FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

“Mad Dog” Mattis Just Another Pussycat

Photo by Jim Mattis | CC BY 2.0

Photo by Jim Mattis | CC BY 2.0

 

Donald Trump pointedly drove to the Pentagon on Friday to close U.S. borders to refugees from around the world; to block families indefinitely fleeing the slaughter in Syria; and to suspend immigration from seven Muslim countries.  With Secretary of Defense James Mattis smiling over his shoulder, Trump established a religious test for refugees from Muslim countries and ordered that Christians and others from minority religions would be granted priority over Muslims.  During his confirmation hearings, General Mattis spoke with great feeling about his opposition to such moves and explained that the coalition to stop international terrorism would be weakened by any attempt to target and demonize Muslims.

As a result, the mainstream media almost unanimously opined that Mattis would be a leavening influence, a source of moderation, inside the Trump administration. A “Mad Dog” Mattis would consider resignation, however; a cat’s paw would stay in place.  This was the kind of decision that Secretary of State Colin Powell, a retired general, faced in the fall of 2002, when the Bush administration decided on the war that he correctly opposed.  Like a loyal general officer, Powell put on his three-piece and lied to the United Nations in February 2003 about why it was necessary to invade Iraq. Just another cat’s paw.

Behind the confusion and chaos of the Muslim ban, there were additional steps taken by the Trump administration that will lead to the further militarization of U.S. national security policy.  Over the weekend, the administration produced a memorandum that restructured the National Security Council to ensure that there would not always be a representative of the intelligence community at the table.  Since the creation of the NSC 70 years ago, either the Director of the CIA or the director of national intelligence attended principal’s meetings to ensure that the views of the intelligence community had a role in the formation of decision making.

And to make matters worse, Steve Bannon, a pugnacious and polemical political adviser, has been named a permanent member of the NSC.  Several years ago, Bannon stated that “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal, too.  I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”  Clearly, the traditional establishment played no role in the chaotic decision making over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the NSC itself has been fundamentally militarized.  The national security adviser, General Michael Flynn, a conspiratorial thinker, who is unlikely to ensure that the president has the best possible advice from his Cabinet and his national security team, has moved quickly to militarize his staff with low-ranking appointments.  A former career Army officer, Dave Horan, will be a senior staffer dealing with strategy.  A former Marine officer, Robin Townley, will be senior director for Africa.  Another Marine intelligence officer, Matt Pottinger, will be senior director for Asia.  The NSC’s chief of staff will be a retired three-star general.  Vice President Mike Pence has predictably joined the militarization campaign by naming a career Army intelligence officer as his own national security advisor.

The reliance on general officers totally undermines the Founding Fathers’ preference for civilian control of the military.  In addition to Mattis and Flynn, a general officer commands the Department of Homeland Security, and a West Point graduate is the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  During the campaign, Donald Trump could not have been more critical of the military and even promised to remove many of them if he were elected.  Instead, he has created a national security phalanx that will militarize decision making and politicize the military.  This phalanx will have greater powers due to the near total ignorance and inexperience of the new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who somehow never tried to consult the outgoing secretary of state prior to his confirmation hearings.  Moreover, he inherits a weakened State Department from which key assistant secretaries have been purged.

The costs of militarization have been great over the past two decades.  In addition to two losing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there have been unnecessary increases in defense spending that required reduced domestic spending in key areas.  Vice President Dick Cheney wanted a more powerful military (and even a war) to create a more powerful presidency.  There is reason to believe that Steve Bannon and Steve Miller, who wrote Trump’s passionately nationalistic inauguration speech, are using the same playbook.

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 most recent book is “American Carnage: The Wars of Donald Trump” (Opus Publishing), and he is the author of the forthcoming “The Dangerous National Security State” (2020).” Goodman is the national security columnist for counterpunch.org.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
March 27, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Bailouts for the Rich, the Virus for the Rest of Us
Louis Proyect
Life and Death in the Epicenter
Paul Street
“I Will Not Kill My Mother for Your Stock Portfolio”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Scum Also Rises
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Stimulus Bill Allows Federal Reserve to Conduct Meetings in Secret; Gives Fed $454 Billion Slush Fund for Wall Street Bailouts
Jefferson Morley
Could the Death of the National Security State be a Silver Lining of COVID-19?
Kathleen Wallace
The End of the Parasite Paradigm
Ruth Hopkins
A Message For America from Brazil’s First Indigenous Congresswoman
Anthony DiMaggio
Misinformation and the Coronavirus: On the Dangers of Depoliticization and Social Media
Andrew Levine
Neither Biden Nor Trump: Imagine Cuomo
David Rosen
God’s Vengeance: the Christian Right and the Coronavirus
David Schultz
The Covid-19 Bailout: Another Failed Opportunity at Structural Change
Evaggelos Vallianatos
In the Grip of Disease
Edward Leer
Somebody Else’s World: An Interview with Kelly Reichardt
Robert Fisk
What Trump is Doing in the Middle East While You are Distracted by COVID-19
Daniel Warner
COVID-19: Health or Wealth?
Thomas Klikauer – Norman Simms
Corona in Germany: Hording and Authoritarianism
Ramzy Baroud
BJP and Israel: Hindu Nationalism is Ravaging India’s Democracy
Richard Moser
Russia-gate: the Dead But Undead
Ron Jacobs
Politics, Pandemics and Trumpism
Chris Gilbert
Letter From Catalonia: Alarming Measures
Richard Eskow
Seven Rules for the Boeing Bailout
Jonathan Carp
Coronavirus and the Collapse of Our Imaginations
Andrew Bacevich
The Coronavirus and the Real Threats to American Safety and Freedom
Peter Cohen
COVID-19, the Exponential Function and Human the Survival
César Chelala - Alberto Luis Zuppi
The Pope is Wrong on Argentina
James Preston Allen
Alexander Cockburn Meets Charles Bukowski at a Sushi Bar in San Pedro
Jérôme Duval
The Only Oxygen Cylinder Factory in Europe is Shut down and Macron Refuses to Nationalize It
Neve Gordon
Gaza Has Been Under Siege for Years. Covid-19 Could Be Catastrophic
Alvaro Huerta
To Survive the Coronavirus, Americans Should Learn From Mexicans
Prabir Purkayastha
Why the Coronavirus Pandemic Poses Fundamental Challenges to All Societies
Raouf Halaby
Fireside Chatterer Andrew Cuomo for President
Thomas Drake
The Sobering Realities of the American Dystopia
Negin Owliaei
Wash Your Hands…If You Have Water
Felice Pace
A New Threat to California’s Rivers:  Will the Rush to Develop Our Newest Water Source Destroy More Streams?
Ray Brescia
What 9/11 Can Teach Us About Responding to COVID-19
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Covid-19 Opportunity
John Kendall Hawkins
An Age of Intoxication: Pick Your Poison
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Propaganda Virus: Is Anyone Immune?
Nicky Reid
Fear and Loathing in Coronaville Volume 1: Dispatches From a Terrified Heartland
Nolan Higdon – Mickey Huff
Don’t Just Blame Trump for the COVID-19 Crisis: the U.S. Has Been Becoming a Failed State for Some Time
Susan Block
Coronavirus Spring
David Yearsley
Lutz Alone
CounterPunch News Service
Letter from Truthdig’s Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer to the Publisher Zuade Kaufman
CounterPunch News Service
Statement From Striking Truthdig Workers
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail