Donald Trump made a little history yesterday, designating Iran's Revolutionary Guard a "foreign terrorist organization." As NBC News reported, it was an unprecedented move "because the U.S. has never before used the designation for an entire foreign government entity."
In his latest Washington Post column, Jason Rezaian, who was unjustly imprisoned by Iran for 544 days, described the White House's move as "ill-advised," potentially dangerous, and unlikely to affect Iranian behavior.
Rezaian added that the Revolutionary Guard is "a conventional military force that we have in fact worked with when it made sense to do so, as in the fight to eradicate the Islamic State."
Indeed, Politico highlighted an important detail about yesterday's developments: U.S. military leaders were not on board with the president's plan, but Trump "chose to overrule the Pentagon."
The president's move came despite Pentagon officials' warnings that it could lead to retaliatory attacks against U.S. troops by Iranian-backed forces in the Middle East and threats from Iranian leaders that U.S. troops could face "consequences." [...][M]any in the Pentagon's top leadership were clearly against Trump's move. The Pentagon resistance came mainly from Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and top civilian officials including John Rood, the Pentagon's top policy official, and Kathryn Wheelbarger, the acting assistant defense secretary for international security affairs.
To be sure, the president has the authority to ignore the Pentagon's judgment. There's a chain of command, and so long as Trump's in office, U.S. military leaders answer to him, not the other way around.
But that doesn't make it any less jarring to see the nation's first amateur president disregard military leaders' advice. Indeed, by some measures, Trump doesn't seem to care much at all about what the brass thinks.
On New Year’s Eve 2018, for example, the president lashed out at “failed generals” who expressed disagreement with his meandering policy toward Syria.
As regular readers may recall, this came on the heels of Trump going on the offensive against his own former Defense secretary, James Mattis, including a tweet in which Trump asserted that the retired four-star general didn’t care about foreign allies taking advantage of the United States.
That, of course, came just a month after Trump lashed out at retired Adm. Bill McRaven, the former commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, whom the president criticized over the speed with which the military killed Osama bin Laden.
I suppose we should’ve seen some of this coming. Candidate Trump saw no need for deference toward military leaders. “I know more about ISIS than the generals do,” he insisted during the 2016 campaign. “Believe me.”
Several months later, Trump added that U.S. military leaders “don’t know much because they’re not winning,” In September 2016, the Republican said American generals “have been reduced to rubble,” adding, “They have been reduced to a point where it’s embarrassing to our country.”
Three months ago, Cadet Bone Spurs, who attended a military-themed prep school, went so far as to say, "I think I would have been a good general."
No wonder he's comfortable ignoring the Pentagon's advice.