FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Trump’s Campaign of Militarization

Photo by DonkeyHotey | CC BY 2.0

Photo by DonkeyHotey | CC BY 2.0

 

President-elect Donald Trump’s authoritarian style and personality, which attracted an overwhelmingly authoritarian following, is manifesting itself in the selection of his national security team.  The appointment of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as the national security adviser is particularly worrisome because of the general’s lack of experience in strategic policy and his controversial stewardship as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.  More recently, we have learned that general officers are being given consideration as secretaries of state, defense, and homeland security.  Trump is putting at risk the Constitution’s support for civilian control of the military as well as decision-making in the use of force as well as national security policy in general.

What is at stake in this case is the deepening cultural divide between the military and civilian worlds, particularly the increased militarization of national security policy that has taken place over the past two decades.  the administrations of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have catered to the military, and have appointed too many general and flag officers to positions that should be in the hands of civilians.  President Obama was particularly guilty in this regard, rewarding general officers with ambassadorial positions and naming a retired marine general to the post of national security adviser.  The general, James Jones, was a poor fit in terms of both management and substantive support, and was soon forced out of the White House.

With the exception of the first appointment to the post of director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, all of Bush’s and Obama’s intelligence stars have been general and flag officers, and during this period we have witnessed a signficant decline in the production
whitleblowerciaand usefulness of strategic intelligence.  Obama also demonstrated too much deference to the military when he retained Bush’s secretary of defense, Robert Gates, as his own in order not to create concerns about reform of the military within the Pentagon.

On the basis of my experience at the National War College, where I was on the faculty for 18 years, I believe the all-volunteer military has drifted too far away from the norms of American society, in inordinately right-wing politically, and is much more fundamentalist than America as a whole.  The “Republicanization” of the officer crop is well established and recognized.  As far back as 1997, senior Defense Department officials, including then secretary of defense, William Cohen, a Republican serving in a Democratic administration, warned about a “chasm developing between the military and civilian worlds, where….the military doesn’t understand…why criticism (of the military) is so quick and unrelenting.”  Others have noted a “gap” in values between the armed forces and civilian society, which could threaten civil-military cooperation as well as the military’s loyalty to civilian authority.

The imbalance in civilian-military influence is more threatening to the interests of the United States over the long term than developments in Afghanistan.  President Richard Nixon’s ending of the draft created a professional military, and the Goldwater-Nichols Act in 1986 created regional commanders-in-chief (CINCs) who expanded the martial reach of the United States in the post-Cold War world.  CINCs have become far more influential than U.S. ambassadors and assistant secretaries of state.  Presently, the Department of Defense is far more influential in national security decision-making that the Department of State.  The Act also created a powerful Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and during the Desert Storm war in 1991 the chairman often ignored the secretary of defense and personally briefed the president on war plans.  It is noteworthy that the Act passed the Senate without one vote in opposition.

There is no more important risk in political governance than making sure that civilian control of the military is not compromised, and that the military remains subordinate to political authority.  In the 1990s, the Pentagon ignored President Clinton’s efforts to get the Joint Chiefs to think about military engagement in Afghanistan; more recently, the Pentagon has dragged its heels in response to President Obama’s efforts to finally disengage from Afghanistan.  During a delicate period in decision-making regarding withdrawal from Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal—whose Army nickname was “The Pope”—demonstrated his contempt for civilian leadership, which led to his dismissal over the opposition of Secretary of Defense Gates.

Fortunately, the president recognized the McChrystal affair as a challenge to civilian control and leadership.  Unfortunately, President-elect Trump believes that military leaders—particularly those who were criticized by President Obama—should hold key positions in the Trump administration.  The New York Times’ David Brooks, who is now calling for patience in judging the early actions of Donald Trump, minimized General McChrystal’s remarks as mere “kvetching.”  With the possibility of increased defense spending, a return to the worst of the global war on terror, and increased militarization of the defense and intelligence communities, perhaps the time for serious kvetching is here.

More articles by:

Melvin A. Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.  A former CIA analyst, Goodman is the author of Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism. and A Whistleblower at the CIA. His forthcoming book is American Carnage: Donald Trump’s War on Intelligence” (City Lights Publishers, 2019).  Goodman is the national security columnist for counterpunch.org.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

April 22, 2019
Melvin Goodman
The NYTs Tries to Rehabilitate Bloody Gina Haspel
Robert Fisk
After ISIS, a Divided Iraq, Wounded and Grief-Stricken
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange as Neuroses
John Laforge
Chernobyl’s Deadly Effects Estimates Vary
Kenneth Surin
Mueller Time? Not for Now
Cesar Chelala
Yemen: The Triumph of Barbarism
Kerron Ó Luain
What the “White Irish Slaves” Meme Tells Us About Identity Politics
Andy Piascik
Grocery Store Workers Take on Billion Dollar Multinational
Seiji Yamada – Gregory G. Maskarinec
Health as a Human Right: No Migrants Need Apply
Howard Lisnoff
Loose Bullets and Loose Cannons
Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada
Dreaming in Miami
Graham Peebles
Consuming Stuff: The Polluting World of Fashion
Weekend Edition
April 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What Will It Take For Trump to Get His Due?
Roy Eidelson
Is the American Psychological Association Addicted to Militarism and War?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Time is Blind, Man is Stupid
Joshua Frank
Top 20 Mueller Report “Findings”
Rob Urie
Why Russiagate Will Never Go Away
Paul Street
Stephen Moore Gets Something Right: It’s Capitalism vs. Democracy
Russell Mokhiber
Why Boeing and Its Executives Should be Prosecuted for Manslaughter
T.J. Coles
The Battle for Latin America: How the U.S. Helped Destroy the “Pink Tide”
Ron Jacobs
Ho Chi Minh City: Nguyen Thai Binh Street
Dean Baker
Fun Fictions in Economics
David Rosen
Trump’s One-Dimensional Gender Identity
Kenn Orphan
Notre Dame: We Have Always Belonged to Her
Robert Hunziker
The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems
Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.
Paddy Wagon
Brett Wilkins
Jimmy Carter: US ‘Most Warlike Nation in History of the World’
John W. Whitehead
From Jesus Christ to Julian Assange: When Dissidents Become Enemies of the State
Nick Pemberton
To Never Forget or Never Remember
Stephen Cooper
My Unforgettable College Stabbings
Louis Proyect
A Leftist Rejoinder to the “Capitalist Miracle”
Louisa Willcox
Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic and the Need for a New Approach to Managing Wildlife
Brian Cloughley
Britain Shakes a Futile Fist and Germany Behaves Sensibly
Jessicah Pierre
A Revolutionary Idea to Close the Racial Wealth Divide
George Burchett
Revolutionary Journalism
Dan Bacher
U.S. Senate Confirms Oil Lobbyist David Bernhardt as Interior Secretary
Nicky Reid
The Strange Success of Russiagate
Chris Gilbert
Defending Venezuela: Two Approaches
Todd Larsen
The Planetary Cost of Amazon’s Convenience
Kelly Martin
How the White House is Spinning Earth Day
Nino Pagliccia
Cuba and Venezuela: Killing Two Birds With a Stone
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Guadalcanal and Bloody Ridge, Solomon Islands
David Kattenburg
Trudeau’s Long Winter
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
Ellen Lindeen
What Does it Mean to Teach Peace?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail