Thursday, June 15, 2017

Civilian Control- For Now

This is precious: Newt Gingrich- need I say more? Not I, but The Hill, reporting

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) on Thursday went after special counsel Robert Mueller, accusing him of trying to undermine the Trump presidency.

"Muelleris now clearly the tip of the deep state spear aimed at destroying or at a minimum undermining and crippling the Trump presidency," Gingrich tweeted Thursday.

Newt Gingrich ✔@newtgingrich
Mueller is now clearly the tip of the deep state spear aimed at destroying or at a minimum undermining and crippling the Trump presidency.
7:28 AM - 15 Jun 2

Unless Gingrich is suggesting the special counsel has formed a secret cabal with officials of the Grump Administration, it's unclear what he's talking about. In March, In These Times noted that the President had

certainly assembled the most military-heavy foreign policy team in memory, if not in American history, including retired General James Mattis at the Pentagon; retired General John Kelly at Homeland Security; Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster as national security adviser (a replacement for Lieutenant General Michael Flynn who left that post after 24 days); and as chief of staff of the National Security Council, retired Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg.

In addition, CIA Director Mike Pompeo is a West Point graduate and former Cold War-era Army tank officer. Even White House adviser Steve Bannon has done military service of a sort.  The military background of Trump’s ideologue-in-chief was emphasized by White House spokesman Sean Spicer in his defense of seating him on the National Security Council (NSC).

In contrast, the civilians have Rex Tillerson, who manages as many staff members as does the manager at your local McDonald's or if better taste prevails in your area, Chick-fil-a.  That may not matter because he wears no stars, has no title preceding his name, and hence has little influence.  The New York Times has learned

President Trump has given Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to determine troop levels in Afghanistan, three administration officials said Tuesday, opening the door for sending more American forces to a war that the Pentagon chief acknowledged the United States was “not winning.”

Mr. Mattis is believed to favor sending several thousand more American troops to strengthen the effort to advise Afghan forces as they push back against gains made by the Taliban, the Islamic State and other militant groups. But officials said he had not yet decided how many more forces to send to Afghanistan, or when to deploy them.

One United States official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was discussing internal deliberations, said that Mr. Trump decided on Tuesday morning to grant Mr. Mattis the authority. It was the latest in a series of moves by the White House to give the Pentagon and its military commanders more latitude to deploy forces and carry out operations.

Like so much about this fellow Grump and his Administration, this is not normal.  We learn- unsurprisingly

Mr. Trump’s approach makes a sharp break from former President Barack Obama, who tightly controlled decisions on military troops, a practice that some critics complained smacked of micromanaging. The president has relaxed the rules for counterterrorism operations in Somalia and Yemen and was quick to approve the military’s plan to fire sea-launched cruise missiles at an airfield that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces used to mount a chemical weapons attack in Syria.

Proponents say that delegating the authority to the Pentagon will enable it to carry out campaigns against the United States’ adversaries without interruptions and will allow it to respond more quickly to changes on the battlefield. The risk, critics say, is the president may become too detached from developments on the battlefield and may use this approach to distance himself from a decision that could be politically unpopular.

The other risk, down-the-road, is to civilian control of the military, seemingly at odds with his campaign boast "I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me." But maybe not- in a kind of circular, rather than linear, formulation, the fellow who foolishly believed generals knew less than a real estate tycoon is the same person who now thinks he can be Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces while giving increasing authority to the military. Mistaken, and mistaken.

Perhaps Donald Trump believes he is in charge of the 325 million-plus civilians of the nation but not of the military, which would be a reversal of the proper and traditional relationship.  In that case, he is a fitting bedfellow for Newt Gingrich, avid Trump defender and scourge of what he calls the "deep state," who evidently wouldn't recognize a deep state if it smacked him in the face.

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