Trump has already stated that our military is in terrible shape. It’s “very bad,” he’s hearing. Trump stated he knows more than the generals, a statement he backpedaled on during the IAVA forum. He seems to live and die by what he feels at the moment.
Trump’s campaign staff have been shuffled. It’s not normal for campaign leadership to be fired so close to an election and the debates. It does show he isn’t afraid to adjust. But it also means that he doesn’t always make the best first decision. He is constantly either defending or changing statements that he has made.
Foreign Policy under the current president has been injured due to firings. Here’s a list of important figures we’ve lost suddenly who understand the Sunni/Shia jihadi target better than anyone. Understanding that target set is paramount to our efforts in the Middle East.
- General John Allen
- General Jim Mattis
- General Stan McChrystal
- Admiral Bill McRaven
- Ambassador Robert Ford
- Ambassador Fred Hof
- USD/I Mike Vickers
- Secretary Bob Gates
Their loss, while mortal enemies like Qassim Soleimani have been loitering on target since the 1980s, is a huge problem for us as a nation. A president who is apt to fire or somehow remove those who oppose their view of the world is bad for foreign policy.
Trump does not know more than these eight experts I’ve listed and Hillary doesn’t, either. Individuals like General McChrystal and others are indispensable and should transcend politicians. I believe in civilian leadership but not necessarily civilian management. Are the senior intelligence and defense officials expendable and replaceable? Do the Intel “community” and DOD have enough institutional knowledge to counter the loss of visionary leaders?
I don’t think it’s trivial, and I think civilian leadership does its citizens a disservice when they allow experienced national security leaders to vanish. The knowledge and understanding these individuals possess is not the standard in the government and defense. I won’t make any friends saying this but, it seems that anyone can navigate the system which simply remains to become a General Officer. There’s more now than ever. The Pentagon has become a Walmart of military officers, all the while the enlisted ranks have become more educated, refined and did the work. We’re losing enlisted leadership and capabilities, too. But that’s another story, altogether.
In short, it’s sad to see great leaders vanish from public service. When they’ve dedicated their entire lives it shouldn’t be a requirement to move on. Their knowledge, abilities, and understanding of the state of the world and how we operate in it is beyond institutional. Our doctrine probably reflects their intuition, except these leaders are able to adapt and update faster than we can generate new doctrine… if it’s read. But leaders are listened to.
Featured image courtesy of www.nytimes.com.