Trump’s military minders are also his preeminent political enablers

Mark Perry writes: For many of America’s senior military officers, retired Gen. John Allen’s speech endorsing Hillary Clinton at the Democratic convention back in July of 2016 was a kind of tipping point. Allen’s rousing address, coupled with one given by retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn for Donald Trump at the Republican convention, spread waves of discomfort through the U.S. officer corps, many of whom thought Allen and Flynn had gone too far. “The military is not a political prize,” former J.C.S. Chairman Martin Dempsey wrote in a high-profile critique two days after Allen’s appearance. “Politicians should take the advice of military leaders but keep them off the stage.”

Allen and Flynn’s appearance, and Dempsey’s letter, set off an under-the-radar debate about the proper role of retired military officers in American political life that has been deepened by President Trump’s appointment of several former and current high-ranking officers to key policy positions in his administration. Far from being “off the stage,” the president has put the military front-and-center in his administration: retired Marine Gen. James Mattis heads up the Pentagon, retired Gen. John Kelly is the White House chief of staff and Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster (who is still in uniform) is Trump’s national security adviser, having replaced Flynn.

Richard Kohn, a respected expert on civilian-military relations at the University of North Carolina, points out that Trump’s critics have welcomed the appointments because Mattis, Kelly and McMaster are viewed as “the adults in the room” who can “can keep Trump on the right policy track, can kind of fence him in.” But, he warns, there’s a problem with that view. “We’re putting all three of them in an impossible squeeze,” he says. “By tradition and experience they are supposed to be subordinate, to follow orders, yet here we are hoping that they can somehow manipulate the president—to keep him from saying and doing things that he shouldn’t. Is that really what we want the military to do? It sets a bad precedent and it’s dangerous.”

There’s one key constituency who agrees with that last thought: Former top military leaders, many of whom are deeply conflicted over the political role their colleagues are playing. [Continue reading…]

The problem with viewing the former and current generals in this administration as the indispensable “adult supervision” Trump requires, is that these individuals are the sole source of legitimacy for his presidency — exactly the reason he surrounded himself with this kind of Teflon political protection.

Instead of seeing Mattis et al as the only thing that stands between us and Armageddon, we should probably see them as the primary obstacle to the outright exposure of the fraud that has been perpetrated by Trump and the cadre of visibly corrupt cronies he has installed in most of the executive branch of government.

If Mattis, Kelly, and McMaster were to jointly resign, I predict that the Trump house of cards would instantly collapse — no need for impeachment or the conclusion of the Mueller investigation.

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