#087: Warrior Diplomat – Florida Congressman Mike Waltz

Wednesday January 18, 2023

Leadership requires the perfect balance of strength, compassion and unity. For this episode Fran Racioppi traveled to Capitol Hill to sit down with Congressman Mike Waltz; the first Green Beret ever elected to Congress. He represents Florida’s 6th District and is the author of Warrior Diplomat: A Green Beret’s Battles From Washington To Afghanistan. 

The Congressman and Fran define the term Warrior Diplomat and what it means to balance raw power with statesmanship. They break down the division surrounding the 2022 election cycle and provide a first look into America’s 188th Congress; a Congress which will contain over 90 Veterans – the most since the post-Vietnam era. 

Learn more about Congressman Mike Waltz at waltz.house.gov and on social media @repmichaelgwaltzSubscribe to us and follow @jedburghpodcast on all social media. Watch the full video version on YouTube.

Listen to the podcast here


About Mike Waltz

TJP 87 | Warrior DiplomatCongressman Mike Waltz represents North Central Florida, is a Colonel in the National Guard, a combat-decorated Green Beret, former White House and Pentagon policy advisor, a small business owner, an author, and a proud father. He is the first Green Beret to be elected to Congress.

Mike was born in Boynton Beach, FL and grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. He was raised by a hard-working single mother and is the son and grandson of Navy Chiefs.

Mike has served his country his entire life. He graduated from the Virginia Military Institute with Honors, has served over 26 years in the U.S. Army, and is presently serving in the National Guard. After being commissioned as an Army lieutenant, Mike graduated Ranger School and was selected for the elite Green Berets, serving worldwide as a Special Forces officer with multiple combat tours in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Africa. For his actions in combat, Mike was awarded four Bronze Stars, including two for Valor.

During his time in Afghanistan, Mike led the teams searching for deserter Pvt. Bowe Berghdal. Mike was one of the first to publicly call into question then-President Obama’s labeling of Berghdal as a hero and has continued to lead the call for justice on behalf of all the service-members Berghdal’s desertion put in harm’s way.

Mike’s servant leadership continued in the Pentagon as a defense policy director for Secretaries of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates. Mike then went on to serve in the White House as Vice President Dick Cheney’s counterterrorism advisor, where he saw firsthand the difficult decisions the President and his Cabinet must make to protect our national security. Mike’s position in the White House was unique, as he advised the Bush administration on policy he actually carried out in the military.

His experiences as a soldier and a policy advisor inspired him to write the book, “Warrior Diplomat: A Green Beret’s Battles from Washington to Afghanistan,” the proceeds of which continue to benefit the Green Beret and Matthew Pucino Foundations.


Warrior Diplomat – Florida Congressman Mike Waltz

Leadership requires the perfect balance of strength, compassion, and unity. It doesn’t matter where, what, or who you lead. Power and strength never come from only the sword or only the conference table. Leaders need to know when and how to use both. For this episode, I traveled to Capitol Hill in Washington DC, the Heart of American Power. I sat down with Congressman Mike Waltz. He is the first Green Beret ever elected in Congress.

He represents Florida’s 6th District and is the author of Warrior Diplomat: A Green Beret’s Battles from Washington to Afghanistan. He also continues to serve as Lieutenant Colonel in the Special Forces National Guard. The Congressman and I define the term warrior diplomat, and what it means to balance raw power with statesmanship. As a congressman, he walks this by line each day across our foreign policy and within the halls of Congress itself.TJP - EP #087 Mike Waltz Florida-6, Green Beret, Author of Warrior Diplomat

Mike breaks down the division surrounding the 2022 election cycle, and he gives us a first look into America’s 188th Congress, a Congress which will contain over 90 veterans, the most since the post-Vietnam era. Many expected dynamic changes in the way both parties communicate and work together because of the mission focus our veterans bring to the negotiating table. There’s a lot this Congress will tackle.

Mike and I close out our conversation with a lightning round on the top domestic and international challenges. Congressman Waltz is a soldier, a statesman, an entrepreneur, and a leader at home and abroad. Power comes from living the life of a warrior diplomat. Pick up a copy of Warrior Diplomat: A Green Beret’s Battles from Washington to Afghanistan and learn more about Congressman Mike Waltz at Waltz.House.gov, and on social media, @MichaelGWaltz. Read my conversation with the Congressman. Watch the full video version from his office in the capital on YouTube. Subscribe to us and follow @JedburghPodcast on all social media.

Congressman Waltz, welcome to The Jedburgh Podcast.

It’s good to be with you, guys.

Thanks for hosting us in your office. It’s a bright early day in DC. We walked over here and took many pictures of the Capitol. The Capitol is impressive. It ties into much of your story because the Capitol, as a building, signifies the seat of American democracy, but the structure itself is impressive. It’s iconic, and it’s been around for hundreds of years. Within the chambers, the people who serve the nation like yourself are bonded by this idea of diplomacy and having it come together. You have this strength of the building and then the cohesion that’s expected on the inside. You served as a Green Beret.

One of the many nicknames of the Green Berets that we’ve talked about a number of times on the show is this concept of warrior diplomat. You wrote the book called Warrior Diplomat. That chronicles your career first in the military as an Army Special Forces Officer, still serving and then making the transition into politics and the diplomatic field. I bring all this up because in many ways, being in the Capitol, signifies the balance of both these two worlds.

TJP 87 | Warrior Diplomat

Warrior Diplomat: A Green Beret’s Battles from Washington to Afghanistan by Michael G. Waltz and Peter Bergen

It also probably signifies unconventional warfare sometimes, ideologically. I never condone any political violence. There are days when I think Afghanistan was a little bit easier than DC.

It’s about by, with, and through. How do you work by, with and through everybody around?

It’s about by, with and through. There are all kinds of Green Beret themes and what we do in the political space.

In this election cycle of 2022, there are many different topics that we could dig into. There are a few races at this time that are still out there. The House was confirmed as going to the Republican side. The Senate’s projected that it’s going to stay on the Democratic side. Former President Trump has reentered the race for 2024. Divisiveness is at an all-time high. I want to talk about a number of these themes, but my opinion is that we need leaders who can make sense of all of this. We need warrior diplomats. We need Masters of Chaos, another Green Beret theme there. Having written the book Warrior Diplomat, can you define what that term means and why is it important?

Let me give a little more history and context to why I channeled my inner Navy SEAL and wrote a book about my experience.

Every SEAL has a book. Only a few Green Berets have books.

Creative writing and acting are now part of the BUDs.

We’ve had two Green Berets who’ve written books, you and Scott Mann.

I had a more unique experience. I don’t know if a lot of people realize that both the SEALs and Army Special Forces have reserve units. We need to be able to shoot, move, and communicate alongside our active duty counterparts when activated and have all of those skillsets, but we still do the 1 weekend a month and 2 weeks a year training. We have to have a day job. We have to have a civilian career. Through a number of twists and turns, mine turned out to be working for Secretary Rumsfeld, the Defense Secretary in the 2000s, over in the White House for Vice President Cheney, writing the policy on the War On Terror.

The interesting part that made it somewhat book-worthy was that I would get mobilized in between those assignments. I had to be sometimes the only idiot in Washington that had to do the strategy that I helped write and brief the President on. That was during the Warrior Diplomat piece. The fascinating part was taking the uniform back off, putting the coat and tie back on, going back into the White House and saying, “I saw what you were briefed by General so-and-so, the Pentagon, or what have you. They’re full of it. Let me tell you what’s happening on the ground,” and I try to adjust the strategy based on that ground truth.

Likewise, when I was out on the ground, I had a Special Forces company almost a task force along the border. We led the search for Bowe Bergdahl. I’d been in the room when the President said, “I want you to go in this direction. This is what I want you to do.” I’d written the strategy, and then I would find myself out there, and we’re going in the opposite direction. What the book covers is oftentimes the disconnect between policy and what the commander-in-chief wants us to go and what we are doing on the ground. We cover a lot of reasons. We got it wrong in Afghanistan over the last few years. That was a long answer.

The short answer is you always have to have that strategic context in mind, whether it’s putting a bullet on a bad guy’s forehead or engaging a tribal chie. You often find Green Berets find themselves engaging a foreign minister, ambassador, or head of state. You are the representative of the United States of America often in these remote autonomous, whether it’s the middle of Africa or a valley in Afghanistan. You have to have your values and understand the strategic concept of why you’re there, but you also have to be technically and tactically proficient.

We talk about leadership. When you look at the Green Beret mission and you tie that into this concept of warrior diplomat, it’s almost easy to go into a door, pull the trigger, and shoot everybody in the room, but you mentioned, “How do you build rapport? How do you go into an indigenous force?” All the training for Green Beret, it’s about getting into the GB and gorilla base. Will they welcome you? That concept transcends military service. It’s critical in politics, running a business, and establishing relationships. We talk about community a lot.

It’s about building coalitions, having a high emotional IQ, influencing others and aligning your interests. Green Berets have to do it in environments where if they aren’t successful in those things, the folks who were supposedly there to help could turn on us. They would assume to kill us, such as they would their enemies if we don’t convince them that our interests are aligned. It is a high stake. In the political space, those are all of those skills that translate. It’s one of the reasons I’m trying to recruit more Green Berets to run for office at every level, not just in Congress.

It’s about building coalitions. It’s about having a high emotional IQ. It’s about influencing others. It's about aligning your interests.

“It’s about building coalitions. It’s about having a high emotional IQ. It’s about influencing others. It’s about aligning your interests.”

I’m going to ask you about that, but I want to dig a little bit more into this strategy piece because you do talk about it in the book and about Afghanistan. I have here the importance of strategy when we talk about the long-term and not only military strategy but political strategy. You said, “We need a long-term strategy to undermine the ideology of Islamic extremism.” You went on to say that we’re in a multi-generational war because we’re talking about defeating an idea. We got this right as America a long time ago when we looked at World War II and fighting the Nazi ideology.

For the most part, we got it right in the Cold War in taking a long-term approach in fighting Communism. What we’ve seen since the onset of the global war on terror is the initial, “We’re all in. We’re doing everything we can. We’re rallying everybody,” but we’re not mobilized. We’re mobilizing a certain subset of the population. What has been the real difference between how we approach strategy in World War II and the Cold War versus how we look at it now?

To your original point, it is relatively easy to bomb a tank, kill a bad guy, or to take out a leader of an organization. Far more difficult to undermine an ideology, you mentioned how long did it take us to undermine the ideology of fascism or communism. It still exists in some places, but it’s not an existential threat to the United States anymore. Why aren’t terrorist groups running around the world, bombing discos, or blowing up planes like they did in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s based on the ideology of communism? It’s been discredited as an idea. Islamic extremism is even harder and more ingrained because it’s a religious ideology, and there’s no central state. There’s not a capital of Berlin or Moscow to take tangibly.

It is going to take multiple generations. I get asked a lot, “What does victory look like?” I killed multiple heads of Al-Qaeda over the years. There’s a military component and that’s protecting the homeland, but it has to be coupled with the war of ideas. What does victory look like? We’re partially seeing it in Tehran. I often say, “In societies where women are accepted and thriving in business and politics, in civil society, you don’t tend to have an overwhelming extremism problem.”

TJP - EP #087 Mike Waltz Florida-6, Green Beret, Author of Warrior Diplomat

“In societies where women are accepted and thriving in businesses and politics, in civil society, you don’t tend to have an overwhelming extremism problem. “

I’m co-chair of a Women, Peace, and Security Caucus because it is where girls are educated and women are empowered. I had a tribal elder one time in Afghanistan describe his daughters being educated as a doctor and a lawyer from a deeply conservative Pashtun part of Afghanistan. He was sneaking them to India. He described them as his secret weapon against the extremist.

This is much more of a whole-of-society and whole-of-government approach. Soft power is incredibly important. Back to your point on Green Berets, what we’re trained to do is employ all of those things, whether it’s in a valley, a village, or in a broad area of interest. A lot of guys and girls want to go kick in indoors and put bullets on their foreheads. I get that. There is a place for that. You’ve got to maintain pressure, but those are other things that are going to have us win in the long run.

When you bring up success in the long-term strategy, you’ve been very active in the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Here’s another example of where we’ve taken a long-term approach. We’ve worked with Ukraine for a long time. Everybody looks at the short-term of pumping. We’ve pumped billions of dollars into their military structure and have been able to arm and equip them. That engagement to build Ukraine has been going on for a very long time. What we’re seeing is the success of what happens when we, as a nation, look and take a long-term strategy versus Afghanistan where we said, “We got to go.”TJP - EP #087 Mike Waltz Florida-6, Green Beret, Author of Warrior Diplomat

Let’s even go longer further back than that. In the late 1950s, the South Korean military had a higher illiteracy rate than the Afghan military. After the occupation of Japan and World War II, no roads, infrastructure, or military. The government was essentially a dictatorship for decades. Through US leadership and engagement, look at where they are now.

I don’t want anybody walking away, “Waltz said Afghanistan is going to be South Korea.” What we’re talking about is small investments and American leadership around the world in line with our values. The thing that we have, that the Chinese Communist Party or Moscow doesn’t have, is we have friends and allies. Whether it’s us, Japan, South Korea, or Australia. We can go around the world.

Columbia is another example. I hear people pounding the table about the twenty years in Afghanistan, and I don’t disagree, a lot of mistakes, but they don’t realize we’ve been in Columbia for many years with a very small investment with a very high payoff in terms of stability and economic output and a friend and ally in our hemisphere. That’s what we’re talking about more broadly. What I love about the Green Beret mission is you can have 2 or 10 soldiers training 10,000 back to our friends and the Rangers and SEALs, some of the best in the world at finding our enemies. We like to find our friends who take care of our enemies for us and have these bigger strategic effects.

[bctt tweet=”We like to find our friends who take care of our enemies for us.” username=”talentwargroup”]

Why become a Green Beret? You were a distinguished military graduate of Virginia Military Institute. You’ve been 26 years in the Army and tour Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Africa with 4 bronze stars and 2 with Valor. You came in pre-9/11. Why in the first place?

I started out as an armor guy, great things, shoot things, run over things, a lot of fun as a lieutenant, but I saw that later in the career, you’re going to be a glorified logistician to support those beasts. I was attracted to the complexity of the mission. Many people call it unconventional warfare or the PhD of Warfare because of all of those other dynamics. I loved the autonomy of it. As a captain, you may be the Senior US Representative in a whole region of Africa or South America. You need to understand the ambassador’s, four stars’ and the President’s intent, and be able to execute.

You’ll find yourself advising a local national colonel or general and the complexity of it all. One day, you’re doing a medical mission and treating 4,000 villagers. I write about this in my book. One of our coalition Special Forces Allies had sniper teams out looking for a guy for weeks, pooping in bags, and trying not to get exposed. We did a medical mission. The villagers were happy with us that they told us where he was. It was the complexity of it all that I found very attractive.

TJP - EP #087 Mike Waltz Florida-6, Green Beret, Author of Warrior Diplomat

“We like to find our friends who take care of our enemies for us.”

It’s hard too sometimes to get that to translate. We talk a lot about the transition. You do a lot of work with veterans transitioning out of the military into the corporate environment. It’s happened to me. You sit in an interview with a company and they tell you, “Tell me a time when you led people.” This is a true story. It’s like, “I was deployed to Nigeria after Boko Haram kidnapped 200 schoolgirls. There I was with 1 French and 1 British operative telling the Nigerians that we got to do something. They look at you and they’re like, “Do you know what a balance sheet is?” It’s like, “No, but I’ll learn that one.”

It’s those innate skills. You can learn the technical skills, but it’s intelligence, emotional intelligence, autonomy, and all of those pieces. One of the issues with our transition programs and how we apply those skills is they don’t focus enough, frankly, on entrepreneurship especially when it comes to Green Berets and Special Operations Officers.

I’m also very proud of the fact that I joined a startup very early on. There were three of us in our founders’ attic tree with no money. We figured it out. I left the company as CEO to run for office. We had 400 employees, 9 countries, and 20-something states around the United States. It’s that entrepreneurship piece. It’s the, “You have a mission. Figure out how to execute.” That is a unique skill set that we bring to the table.

[bctt tweet=”Entrepreneurship is a unique skill set that we bring to the table.” username=”talentwargroup”]

Everybody thinks you have to have this bright idea. When we talk about entrepreneurship and I’ve talked to a lot of veterans, and we’re building a company. Another Green Beret from the 10th Group and I worked together for a long time. We’re building a company. We’re doing work with the New York State government. We’re certified as a service-disabled veteran-owned small business. It’s him and I at 2:00 in the morning, “Let’s write this proposal.” My take has always been, “Win 1 and 2. Win 2 and 5. We’re 5 and 150. Let’s build a great team of Green Berets.” Now we’ve got three Green Berets.

You tripled in size.

It took two years to win a contract. Now we have it. We’ve put 5 in and we added 2 more positions to existing contracts. You look at it and there are many characteristics that we talk about what Special Forces look for.

Figuring out that business landscape, the contours, is not that different from figuring out the human terrain, the tribal dynamics, where the centers of gravity are, the centers of power, how things operate, and who’s wearing what jersey. I find a lot of fear in risk aversion. I also wrote a whole chapter on risk aversion. Going back to why these wars have been different from previous ones, in previous wars with the draft military, you had every incentive to take every risk. You are there until you won so you could get back home.TJP - EP #087 Mike Waltz Florida-6, Green Beret, Author of Warrior Diplomat

Now a tour overseas is a one-year blip on an otherwise very promising career. The incentive becomes, “Don’t screw it up. Don’t have a base overrun. Don’t lose a sensitive item. Don’t get a bad mark on your evaluation report.” The default action becomes inaction because inaction doesn’t ever get punished. That’s how we found ourselves drifting in these last wars. I’m not saying we go back to an all-draft military, but I think we need to look hard at the incentives in our officer corps because getting promoted and not taking any risks to get there isn’t serving us well.

We put end dates on conflicts before we start conflicts. I remember being in Iraq and you had talked to commanders. They’re talking about pushing the problem to another sector. That’s not, “We’re here until complete.” It changes my attitude of, “We have to destroy the enemy and win the support of the populace, change this, and build this country wherever we are,” versus, “Let me push it over there. In six months, I’m going to be home. It’ll be that guy’s problem until I leave. Hopefully, we don’t have any issues here.”

