Trump Talks About the Military as if It’s His Praetorian Guard

WGH-IR-03_PraetorianGuard
Hail Trump? Includes wannabe American Emperor in Golf Cart.

W.J. Astore

President Donald Trump has a disturbing way of talking about the U.S. military.  Consider the following Trump quotation about the recent attack on U.S. troops in Niger:

“I have generals that are great generals,” Trump said. “I gave them authority to do what’s right so that we win. My generals and my military, they have decision-making ability. As far as the incident that we’re talking about [in Niger], I’ve been seeing it just like you’ve been seeing it. I’ve been getting reports.” [emphasis added]

For Trump, it’s not the American people’s military, it’s “my” military.  Generals are not Congressionally-appointed officers, they’re “my” generals.  Trump has a fundamental misunderstanding of his role as commander-in-chief, as well as the role of the U.S. military.  He sees himself as the big boss of “his” military, with generals as his personal employees whom he can order around and fire at will.

And by “order around,” I mean the issuance of orders regardless of their legality, a point Trump made back in March of 2016, in response to a debate question by Bret Baier:

BAIER: Mr. Trump, just yesterday, almost 100 foreign policy experts signed on to an open letter refusing to support you, saying your embracing expansive use of torture is inexcusable. General Michael Hayden, former CIA director, NSA director, and other experts have said that when you asked the U.S. military to carry out some of your campaign promises, specifically targeting terrorists’ families, and also the use of interrogation methods more extreme than waterboarding, the military will refuse because they’ve been trained to turn down and refuse illegal orders.

So what would you do, as commander-in-chief, if the U.S. military refused to carry out those orders?

TRUMP: They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me.

BAIER: But they’re illegal.

TRUMP: And — and — and — I’m a leader. I’m a leader. I’ve always been a leader. I’ve never had any problem leading people. If I say do it, they’re going to do it. That’s what leadership is all about.

As I wrote then, Trump’s fundamental misunderstanding of leadership, and especially his boasts about the military obeying his orders irrespective of their legality, disqualified him as a presidential candidate.  Of course, Trump’s dictatorial statements didn’t deter his determined fans. Indeed, they elected him because they wanted a Strong Man, not because they feared one.

So here we are, with a dictator wannabe as president, treating the U.S. military as if it’s his personal Praetorian Guard.  If the Republic isn’t dead, its heartbeat is fading fast.  Meanwhile, the sordid and corrupt Empire of Trump – just by its endurance – grows ever stronger.

5 thoughts on “Trump Talks About the Military as if It’s His Praetorian Guard

  1. Our military as documented by Marine Corp General Butler in his book, War is a Racket, was a Praetorian Guard for Corporate AmeriKa in the early 20th Century. Nothing has changed with respect to the unification of Corporate and Military Establishment. The reach is bigger because of modern technology.

    The Trumpet is just the ugly visible face of Plutocracy and as such he can publicly demonstrate the reality of the unconstitutional triumph of the Military-Industrial Complex, i.e., no declaration of war is required. The Trumpet is carrying out the type of power LBJ was given by the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. The difference is he cannot commit hundreds of thousand of troops, since there is no longer a draft.

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    1. Yes, ML. The Trumpet is tapping preexisting conditions, but he’s also aggravating them by surrounding himself with generals and by using rhetoric that is dictatorial. Perhaps the Trumpet, in his coarseness, is merely exposing the system for what it is — or what it has become — but I think he’s both effect and cause. He’s the effect of a system that is ever less democratic and the cause of a system that is ever more tipping toward a militaristic dictatorship, a sort of Bonapartism. For example, I could easily see a retired general — a Petraeus, or perhaps a Mattis or Kelly, running for president in the aftermath of Trump and winning handily.

      Other generals turned president in our past, like Grant or Ike, had an understanding of the citizen-soldier ideal and a respect for the balance of powers inherent in our system. Generals like Mattis and Kelly? I think not.

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  2. Having been a businessman, Donald trump is used to everything and everyone being “my”…my employees, my businesses, my real estate, my Trump Towers, my Golf courses etc etc… I guess “our” is not in his vocabulary.
    AND, the way Gen Kelly tried to defend him in a most disgusting way with multiple lies just shows, who is in charge!!

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    1. Good points, RS. And I still wait impatiently for the tsunami of resignations by “Trump’s” generals, colonels, majors, etc., who for profoundly moral and ethical reasons refuse to carry out manifestly illegal orders issued to them from yet another commander-in-brief who considers state-sponsored murder, torture, looting, and wanton destruction just fine and dandy. [But I won’t hold my breath while waiting]

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  3. Yes. And American History proves that the US military likes to act as if they were the Roman imperial guards of every bellicose moron occupying the White House.

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