Trump and His Generals

His supporters are nothing but impressed by Donald Trump’s selection of several retired generals for his cabinet and other posts. Proposed nominees include:

  • Retired Marine General John F. Kelly (Homeland Security).
  • Retired Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis (Secretary of Defense).
  • Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn (National Security Adviser).Other names under consideration for cabinet positions include retired Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and Navy Admiral Michael S. Rogers.

    If for no other reason, these choices are safe choices because the military is one of the few institutions that is still trusted by Americans even more than churches and small businesses. In a time when trust for government and civic institutions is taking a nosedive, the military retains strong public support. 73% of Americans say they trust the military at least “quite a lot” which is double that of those who trust the presidency.

President-Elect Trump knows that it is no accident our country has the best military in the world and that in spite of the fact it has had little support over the last eight years from the White House. He knows the excellence of our military is not due to chance or negligence.

But not all are impressed. Shane Goldmacher of Politico wrote a recent article with the title, Why Trump is so Obsessed with Generals. The subtitle illustrates the mainstream media’s disdain for the most respected institution in America – “The president-elect is infatuated with martial swagger and Hollywood’s Patton — which is why he’s filling his Cabinet with top military brass”.

Politico’s Julia Ioffe tweeted: “Three generals and maybe a fourth. Can we just cut to the chase and call ourselves a junta?” The New Yorker’s Nicholas Thompson Tweeted: “How many generals do you need in government before you technically become a junta?”

In spite of the fact retired General Jack Keane declined to accept Trump’s offer to consider Secretary of Defense he is sold on Trump’s interest in the other generals. “Trump connects,” he said, “to generals because he sees people who are very experienced, knowledgeable, confident, non-arrogant … and straightforward.”

“Mr. Trump himself is a leader, a strong leader, a person of conviction and straight talker, and it’s likely that’s why there’s a connection there,” Keane said, adding that after 15 years of America at war that “the generals may indeed represent the best athletes on the field”.

Generals are warfighters, but they are also procurements experts, managers, and human resources officers. A general is also accustomed to dealing with bloated bureaucracies and working to bend to his will.

Trump’s choice of the generals is also an indicator that the days of seeing the military as a law-enforcement agency in the war on terror. It is a signal that the debate about whether terrorism is primarily a police challenge or a military challenge is over. No wonder he was cheered wildly at the recent Army-Navy football classic.

“Trump is clearly operating out of a particular model,” said William A. Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “Almost all of his Cabinet will be made up of people from the military or people from a corporate background, and what they have in common is strong leadership and executive ­decision-making.”

Galston, a Democrat who served as a White House policy adviser to former president Bill Clinton, said the concerns about generals “charging ahead” without regard for legal or constitutional constraints — or without a willingness to challenge the president’s decisions — show a misunderstanding of how Generals at that level operate. Galston said modern-day generals are trained to navigate a minefield of potential conflicts and legal concerns.

“They’re schooled to believe that if they or any subordinates receive an unlawful order, it’s not to be obeyed,” Galston said. “If you asked me, would I prefer a government of generals or a government of lawyers, that’s not an easy choice. We’ve experimented with a government of lawyers, and that hasn’t been so fantastic, has it? Maybe it’s time to give the generals a chance.”

David French of the National Review rightly notes that the Founders of our nation weren’t the least concerned about whether a former officer was qualified to lead. Otherwise, George Washington would not have become our first President. Their choice showed its wisdom, in his ability to lead the civil government and then resists the temptation to accept their call for him to be a king.

~ Liberty Planet


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