'When the military becomes politicized, nothing good can come of it': Retired Marine

"This Week" three veterans discuss President Trump's recent intervention in three military war crimes cases.
9:30 | 12/01/19

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Transcript for 'When the military becomes politicized, nothing good can come of it': Retired Marine
We woke up today incredibly stunned and awed by the president's generosity. I can't tell you enough how much I appreciate president trump and vice president pence. I don't know how many times I thanked the president. He keeps stepping in and doing the right thing. I don't think he really understands the full definition of a war fighter. A war fighter is a profession of arms. A profession of arms has standards that they have to be held to and they hold themselves to. That was major Matt Goldstein, first lieutenant Clint Lawrence and Eddie Gallagher, three service members whose war crime cases prompted the unprecedented interference of president trump leading to the firing of the Navy secretary. Issuing pardons is the legal right of the president. Was it the right thing to do? What is the impact president trump made? I sat down with three veterans to discuss. I'm colonel Dave Lapan. I spent 34 years in the Marines. Three DI deployments Afghanistan and Haiti. I'm Dr. Kyleanne hunter. I hold a phd from the Corbell school. Commander Kurt Laport. I was a 26-year Navy veteran serves on cruisers and destroyers. I was the commanding officer of "Uss Cole." I want to start with the quote from fired Navy secretary Richard Spencer. He said this was a shocking and unprecedented intervention. It was a reminder that the president has very little understanding of what it means to be in the military, to fight ethically or be governed by a uniform set of rules and practices. Your reaction? I agree on both points. The president did reach down into the chain of command in an unprecedented way. This is the latest example we've seen from the president that shows he has very little to no understanding of the military that he professes to love. Commander, you think the president did the right thing? I think he did. When I looked at the decision he made, you have to look at how the military justice system was performing. It was absolutely failing. You had to have a prosecutor relieved. The president made it clear he was disappointed the way the system was working. He wants to back this troops on the ground. This is disconcerting to senior officers. While it is unconventional, what secretary Spencer said and how he said it, it was wholly inappropriate. It made him seem petty after his relief for cause or firing by the president. Dr. Hunter, your reaction? One of the things that's important to think about with this is rules of engagement is an important system put in place for a reason. The boots on the ground, the individuals making that split decision to take a life, to not take a life, to pull a trigger, to not pull a trigger, need to know the rules are there and they mean something. An intervention that challenges or questions the way these rules are enacted is troubling. It sends very concerning messages to what is a very serious decision. I want to go to one of the president's tweets. He said we train our boys to be killing machines and prosecute them when they kill. It was an inappropriate statement. When you say something like that the president isn't grasping they are professionals. They have a set of rules to follow. While they're trained to be ruthless killers, they do it within the bounds of the rules and the rules of engagement. Doctor, explain to people who don't know what is good order and discipline about why that is so important and why it's so important you have discipline and in so many ways it's that moment when you can shoot or not shoot that the good order and discipline comes to bear. Absolutely. Everybody who is here can speak to real life examples of where this became so important. In the military we're expected and trained and we are required to do things that go very counter to human nature. We run towards conflict. We lean into it. It's not easy. It's not in our normal nature to do it. So to do it and not devolve into the idea of being a barbarian takes a lot of training. It also requires there are rules and constraints put in place. Colonel, you and I were together in Fallujah in 2005. We were in a convoy and there was a civilian, an Iraqi civilian, who approached the convoy and the gunner in one of the humvees opened fire likely killing that man. Those are the split-second decisions. They might hurt us so we should hurt them. In that particular occasion our convoy was going down the street. Traffic had been stopped. All of a sudden a vehicle was approaching around the vehicles that had been stopped. We wonder what's the intent. It appears to be a threat. The soldier, or the marine in this case, the vehicle reacts instantly because he has to. He took the shot. Again, I believe the individual was killed. I believe we found out afterward it was a driver that decided he didn't want to wait and he made a bad decision that may have ended his life. Those are the kind of split-second decisions, life or death, that's the key to understanding why good order and discipline -- we talk about it. Most people don't understand it. What effect will this have on our troops going forward and if you were a commander right now, what would you say to them about what just happened and these pardons? I would sit there and say the president made a decision. It was within his bounds to do so. That is not going to change how we're going to train to do business if we have to go to the tip of the spear and defend this nation. If I'm a commander, I'm going to run my unit to that standard period. I know that I'm operating under the guidelines and the long view of history will support that. Dr. Hunter, do you think this will affect troops long term? One of the things I really worry about is this impacting on an individual level is the issues around PTSD, moral injury, did I make the right decision at the time? Coming back from war, having made decisions to pull the trigger is hard. It's something that I have worked through. I think knowing that rules of engagement are meaningful, knowing we made the best decisions for ourselves and the people who are to the left and right of us is something we need to have confidence in. We owe it to the young women and men over there right now making the right decisions. Does it divide the force? Yes. We have different opinions here. I'm thinking of the S.E.A.L. Community and the S.E.A.L.S who support Gallagher, says support him, and a whole bunch of others who think that should not have happened. I think that's also one of the most harmful long-term effects you have. Good order and discipline, rules of engagement, the chain of command, both up and down exist to unify us. When there's -- when the military becomes politicized, nothing good can come of it for long-term health of the military. The military today, unfortunately at the senior levels, has become more politicized than it's ever been in our history. At the end of the day those troops on the ground, those sailors on the ships, want to know that the chain of command has their back. The divisiveness that we've seen, people taking sides, more politicization of the military and it's gone down the ranks, when you have troops showing up at events with Maga hats, commander in chief holds events for truth, but they're not supposed to be partisan events. The force now wonders and we see the divisiveness and we've seen the Navy secretary fired over it. This president has talked about how much he admires the military, how much he has done for the military, it's all about the strength of the military. I would ask what these pardons have done to further that goal. Rather than making the military stronger, I think he's weakened the military. Our thanks to all three veterans.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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