Unanswered National Security Questions

Washington -- Try as I might to find intelligent commentary on current (and perhaps even urgent) national security issues, there seems to be little public discussion about looming problems as of January, 2017. Who in the U.S. government is working on the following questions?

• Inasmuch as Russia is actively attempting to destabilize Western Europe, what is the U.S. doing to assist our allies such as France and Germany? Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic are already under the influence or control of autocrats friendly to Russia. Will U.S. intelligence about Russian covert activities be shared with potentially vulnerable allies, or will the new, incoming U.S. president, an admirer of the Russian leader, instruct the CIA and NSA to stand down from such cooperation? Has the current president anticipated such a possibility and made advance provisions for other Western intelligence agencies such as Britain's GCHQ to be ready to come to the aid of remaining democracies in Europe?

• Because the incoming U.S. commander-in-chief has unconventional ways of communicating his thoughts and wishes, what is being done to update communication protocols from him so as to prevent the nation's military from committing acts of war (conventional or nuclear) or the breaking of treaties that might be accidental, ill-considered, illegal, or catastrophic? Should procedures be updated to require that a national security briefing of the commander-in-chief must precede any order that would break a treaty or take the nation to war? For decades, it was a given that any U.S. commander-in-chief would be fully briefed before taking national security actions, but this can no longer be taken for granted given the incoming president's stated disdain for such briefings.

• No person in the military can be required to follow an illegal order, but how are those who have taken an oath to protect and defend the country to know the difference between orders that are legal, illegal, or something in between, to carry out a foreign policy of being unpredictable? Whatever the advantages of unpredictability and doing the unexpected to advance U.S. national security, such tactics may confound our own people as much as our adversaries.

Ordinarily, the press would have an opportunity to ask a president-elect such questions in an open press conference, uncomfortable as the questions may be. But these are not ordinary times and there may never be such an opportunity. If I know the war-gamers at DOD and State, they are grappling with these and perhaps even more troubling questions, and likely losing sleep. These are dangerous times.