The mil­i­tary pa­rade for Don­ald Trump has come early

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

WASHINGTON (AP): HE MIL­I­TARY pa­rade for Don­ald Trump has come early. Two months be­fore In­au­gu­ra­tion Day fes­tiv­i­ties, an ex­tra­or­di­nary num­ber of re­cently retired gen­er­als, in­clud­ing some who clashed with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, are march­ing to the pres­i­dent-elect’s doorstep for job in­ter­views.

It is not un­usual for an in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion to con­sider a retired gen­eral for a top po­si­tion like CIA di­rec­tor. But Trump has turned to retired of­fi­cers so publicly and in such large num­bers that it raises ques­tions about the proper bal­ance of mil­i­tary and civil­ian ad­vice in a White House led by a com­man­der in chief with no defence or for­eign-pol­icy ex­pe­ri­ence.

The tilt to­wards mil­i­tary of­fi­cials may re­flect a lim­ited pool of civil­ian op­tions. Many of­fi­cials from pre­vi­ous Repub­li­can ad­min­is­tra­tions po­lit­i­cally dis­owned Trump dur­ing the cam­paign, call­ing him un­qual­i­fied. And Trump sug­gested he would not want many of them as he vowed to “drain the swamp” by run­ning es­tab­lish­ment fig­ures out of town.

Robert Goldich, a retired gov­ern­ment defence an­a­lyst who has watched ad­min­is­tra­tions for 44 years, said Trump’s fo­cus on retired gen­er­als may be un­prece­dented.

TNATIONAL SE­CU­RITY AD­VISER

The only one an­nounced for a top job thus far is Michael Flynn, a retired three-star Army gen­eral. Trump ap­pointed Flynn as his national se­cu­rity ad­viser, a post that does not re­quire Sen­ate con­fir­ma­tion but is cen­tral to a pres­i­dent’s de­ci­sion­mak­ing process. Flynn was forced out as Defence In­tel­li­gence Agency di­rec­tor in 2014. After­ward, he strongly crit­i­cised the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ap­proach to fight­ing the Is­lamic State group and threw his sup­port be­hind Trump.

Among oth­ers un­der con­sid­er­a­tion are two retired fourstar Ma­rine gen­er­als – James Mat­tis for de­fense sec­re­tary and John Kelly for home­land se­cu­rity sec­re­tary. Other names sur­fac­ing in­clude retired Army Gen. Jack Keane and David Pe­traeus, the retired four-star gen­eral who was Obama’s CIA di­rec­tor in 2011-12 be­fore re­sign­ing amid dis­clo­sure that he had an af­fair with his bi­og­ra­pher and shared highly clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion with her.

In re­marks to The New York Times on Tues­day, Trump spoke about the Pen­tagon post in ways that of­fer in­sight into why he is at­tracted to for­mer gen­er­als like Mat­tis.

“I think it’s time maybe, it’s time for a gen­eral,” Trump said, sug­gest­ing he favours a mil­i­tary mind­set. “Look what’s go­ing on. We don’t win, we can’t beat any­body.”

Kelly retired this year af­ter a sto­ried ca­reer capped by com­mand­ing the US South­ern Com­mand, where he dif­fered Retired Lt Gen Michael Flynn with the White House over clos­ing the Guan­tanamo Bay prison and ex­pressed doubts about the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s moves to open all com­bat jobs to women.

COM­MON SENSE

Bing West, a Viet­nam War vet­eran and for­mer as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of defence, said Trump’s out­reach to retired gen­er­als is wise.

“Our coun­try is fight­ing a long war. It’s com­mon sense to seek the ex­pe­ri­ence of those who have proven they know how to fight,” he said in an email ex­change.

The con­cern about un­due mil­i­tary in­flu­ence de­rives from a long US tra­di­tion of civil­ian con­trol of the mil­i­tary, which is the ba­sis for a ban on ac­tive­duty of­fi­cers run­ning the Pen­tagon. The Con­sti­tu­tion af­firms civil­ian con­trol by mak­ing the pres­i­dent the com­man­der in chief and giv­ing Congress the au­thor­ity to de­clare war and fund the mil­i­tary.

The ap­point­ment of too many gen­er­als to high civil­ian po­si­tions could prompt fears that Trump is on a path to mil­i­taris­ing US for­eign pol­icy or giv­ing the mil­i­tary too much sway in de­ci­sions about war and peace.

But that view was re­jected by Richard Fon­taine, pres­i­dent of the Cen­ter for a New Amer­i­can Se­cu­rity, a Washington think tank. In an in­ter­view, he noted that it was Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s civil­ian ad­vis­ers who pushed hard­est to launch the 2003 Iraq in­va­sion.

“In my ex­pe­ri­ence, vet­er­ans have been less likely than the civil­ians to advocate for mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion abroad,” said Fon­taine, who was among dozens of Repub­li­can national se­cu­rity fig­ures who signed a let­ter dur­ing the cam­paign warn­ing that Trump would be a danger­ous pres­i­dent.

Still, some retired gen­er­als are leery of Trump stack­ing his national se­cu­rity team with war­riors.

“The big­gest fear is too many gen­er­als in pol­i­tics. That’s not a good thing,” said Mark Hertling, a retired three-star Army gen­eral who op­posed Trump. “But given the lack of knowl­edge of a pres­i­dent who knows noth­ing about diplomacy or the mil­i­tary, they might pro­vide some very good ad­vice.”

Hertling cred­its Mat­tis with an un­usual knack for lead­er­ship and strate­gic think­ing. Trump met with Mat­tis last week­end but has not said if he will nom­i­nate him. If he does, Trump would need Congress to pro­vide an ex­cep­tion to a law re­quir­ing a mil­i­tary of­fi­cer to have been out of uni­form for at least seven years be­fore be­com­ing defence sec­re­tary.

TRUMP

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