I want to be clear. I’m not advocating hundreds of thousands of boots-on-the-ground nation-building or any of that stuff. We made those mistakes. We’re talking about a couple of key highly trained Americans that understand how to tap into the resources of the United States should they need them that are going to influence the locals. Back in Ukraine, they’re fighting for themselves. One of the key reasons we had a few dozen Green Berets teaching them how to fight locally rather than the way the Russians do, which is to ask permission from Moscow to be able to move a vehicle.

It’s a very highly centralized and inefficient way of fighting. That’s for a couple of Green Berets since 2014, which have completely transformed that military. They’re fighting for themselves and no US boots on the ground. They’re asking for some beans and bullets. We don’t have a NATO ally that gets sucked in, and then we are obligated to put US boots on the ground. That is a very reasonable investment.

Let’s talk about the diplomat side. You ran for Congress in 2018. US Army Special Operations Command has been around for many years. We had a chance to sit down with Lieutenant General Ken Tovo, Chairman of the Green Beret Foundation and the Commander of the US Army Special Operations Command. Why did it take long for a Green Beret to get into Congress?

I don’t know. I keep waiting. Honestly, we say that out in a crowd for some old veteran from the ‘60s and ‘70s saying, “We’ve checked as widely as we can check.” There have been five SEALs that I tell them it takes 5 of them to equal 1 of us and it works out. The reason I ran, I took Ron DeSantis’ Congressional District when he ran for Governor. A statistic kept gnawing at me that we’d gone from 75% veterans in the 1970s. Three-quarters of the Congress had all served and were willing to put their lives on the line for this country.

TJP - EP #087 Mike Waltz Florida-6, Green Beret, Author of Warrior Diplomat

“In the 1970’s…3/4 of the Congress had all served. The number has gone from 75% to 15% today.”

Some are still in Congress.

A few, but that number has gone from 75% to 15%. From the folks that we’ve checked with is a record-low number of veterans in Congress. That explains a lot of the record amount of dysfunction. I want to be clear. It’s not that we agree on all issues just because we served, but it’s the ethos that we bring. If a few years ago we were all on a ship, a plane, a tank, or a foxhole together, nobody cares about Black, White, or Brown. They certainly don’t care about political parties. I didn’t even know men in my unit’s political affiliation. It’s about the mission, taking care of the men and women to the left and right of you, and moving the ball for America.

That ethos matters. We’re missing it. If we were willing to die for the flag, we’d be willing to take some tough votes. The best relationships I have with Democrats also all served because we’re coming from the same place. I am passionate about recruiting more veterans in the office. That’s just not in Congress. That’s the county commission and state legislatures.

TJP - EP #087 Mike Waltz Florida-6, Green Beret, Author of Warrior Diplomat

“It is a record low number of Veterans in Congress and I think that explains a lot of the record amount of disfunction.”

For readers, you’re not done serving because you went and did 1 tour or 2. Our country needs you and they need that mentality. More broadly, we’ve gotten away from service as a society. I’m not advocating going back to the draft. You don’t have to wear a uniform to serve, but I do think we could incentivize national service.

We’re talking about forgiving everybody’s debt. We’re talking about giving college away. How about you graduate from high school and you serve in a national park, inner-city tutoring, or rural medicine for 1 year or 2, and then you get that benefit from your fellow taxpayers and you learn things like leadership, discipline, followership, teamwork, and you become a far better citizen for it?

We had that in the past. The biggest thing we’re missing is we did it with people who don’t look like us. A World War II veteran that I came to know from Jacksonville, Florida, who grew up in the segregated South, told me he never had any relationship with a person of color. He rounds the corner on his first ship in the Navy, and his bunkmate is Black, and they became lifelong friends. They had that forcing function. We’re missing that now. I’m passionate to get us back there.

TJP - EP #087 Mike Waltz Florida-6, Green Beret, Author of Warrior Diplomat

“Being a politician isn’t the most important thing we’ve ever done. Taking men and women to combat, leading, is. And bringing them home.”

I defined diplomacy as the art and science of maintaining peaceful relationships between nations, groups, or individuals. It’s critical to achieve anything and get anything done. You talked about community. I had the chance to sit down with a former congressman from Pennsylvania and former Secretary of the Army, Patrick Murphy. He had a great quote that I use all the time in our conversation. He said, “You can disagree, but you can’t be disagreeable.”

You talk about the relationship with veterans out, but outside of the veteran group within Congress, and as you look forward to the 188th Congress starting in January 2023, how do you remove this disagreeable attitude that sits in Congress? I ask that question because these are our elected leaders. Our kids and even me as an adult look up to everybody who walks these halls. That attitude permeates society.

1) I want to increase the number of people within our political space that do think and comport themselves like veterans tend to do, but not always. Being a politician isn’t the most important thing we’ve ever done. Taking men and women to combat leading is and bringing them home. That’s one piece. Our media structure and our social media structure have a lot to do with it. It incentivizes bad behavior like why people always slow down and want to watch a car wreck. We have a media structure that only puts the car wrecks up on TV, a social media structure that makes money by the amount of time eyeballs are on the page.

[bctt tweet=”Our media and our social media structures seem to incentivize bad behavior.” username=”talentwargroup”]

The recommendation algorithms take you further down the outrage rabbit hole. I do think we also have a culture of victimhood and outrage that is also being incentivized and that’s growing within our schools. Our differences are highlighted. They’re taught to look through the lens of race. When I was taught to look through look at merit and character that we have to push back on and explain to the next generation why it is about the content of your character that matters and how we have to understand a very checkered past but move forward. All of that comes from service and an educational system that teaches civics.

You can’t be an activist if you can’t name our three branches of government and of how to then enact the cause that you are an activist for through our Republican or Democratic system. You’re never even taught it. When we have polls showing 72% of young people, 18 to 25 can’t name the 3 branches of government, that’s a problem. Media, education, and a sense of service to try to boil it down would get us a long way and political leaders that understand sacrifice. If you’re willing to sacrifice yourself at eighteen years old, you’d be able to sacrifice some grief for taking a vote that may be controversial or may move the country in the right direction.

We’re looking right at about 90 or 91 veterans who are going to serve in the 188th Congress, 79 are going to be in the House, and 30 Army veterans alone in the House representing very well. It’s been the largest influx of veterans since the post-Vietnam era. One of the topics that no doubt will be front and center for this Congress is going to be the future of the military. You said we must identify solutions to depoliticize the military and focus the warfighter on lethality and deterring the enemy, not a woke agenda. What is the current political and societal environment? What is the effect that it’s having on the military, and why is this dangerous?

TJP - EP #087 Mike Waltz Florida-6, Green Beret, Author of Warrior Diplomat

“If you were willing to sacrifice yourself at 18 years old I think you’d be able to sacrifice some grief for taking a vote that may be controversial or may move the country in the right direction.”

One of the reasons we saw many veterans exploding on the scene to run for office this time was Afghanistan and the debacle that was that withdrawal. So many reached out to us afterward and said, “How do I get engaged? Never again,” for all kinds of reasons. Some goodness has come out of that absolute tragedy. Going forward, we need to be focused on things, especially in our military, that incentivize and push unit cohesion, unity, and mission focus.

When I’m having to question the Secretary of Defense at a hearing on why West Point is teaching a seminar titled How to Cope With Your Whiteness and White Rage, taught by a woman who not as a matter of history is saying, “A Republican party platform is one of White supremacy.” That’s a problem. I can’t imagine a special forces team where you’re ordering two operators to charge a machine gun nest. One has been taught he’s an oppressor and the other one’s been taught he’s oppressed. They’re wondering, “Because of my skin color, am I telling one versus horribly divisive?” I feel strongly about that.

The other piece is on gender. We put language into the fence bill to direct the Army to go back to a gender-neutral physical standard. It’s about the job and standards, not skin color, gender or any of those other factors. It’s, “What do we need to have the most effective military members to win the nation’s wars?” If the standard’s unfair, let’s deal with that.

I have to put this caveat. We need to have a very clear-eyed teaching of history, but I also don’t think we can fight racism with more racism. That is the wrong answer. These are highly controversial. I get it. I feel strongly, and the veterans that I’m working with feel the same way. We have to have a military focused on mission because we have never faced a threat environment like we have now with China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and global terrorism overlay with $31 trillion in debt. We can’t keep throwing money at the problem.

That goes to my next question because one of the other major topics that are going to be faced in this next Congress is the peer-to-peer competition that we’re in. We always called it the next battlefield. We always said near-peer, but I firmly believe near-peer is an old term. It is a peer-to-peer conflict that we now face. Where do we need to be focused as we go into the next Congress on combating China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea?

In order to be able to deter, especially in autocracy a dictatorship that is the Chinese Communist Party, not the beautiful, amazing, wonderful Chinese people, but the party, we have to have hard power. They have to look at the United States and say, “This will be too costly to take action. We have to arm our allies,” unlike what we did in Ukraine. I was there and the answer then was stingers, too many javelins, and harpoon missiles which were too provocative and escalatory. This hope isn’t a strategy and appeasement certainly isn’t one that’s ever won.Fran Racioppi and Congressman Mike Waltz

They used to kick you out of class if you briefed the word hope. Remember the captain’s career course? If you said hope in your briefing, you failed and you were out.

Back to our whole of government and society, this is a whole-of-society competition, with the Chinese Communist Party that we’ve never faced as a country before. This is the most dangerous threat we have ever faced in our history because we’ve never faced one that can eclipse us economically and dominate us technologically. That’s the track with the CCP.

What do I mean by that? We may be able to have a carrier or a hypersonic that can match theirs, but they can turn off antibiotics coming to this country. We no longer make amoxicillin, penicillin, and any of those things. We’re totally dependent on China. If we head towards a green new economy and we’re completely dependent on them because they make 90% of the world’s solar panels, that’s an issue.

Getting those supply chains out and back home is critical and something I’m focused on. The last one for all of our shooters out there, look up the element antimony. It’s the key element in the primer for bullets. We used to mine it extensively in the United States. All of those mines and refineries have gone bankrupt because of stringent regulations and environmental laws. Guess what the three countries now produce antimony? Russia, Tajikistan, and China.

For the DOD to have ammunition, we’re dependent on them. That’s an issue. We’re creating now a strategic minerals stockpile like our strategic petroleum reserve. These are the things that we have to dig into as from an oversight standpoint in Congress. Otherwise, the bureaucracy keeps on keeping on. Back to your point on China, if they can turn those things off, a lot of Americans will question whether it’s worth the sacrifice to go to Taiwan and defend Taiwan.

Why does that matter? If you overlay the map with global shipping lanes, if the CCP takes Taiwan, not only is it 90% of the world’s most advanced computer chips, it is the trade routes into Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Southeast Asia. They essentially will control 50% of the global GDP. That turns us into that we are no longer a superpower. Chairman Xi’s stated goal is to be a global superpower by the end of his term. This is going to go down in the next several years. We’re in the conflict. The big one is coming. We need to get ready.

I was having that conversation with my business partner who is another Green Beret. He said that because we were talking about the topics that we were going to talk about now. One of the things he said was, “We’re on the verge of something.”

There are days I feel like, “Is this how a member of Congress felt in 1936 or 1937?” We can see it all coming. The CCP has the ability to defeat us economically way before it comes to any type of military conflict where we step aside like the Soviet Union did and throw their hands up and say, “We can’t compete anymore.” That’s how they plan to dominate. We need to wake up to that fact. Everybody out there, when you see Made In China, put it down. Made In America is not just a jobs issue. It’s now a national security issue. It is our money that is funding their military buildup.

TJP - EP #087 Mike Waltz Florida-6, Green Beret, Author of Warrior Diplomat

“The thing with the CCP is they have the ability to defeat us economically way before it comes to any kind of military conflict.”

We talked a lot about international diplomacy. We talked a lot about countries where we have to figure out what our relationship looks like going forward. Can I do a quick lightning round with you on domestic policy? I’ll throw out the topic and you give me the top line of what do we need to do. Inflation.

Energy. Everything has to be moved. We need to unleash the American energy we had a few years ago. We are blessed with abundant cleaner than any other type of gas in the world, natural gas here. That’s fine if we’re going to transition parts of our country, but energy and nuclear should be a key part of that.

Gun violence.

That is a bigger issue of poverty and stability in our city than it is necessarily just the gun. That is a broader issue of crime than it is just the instrument of that crime. A lot of the same people have been running our inner cities for decades that have created a culture of dependency. The poverty rate since the 1960s remained flat. It didn’t improve despite the billions we were throwing at all kinds of programs until about 2015 or 2016 when it declined by 30%. We need to look at how we incentivize people and how we rising tide lifts all boats rather than this culture of government dependency we’ve created

[bctt tweet=”Gun violence is a bigger issue of poverty and stability than it is necessarily just the gun. It’s a broader issue of crime than it is just the instrument of that crime.” username=”talentwargroup”]

Illegal immigration.

Secure our border. First, you cannot go to legal immigration reform. If you fixed it all, but you have a wide open border, you’re right back in the same boat 1, 2, or 3 years from now. You cannot have a sovereign nation without borders and then we can go to tougher conversation of how we fix the broader issue.

TJP - EP #087 Mike Waltz Florida-6, Green Beret, Author of Warrior Diplomat

“You cannot have a sovereign nation without borders.”


In my view, this is a debate on when life begins. Does life begin and deserve to be protected one week into the womb? I would argue yes. How about 2 weeks or 2 months? Most Americans would argue they’re against late-term. Where most states have settled now is science is very different than in the 1970s. We know with precision when a heartbeat begins, and when an infant can feel pain. I would argue that it is somewhere within there that most Americans would settle.

