About a year ago, facing criticism from several prominent retired military leaders, Donald Trump lashed out at those he described as “failed generals” who had the audacity to disagree with him.
If the president thought he could intimidate American generals and admirals into toeing the White House’s line, he was mistaken.
Earlier this week, for example, retired four-star Marine Gen. John Allen, the former commander of American forces in Afghanistan and former special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, condemned Trump’s policy in northern Syria, telling CNN, “There is blood on Trump’s hands for abandoning our Kurdish allies.”
Allen added, “This is what happens when Trump follows his instincts and because of his alignment with autocrats.”
Last night, Trump’s former Defense secretary, retired four-star Marine Gen. James Mattis had a little fun at his former boss’ expense. Referencing disparaging comments about him Trump made to congressional leaders this week – the president called him “the world’s most overrated general” – Mattis joked, “I’m honored to be considered that by Donald Trump because he also called Meryl Streep an overrated actress. So I guess I’m the Meryl Streep of generals and frankly that sounds pretty good to me.”
But perhaps most striking of all is a new op-ed in the New York Times from retired Adm. William McRaven, the former commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, and the military leader best known to Americans as the Navy SEAL who oversaw the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
McRaven wrote about some recent military events he attended, and at one of them a retired four-star general grabbed his arm and shouted, “I don’t like the Democrats, but Trump is destroying the Republic!” It led the retired admiral to reflect on the president’s willingness to break faith with American allies and American principles.
If our promises are meaningless, how will our allies ever trust us? If we can’t have faith in our nation’s principles, why would the men and women of this nation join the military? And if they don’t join, who will protect us? If we are not the champions of the good and the right, then who will follow us? And if no one follows us – where will the world end up?
President Trump seems to believe that these qualities are unimportant or show weakness. He is wrong. These are the virtues that have sustained this nation for the past 243 years. If we hope to continue to lead the world and inspire a new generation of young men and women to our cause, then we must embrace these values now more than ever.
And if this president doesn’t understand their importance, if this president doesn’t demonstrate the leadership that America needs, both domestically and abroad, then it is time for a new person in the Oval Office – Republican, Democrat or independent – the sooner, the better. The fate of our Republic depends upon it.
The headline on the opinion piece read, “Our Republic Is Under Attack From the President.”
This comes on the heels of Mark Bowden’s recent piece for The Atlantic on what it’s like for U.S. troops to serve under Donald Trump. “In 20 years of writing about the military, I have never heard officers in high positions express such alarm about a president,” the article noted.
Alas, we can probably guess how Trump will respond. Indeed, after earlier McRaven criticisms last year, the president sat down with Fox News’ Chris Wallace and dismissed the decorated admiral and his service.
“He’s a Hilary Clinton backer and an Obama backer,” Trump falsely asserted. Referring specifically to the bin Laden raid, the president added, “Wouldn’t it have been nice if we got Osama Bin Laden a lot sooner than that, wouldn’t it have been nice?”
As we discussed at the time, Trump’s support for our military is limited to those in the military who agree with him, and his respect for four-star admirals and generals is conditional on whether or not they say nice things about him.
Of course, at this rate, the number of admirals and generals eager to say nice things about him appears to be dwindling.