by G. Murphy Donovan
We like to think of military officers as political eunuchs, but that fairy tale, like free lunch, is a smug myth. No American government institutions, including the military services, thrive or survive in Washington without vigorous internal and external political engagement.
Outspoken flag officers have several things in common. Soldiers with integrity, vision, and conscience honor the wall between political and partisan, the ethic that allows for a distinction between policy differences, honorable service, and sedition. That ethic has been eroded by the post-Vietnam era class of flag officer. Consider a sampling of contemporary military officers whose behavior today is a toxic echo of George McClellan’s ugly Civil War sedition, something other than “duty, honor, and country.”
We begin with General James Mattis, former Secretary of Defense, because he is just the latest erstwhile flag officer to step on his crank. Known to his disciples as the patriarch of Paris Island or Krishna Quantico, the monkish Mattis had legitimate policy differences with President Trump. Unfortunately, the general’s behavior since resignation is nothing short of puerile.
After Mattis beat a petulant retreat from the Pentagon, Trump suggested that Mattis was “not a great general,” an admittedly insensitive recitation of the obvious.
Vietnam era flag officers will never be known as the “greatest generation.”
Since the Vietnam fail, the Gulf War had to be fought twice. Iraq is still a hot mess. Syria has become another divided, surrogate killing field. After thirty years of American campaigning, Afghanistan is arguably worse off today than it was under Soviet occupation. Libya is still a smoldering Obama/Clinton era ruin. Now, North Africa has another Specified Command bureaucracy and another spasm of pyric small wars. And the global, so-called, “war on terror” might be the longest and most expensive bad joke in the history of military inertia.
Adding insult to insanity, we now have a new Cold War with Russia. Much of this came to pass with Mattis and company at the helm in the Pentagon.
Rather than disputing Trump’s jibe with facts, Mattis chose the low road and attacked the President’s character, Trump’s lack of military service in Vietnam. “Mad Dog” is fond of referring to those who did not serve in Vietnam as “pussies.” General Mattis fails to mention that the vast majority of American cats do not choose to serve in the military now or then.
Ironically, Mattis’ pique validated Trump’s judgement. Seems the general can’t take a punch. No one will ever be able to say that about Trump.
Indeed, “service” in the Oval Office today, midst a rolling coup, requires more moxie than killing tribal Toyotas with drones, cruise missiles, tanks, gunships, and fighter planes in a world replete with inconclusive small wars and Third World sierra hotels.
Those who serve in the military, General Mattis, are not necessarily honorable, any more than those who do not serve are dishonorable. And not to put too fine a point on it, strategic competence is not all brass hats, fruit salad, and parade swords.
Another USMC pyrrhic warrior runs a close second to Mattis. Nikki Haley now reveals that General John Kelly Jr. was attempting to recruit insiders to “undermine” or resist the President while serving as White House chief-of-staff. Arrogant, unelected DOD mandarins, like their State Department, Intelligence Community, and Justice counterparts, have come to believe that the permanent deep state is the only real state.
Mattis and Kelly are just two of a host of partisan general officers to join the seditious never-Trump legion. The worst may erstwhile Director of National Security, James Clapper, USAF.
Clapper’s great fail, beyond the “dossier plot”, with an assist from Barak Obama and CIA’s John Brennan, was to shade Intelligence to accommodate a new national security narrative. The threat pyramid was inverted on Clapper’s watch. Islam was elevated as a “great” culture whilst Russians and Putin were resuscitated as Cold War demons.
According to Clapper, and acolytes like Brennan, the jihad is just “ritual cleansing.” By that logic, all that slaughter on 9/11 and every other global Muslim atrocity since are just “ritual” sacrifices to whom or what - Mohamed or Mecca?
Alas, the US Army might occupy a high ground for dysfunctional flag officers. Clinkers like David Petraeus or Stanley McChrystal immediately come to mind. Petraeus literally stepped on his crank by bedding subordinates. McChrystal got caught on a party plane talking trash about the timidity of Barack Obama.
The peccadillos of today’s Army generals are, nevertheless, low hanging fruit. More ominous, Army political partisanship is bleeding into the ranks. The poster child for this kind of venality is Lieutenant Colonel, Alexander Vindman, on loan to the NSC. Yes, that’s the National Security Council at the White House. Seems Vindman is an egoist/linguist who is both indiscrete and treacherous.
Vindman didn’t like, or misconstrued, something President Trump said to the Ukrainian president. Subsequently, Alex went off the DOD reservation to assist the press and Congress with the impeachment follies.
Apparently a commissioned US Army officer cannot be trusted to assist the Commander-in-Chief and respect the confidentiality of the Oval Office. If Vindman had violated command confidentiality in a combat zone, he might have been court martialed. – or fragged.
Silence from Pentagon and Army brass about the Vindman treachery says all that needs to be said about contemporary military standards on the E-Ring.
And so it goes with Beltway bias. Now, DOD joins the Intelligence Community, the Justice Department, and State Department as a source of foot soldiers in the slow motion coup.
Call it the sedition coalition.
Say what you will about Donald Trump: this President has exposed the reality of the Washington swamp, the partisan deep state, and a bigoted Beltway establishment that may now be too corrupt for words.
Of all the Washington perfidy revealed since 2016, Military partisanship might be the most troubling pathology to emerge since Lincoln had to fire McClellan.
About the author:
The author is a former USAF Intelligence officer, serving under General James Clapper at USAF Intelligence. Colonel Donovan has served at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the Central intelligence Agency.
Quatrain 943. To ice skate in Hell and read this article in AFJ will occur on the same date.
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