Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Trump Is Wise to Surround Himself with Generals for Key National Security Positions
National Review ^ | 12/09/2016 | David French

Posted on 12/09/2016 6:58:50 AM PST by SeekAndFind

We’ve reached an odd point in American political discourse when a civilian president-elect can appoint three civilian former members of the military to key positions in his administration (with his cabinet appointees being confirmed by a civilian Senate) and mainstream journalists fret about whether Donald Trump is forming a “junta.”

Yet that actually happened yesterday, when 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 mused on Twitter: “How many generals do you need in government before you technically become a junta?” Then, last night the Washington Post picked up on the theme, writing an article titled “Trump Hires a Third General, Raising Concerns about Heavy Military Influence.”

Trump has tapped retired general Michael Flynn to be his national-security adviser, James Mattis to be secretary of defense, and now John Kelly to run the Department of Homeland Security. These choices are causing “worries” at the Post:

Trump’s choice of Kelly — and his continued deliberations about tapping as many as two more military figures for other posts — has intensified worries among some members of Congress and national-security experts that the new administration’s policies may be shaped disproportionately by military commanders.

Trump should ignore these concerns. With the possible exception of Michael Flynn (who has made a number of erratic statements since he retired, although he has a formidable service record), his selections are the right political, operational, and strategic choices.

How can the most disliked and most distrusted president-elect in American history signal that he’s competent and capable of leading the nation? By appointing people from the nation’s most trusted institution to important positions. We can’t forget that in an era when trust for government and other civic institutions is plunging, the military has retained strong public support.

And it has that support for a reason. In 15 years of war since 9/11, the military has consistently fought with honor, courage, and excellence. The best military in the world isn’t built by accident, nor is it maintained through negligence. The generals who are responsible for some of the military’s greatest recent successes — whether it’s the brilliant push to Baghdad in the 2003 Iraq invasion or the intelligence innovations that empowered the deadliest aspects of the Surge — have proven that they’re worthy of respect. And in polarized times, respect is a precious commodity.

But the choices are wise for reasons beyond public support, however well earned. Most Americans can’t possibly understand the immense challenge of leading large formations in the modern military. A general is a warfighter, yes, but he’s also a human-resources officer, a procurements expert, and a manager. A general is accustomed to dealing with bloated bureaucracies and making them bend to his will. The military has an extremely sharp and deadly spear, but behind that small tip is a bureaucracy so unwieldy that it can make you weep with frustration. No general has been capable of stripping down that bureaucracy — no person has proven that powerful — but the best generals can at least shape it, command it, and accomplish the mission.

Selecting retired generals for key national-security posts is a key signal that Trump is shunning a law-enforcement approach to the war on terror. For the time being, the longstanding debate about whether terrorism is primarily a police challenge (like fighting a Mafia on steroids) or a military challenge is over. And that’s very welcome news. Jihadists present a military-scale challenge to American lives and treasure, and we must counter that with a consistent military-scale response.

Critically, however, if Trump truly listens to his generals, that does not mean that America will necessarily be more interventionist. No one is more familiar with the capabilities and (crucially) limits of American power than the class of officers who’ve been fighting jihad since 2001. No one knows the costs of war more than those who’ve led men in combat or — like General Kelly — lost children in war. The crucible of combat combined with the inherent frustration of fighting an enemy such as ISIS or al-Qaeda has created widely divergent viewpoints among senior officers. The military isn’t an ideological or strategic monoculture, and I would expect Flynn and Mattis to clash over strategy and tactics. Managed properly, that’s a good thing.

There is simply no good reason to be suspicious of retired generals unless we see specific evidence of moral, intellectual, or strategic failings. At the same time, no one should presume they’ll be successful in civilian office. American history is littered with examples of retired warriors who simply couldn’t lead civilians effectively. Others have been outstanding. But we can’t know the future. We only know the present and the past. We should judge Trump’s picks on what we know, not what we can’t predict.

Civilian control of the government is indispensable to the American republic, but if the Founders of that republic had the slightest concern that former officers were less qualified to govern, they wouldn’t have wanted the commander in chief of the Continental Army to become our nation’s first president. It was that retired general who established many of the traditions and customs of the presidency — traditions and customs that limited the control and influence of that office. He could have been a near-king, a warrior-leader of our new nation. Instead, he chose to be a constitutional president.

Trump’s generals aren’t “dangerous.” They fit within a long and distinguished line of military leaders who went on to serve their nation as civilians. We now hope they will serve as well in business suits as they did in combat boots.

— David French is a staff writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, an attorney, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Government
KEYWORDS: generals; military; nationalsecurity; trump

1 posted on 12/09/2016 6:58:50 AM PST by SeekAndFind
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind

If Hillary had been elected and half her cabinet picks had been Muslims, the press would have swooned.

2 posted on 12/09/2016 7:01:25 AM PST by Mercat (Men never do evil so fully and cheerfully as when they do it out of conscience.” (Blaise Pascal))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind

A REAL American government, for a massive change, is coming obviously. And with a mission for the American people and our country. It will have a serious pair of berries on it.

3 posted on 12/09/2016 7:08:50 AM PST by EagleUSA
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind

How’d that Presidential campaign work out for ya David?

4 posted on 12/09/2016 7:09:37 AM PST by orchestra ((And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind
I'm ok with this.

5 posted on 12/09/2016 7:10:00 AM PST by mikey_hates_everything
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: mikey_hates_everything

The irrational liberals are always worried about the military, even our military and its history, much preferring the image projected by Hollywood.

BTW - does anyone remember an EXTREMELY effective Secretary of State immediately following the end of World War II? Won the 1953 Nobel Peace Prize for the “Marshall Plan” which rapidly rebuilt war torn Europe?

That’s right - George Catlett Marshall, Jr.. 1901 graduate of the Virginia Military Institute. He served as Chief of Staff from 1939 until the end of the war in 1945. As Chief of Staff, Marshall organized the largest military expansion in U.S. history, and received promotion to five-star rank as General of the Army. Marshall coordinated Allied operations in Europe and the Pacific until the end of the war; in addition to being hailed as the organizer of Allied victory by Winston Churchill, Time magazine named Marshall its Man of the Year for 1943. And, he served as Secretary of State from 1947 to 1949.

BTW since it was established in 1866 there have been only 7 Generals of the Army, 2 from the civil war and 5 from World War II, including Marshall.

And, the irrational liberals are worried about what bad things might happen.

6 posted on 12/09/2016 7:35:06 AM PST by Nip (BOHEICA and TANSTAAFL - both seem very appropriate today.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: orchestra

RE: How’d that Presidential campaign work out for ya David?

What campaign?

7 posted on 12/09/2016 7:43:33 AM PST by SeekAndFind
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind


For anyone wanting to see the next President honor our military, President-elect Trump will attend the Army/Navy game this Saturday. You can bet he will get an awesome reception!

Army/Navy Game this Saturday honoring the 82nd Airborne of WWII. Donald Trump will be in attendance as a President should be.

Watch the video; it’s great.

8 posted on 12/09/2016 8:00:32 AM PST by ExTexasRedhead
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind

“How can the most disliked and most distrusted president-elect in American history signal that he’s competent and capable of leading the nation?”

Where is the citation? Is this just another fake news poll?

9 posted on 12/09/2016 8:15:42 AM PST by grumpygresh (We don't have Democrats and Republicans, we have the Faustian uni-party)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind

The campaign that never was-

10 posted on 12/09/2016 10:55:53 AM PST by orchestra ((And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson