There is no overlooking Milley’s gross disregard for the law when he directly contacted a foreign military chief without informing his boss, the president.
By Tim Kennedy, Gingrich 360 Contributor
Modern U.S. history tells us that above all else, politics, not merit, makes the difference between an employed and unemployed military officer.
Bob Woodward’s and Robert Costa’s upcoming book, Peril, serves as a follow up to New York Times Best Seller, Rage, and seems to be yet another hatchet job on the Trump presidency.
In this latest installment, Woodward brings to light the atmosphere within the executive branch surrounding the 2020 presidential election. As the Washington Post reports, the book takes particular aim at Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff first appointed by President Donald Trump in 2018.
According to the authors, Gen. Milley seemingly disregarded the chain of command and made numerous discrete phone calls to his Chinese counterparts in the People’s Liberation Army throughout the waning hours of the Trump presidency.
In one conservation from Oct. 30, 2020, it is believed that Milley assured Gen. Li Zuocheng, a member of China’s Central Military Commission, that:“you and I have known each other for now five years. If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.”
Unfortunately, Gen. Milley’s conversations, which the Joint Chiefs confirm took place, are not unexpected.
In, I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year, released July 20, 2021, Carol Leonning and Philip Rucker alleged that after the election, Gen. Milley conveyed to those around him that, “This is a Reichstag moment.” Drawing a comparison between Trump’s claims of election fraud and, “the 1933 attack on Germany’s parliament building that Hitler used as a pretext to establish a Nazi dictatorship.”
Following the Capitol Riot on Jan. 6, 2021, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs sought to become a wannabe, modern-day Col. Stauffenberg.
Washington Post reporter Isaac Stanely-Becker wrote:
“Believing that China could lash out if it felt at risk from an unpredictable and vengeful American president, Milley took action. The same day [Jan. 8, 2021], he called the admiral overseeing the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, the military unit responsible for Asia and the Pacific region, and recommended postponing the military exercises, according to the book. The admiral complied.”
China expert Gordon Chang argued that there was no reason to believe at the time that the People’s Republic of China feared an attack from the U.S. was imminent.
A savvy lawyer could argue that Gen. Milley’s later actions were within the bounds of the National Security Act. However, as some have argued, there is no overlooking Milley’s gross disregard for the law when he directly contacted a foreign military chief without informing his boss, the president.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is, at the forefront, the president’s “principal military advisor.” The chairman is not a general or diplomat but an advisor who analyzes data, formulates opinions, and submits findings and recommendations to the commander-in-chief and subordinates.
White House Spokesperson Jen Psaki brushed aside any criticism of Gen. Milley’s actions at last Wednesday’s press briefing, reiterating, “I think it’s important to remember the context…The outgoing President of the United States, during this period of time, fomented unrest, leading to an insurrection and attack on our nation’s capital…One of the darkest days in our nation’s history.”
Trump derangement syndrome is pervasive and long-lasting.
In the past two months alone, the White House has had its fair share of opportunities to let the heads roll. Above all else, the Afghanistan debacle was one episode that should have resulted in a shake-up, and, as Newt argues, “It’s troubling how unphased many of our leaders appear to be, especially the principals of the Biden administration.”
However, this is not the first time Biden, and his ilk, have put petty politics above sensible, goal-oriented mission objectives.
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, former commander of Joint Special Operations Command in Afghanistan, entered the Obama-Biden world at its inception. Campaigning on a promise to withdraw from Iraq, Barack Obama planned to refocus U.S. war efforts on Afghanistan, the original war. Although unfamiliar with him personally, President Obama appointed Gen. McChyrstal to lead NATO forces in Afghanistan after dismissing his predecessor, Gen. David McKiernan.
President Obama cast aside the previous administration’s attempts at nation building. Instead, the newly elected president favored a counterinsurgency strategy (COIN).
Professor James Lebovic wrote in, Planning to Fail: The US Wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, that, “when in March 2009 Obama announced his initial strategy… the White House statement noted that the primary goal was to ‘disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda and its safe havens.’” By crafting such a narrow set of objects, Lebovic finds that the president’s plan came almost immediately into conflict with the Pentagon’s, “wide-ranging –and costly –upgrading of the U.S.mission in Afghanistan.”
McChrystal was ultimately in favor of COIN, believing the strategy was more effective than the purely counterterrorism-based approach supported by then-Vice President Joseph Biden. As Lebovic argued, Biden found that, “a counterinsurgency strategy was unworkable, prohibitively costly and misdirected… it conflated the two goals of defeating the Taliban and keeping Afghanistan free of al-Qaeda. Achieving the first goal was unnecessary… because the Taliban was not a direct threat to the United States or its global interests.”
An ideal counterterrorism strategy, in Biden’s view, Lebovic wrote, would entail, “A small, residual U.S. special operations force, paired with drone aircraft.” This was nowhere near the Pentagon’s vision to deploy a large contingency of U.S. troops to population centers to protect and “win over the hearts and minds” of the Afghans.
In December 2009, President Obama went with a counterinsurgency-lite strategy based around costs, not strategic goals. As stated in a presidential memo, Obama’s “cost-driven policy,” “is not fully resourced counter insurgency or nation-building, but a narrower approach tied more tightly to the core goal of disrupting, dismantling and eventually defeating al Qaeda and preventing al Qaeda’s return to safe havens in Afghanistan or Pakistan.”
Gen. McChrystal lobbied the president for an additional 40,000 troops, of which he only received 30,000. Lebovic argued that, “the president’s ultimate figure did not come with a strong sense of which goals would be met, or how. Obama offered his number instead seemingly as a compromise… the halfway point between McChrystal’s request for forty thousand and Biden’s proposal for twenty thousand.”
The president’s grand “surge” came with its own set of strings attached. Of those 30,000 troops sent to Afghanistan, most would begin withdrawing starting July 2011. This surge-to-exit strategy was unfavorable amongst those charged with executing the administration’s vision.
Dealt a losing hand, Gen. McChrystal’s career was brought to an abrupt end following a less-than-flattering exposé in Rolling Stone. In “The Run Away General,” during a trip to Paris in Summer 2010, Michael Hastings allegedly witnessed the general and his aides badmouthing the number two, Biden:
“Now, flipping through printout cards of his speech in Paris, McChrystal wonders aloud what Biden question he might get today, and how he should respond…. unable to help themselves, he and his staff imagine the general dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner. ‘Are you asking about Vice President Biden?’ McChrystal says with a laugh. ‘Who’s that?’”
This, along with a litany of other hot mic comments prompted President Obama to recall McChrystal, fire him and appoint a replacement, Gen. David Petraeus.
Did Milley and McChrystal both disagree with the commander-in-chief from time to time? Of course. But of the two, which one viewed their boss as the modern-day embodiment of Hitler and took unilateral action to subvert his constitutional authority?
If McChrystal can get cut loose after expressing his frustration towards the president and his aides while being charged with the seemingly impossible task of stabilizing Afghanistan, then why does Gen. Milley still have a job?
The views expressed in this article do not reflect the views of any person or institution other than the author.
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