin Laden, citing ties to Saddam Hussein and had bombed a suspected al Qaeda bio-weapons plant in Sudan with ties to Iraq. Czech intelligence insists that 9/11 plotter Mohammad Atta met with Iraqi intelligence in Prague. UN weapons inspectors are being frustrated in Iraq. British intelligence says that Saddam was trying to buy uranium in Africa. Saddam had invaded Kuwait a decade before and had used chemical weapons on his own people. One of the perpetrators of the first World Trade Center bombing had taken refuge in Baghdad and families of Palestinian suicide bombers were paid by Iraq. The CIA Director, originally appointed by Clinton, tells you “it’s a slam dunk” that Saddam has WMD. The French, strongly opposed to war with Iraq, say their intelligence service believes Iraq still has WMD. Russian President Putin, opposed to war with Iraq, tells you that Russian intelligence believes Iraq has plans for terror assaults on the U.S. Most of the CIA’s human assets in Iraq have been discovered and murdered. Do you wait to get more spies into the country to confirm the other intelligence? Or do you go to Congress for a resolution supporting the use of force and then use force?

Aside from Ike not being commander-in-chief in 1944, some interesting questions to ponder.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.