There are a lot of conservatives that would argue it’s the second of conception. That’s the debate because no woman would argue I would think that it is their choice to terminate a child the minute it’s out of the womb. The minute it’s in, you have that right. I would argue that that child has a right to be protected and to live. That’s where we have to settle.

Newt Gingrich told me that our elected leaders are not incompetent. They have specific agendas regardless of what side you fall on. We have very smart people who have done amazing things in their careers on both sides of the aisle. There are two very different opinions of where America needs to go from here. Where is America in a few years?

You said agendas and I would put that as philosophies going forward that you bring to this position that is such an honor. 1) 800,000 people that elected me are the boss. A lot of politicians lose sight of that. 2) The number one job of the Federal government is to keep the country safe, which is security. Almost everything else, whether it’s education, housing, or environmental issues is better handled at the state and local levels. Things are different in Daytona Beach than they are in Montana or Downtown LA. One of those local officials can secure our borders, our cities, and America’s place in the world, which is our economic future.

Foreign policy and those kinds of issues don’t often rate the highest in the polls. Our domestic issues all stem from that sense of security. Security is the oxygen you need in the room for economic prosperity, for families to prosper, and for future generations to prosper. I don’t think those things have ever been at risk like they are. It’s why we need more veterans who understand those issues.TJP - EP #087 Mike Waltz Florida-6, Green Beret, Author of Warrior Diplomat

If I had gone to a town hall a few years ago and said, “I’m going to talk to you about energy policy and security,” their eyes would’ve rolled in the back of their head, “What’s this guy talking about?” Now we see how that affects our everyday lives, how it’s interconnected around the world, and why it takes American leadership backed by American diplomacy in the US military being strong and capable. That’s critical to our ability to get to work and to live.

As we close out, the Jedburghs in World War II in their mission had to do three things every day to be successful. They had to be able to move, shoot, and communicate. Habits and foundations, if you will. If they could do these three things with the utmost precision, their focus and attention could be on more complex challenges, like defeating the German Army. What are the three things that you do every day to set the conditions for success in your world?

I’m tempted to answer with the three rules with Special Forces, which is a joke, but half some truth in them. 1) Always look good. 2) Be the most technically tactically proficient. Always know where you’re going, where you are, and what’s going on, and have the right equipment and focus. 3) When you’re completely lost, you have no idea where you are, you’re all screwed up, the plan hasn’t gone as you thought it would go back to number 1) Always look good. That sounds like an SF joke, but when you’re in the middle of nowhere, and you’re surrounded by tribesmen who will soon kill you as they would your mutual enemies, that matters.

In all seriousness, for this job, I spend hours every morning reading and trying to be the most proficient that I can be. Those 800,000 Americans that elected me deserve that. 2) Always bring humility to this position and any position of power. I call it servant leadership. I’m a Christian. Jesus walked this Earth with strength, but also with humility. 3) I look in the mirror every day. I try to get a run in or some PTN. I wear one of the bracelets that many of us wear, minus for Staff Sergeant Matt Pacino, Green Beret we lost in 2009.

I look in the mirror and tell myself to be worthy. Every American needs to look at themselves in the mirror, “As citizens, are we worthy of those who died for us and who are out there right now willing to die for us? As political leaders, citizens, business leaders, or husband and wife, are we worthy of that sacrifice?” That’s something that I try to do every single day.

Read, be the most proficient that you can, bring humility, exhibit servant leadership, be worthy, and look cool regardless of this situation.TJP - EP #087 Mike Waltz Florida-6, Green Beret, Author of Warrior Diplomat

If all of that fails, at least look confident.

We talk about the nine characteristics of a lead performance that special operations forces use to recruit, select and assess talent, drive, resiliency, adaptability, humility, integrity, curiosity, team ability, effective intelligence, and emotional strength. To be a warrior diplomat, you have to exhibit all of these. You’re going to be challenged every single day on whatever you do as you walk the halls of Congress. At the end of these conversations, I usually pick one of these and I say that in our conversation, my guest exhibits this one more than something else. Every once in a while, I can’t pick.

I say, “What you’re doing here requires all of them.” You firmly fall into that bucket because we are in a critical time for our nation. We’ve spent many years talking about the military. The military is going to fall a little bit below the fold. Our job is to keep it relevant. The battle that we face now is in the halls of these buildings. We need competent leaders who are willing to make hard decisions, put the mission first, create community, reduce divisiveness, make America the greatest country in the world, and retain our status as the primary superpower in the world.

I appreciate everything that you’re doing. Thank you much for inviting us here and spending some time with me.

God bless. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s also the most rewarding. We spend our lives defending this republic to be a tiny piece of it. It is the honor of a lifetime. Thank you so much.


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