Trump and the Generals

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W.J. Astore

There’s a new article at The Atlantic by Mark Bowden that cites America’s generals to condemn Donald Trump’s leadership of the military.  Here’s how the article begins:

For most of the past two decades, American troops have been deployed all over the world—to about 150 countries. During that time, hundreds of thousands of young men and women have experienced combat, and a generation of officers have come of age dealing with the practical realities of war. They possess a deep well of knowledge and experience. For the past three years, these highly trained professionals have been commanded by Donald Trump.

That’s quite the opening.  A few comments:

  1. It’s not a good thing that American troops have been deployed to nearly 150 countries over the last 20 years.  Indeed, it points to the scattershot nature of U.S. strategy, such as it is, in the “global war on terror.”
  2. Hundreds of thousands of troops have “experienced combat” — and this is a good thing?  What wars have they won?  What about the dead and wounded?  What about the enormous monetary cost of these wars?
  3. Dealing with “the practical realities of war” — Please tell me, again, how Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc., have played out?
  4. “Highly trained professionals” with “a deep well of knowledge and experience.”  Again, tell me which wars America has clearly won.

The gist of Bowden’s article is that Trump is capricious, vain, contrary, and ignorant.  But his biggest sin is that he doesn’t listen to the experts in the military and the intelligence community, whereas George W. Bush and Barack Obama did.

Aha!  Tell me again how things worked out for Bush and Obama.  Bush led the USA disastrously into Afghanistan and Iraq; Obama “surged” in Afghanistan (a failure), created a disaster in Libya, and oversaw an expansion of Bush’s wars against terror.  And these men did all this while listening to the experts, those “highly trained professionals” with those allegedly “deep” wells of knowledge and experience.

Given this record, can one blame Trump for claiming he’s smarter than the generals?  Can one fault him for trying to end needless wars?  He was elected, after all, on a platform of ending costly and foolish wars.  Is he not trying, however inconsistently or confusingly, to fulfill that platform?

The point here is not to praise Donald Trump, who as commander-in-chief is indeed capricious and ignorant and too convinced of his own brilliance.  The point is to question Bowden’s implied faith in the generals and their supposed “deep well” of expertise.  For if you judge them by their works, and not by their words, this expertise has failed to produce anything approaching victory at a sustainable cost.

Bowden’s article concludes with this warning: In the most crucial areas, the generals said, the military’s experienced leaders have steered Trump away from disaster. So far.

“The hard part,” one general said, “is that he may be president for another five years.”

The generals “have steered Trump away from disaster.”  Really.  Tell me who’s going to steer the generals away from their disasters — Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, the list goes on.

Bowden, it must be said, makes valid points about Trump’s weaknesses and blind spots.  But in embracing and even celebrating the generals, Bowden reveals a major blind spot of his own.

25 thoughts on “Trump and the Generals

  1. “… the military’s experienced leaders …” ?
    Not to put too fine a point on it, but who would these battle-hardened leaders be? I always see enough ribbons to humble Marshal Zhukov, but I can’t help but think my decades of playing “Risk” at least puts me in the same ballpark with quite a few of the current crop of military geniuses taking up space in The Pentagon. We’ve probably even read some of the same books.
    This is the same sort of nonsense as “don’t worry about Trump’s not even being competent enough to organize a game of strip poker in a Turkish brothel, because (fill in the blank) will be ‘the adult in the room’ and keep him from doing anything crazy.”
    How’s that been working out for everyone?
    Today’s generals are the military’s equivalent of the NFL’s dreaded “game manager quarterback”: they’ll do for a quarter, a half, occasionally even a full game, but you don’t win with them in the long run, and 20 years is a darn long run.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ll tell ya’ WJAstore, after your last post ‘Trump Treason?’, I found out the hard way most of your viewers are far better read in the classics than I.
    Now I need their help: Is what I read by Mark Bowden Orwellian? Jay Leno? Oscar Wilde? Phylis Diller? Or that British author? Forgot his name….

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  3. These festooned fools, these gilded goons, whom we farcically refer to as Generals prove one thing: that certain psychopaths achieved – through whatever means possible – their life-long goal of achieving power and status. Those means would have included bullying, buying, and cheating their way through military academies, then repeated through the military rank structure. Their primary means, however, was ass-kissing.

    These very same psychopaths are the ones responsible for the unending slaughter of millions of innocent children and families all over our planet, not to mention the thousands of our own, senselessly slaughtered or maimed, while performing their “duty” as cannon-fodder.

    Land of the free, and the home of the brave. God help America!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup, so right Lou Cassivi. And as an old ‘Madmen’ suggest Atlantic Magazine get their ad revenue from Boeing up front! Following other posts, (I’m a car, ship, airplane) buff they’re in deep trouble today. Kissing ass to Military buddies, they’re ruining their commercial airplane manufacturing. INSANE! In business terms! You use the word “psychopaths”: that’s what honest Boeing engineers use against CEO Mullenberg! I read technical stuff on airplanes. Has the West gone Crazy!? Boeing was an American icon!
      When you read Leeham News & Comments from the engineers, its’ the same story! Starved for money in design, the execs no. Same word: “Psychopaths”. I never thought I’d use that word, but with a cheaply redesigned 737Max, that killed 346 people-psychopaths blamed “pilot error”. 400+ are grounded, yet they built 52 more, parked in Boeing’s parking lots. That’s a psychopath.
      The 737 is a 50+ yo plane; made a fortune-good for them. But then Airbus came up with a better plane-America Airlines loved! Thus the rush to reinvent the 737. Sell them a fake.
      Engineers claim it will never fly: the aerodynamics are wrong, and cannot be corrected with “computers”. 346 dead people agree. My sympathies go to Albaigh(?) last great engineer at Boeing: “We need a “white sheet” new plane!” Oh no, psychopaths put him into retirement.
      Doubt this guy cares: he pleaded with the Psychopaths. Oh no, Wall Street was more important. HAHA! This could bankrupt Boeing!

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  4. 2. Hundreds of thousands of troops have “experienced combat” — and this is a good thing? What wars have they won? What about the dead and wounded?

    With all due respect, but this is why they enlisted. They are not chefs or carpenters or tailors but soldiers. Risk is implied. Though lately the tendency seems to be for the most sophisticated military to kill innocent people using a computer while hiding in a bunker.

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    1. There are many, many reasons to enlist in the military. Fighting in endless wars that are unrelated to national defense is not a popular one.

      Yes, joining the military entails risk. But one would like to think you’re risking your life and those of your buddies for something meaningful — or at least defensible.

      Nowadays, of course, troops are encouraged to think of themselves as “warriors” — ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do or die. But there was a time when U.S. troops were encouraged to think of themselves as citizen-soldiers, with service related to citizenship. I know — I’m an idealist.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Very true. But there is so much military propaganda online, and all the “warriors” have been so supportive of Trump. There are tens of channels which connect Trump and the military ever since before he was elected. They use all the tricks in the book to attract fans: songs, memes, patriotic discourses, jokes about the military, photos of attractive women with guns, even cooking recipes.
        They call themselves the saviors of America.

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        1. Even better for the Transnational Corporate Oligarchy, the U.S. war-workers will willingly parrot propaganda aimed at fellow Americans demanding their own ruthless exploitation by rich people everywhere. In other words:

          Thank You for Your Servility

          The Sacred Symbol Soldier serves to shield
          The fans from what transpires upon the field
          Of battle, far away in distant lands,
          While “patriots” swill beer up in the stands,
          And cheer the gladiators down below
          Who (for a dollar) put on quite a show

          To market war as just another game
          Makes money for the ones who have no shame.
          To move the mob, they wave the bloody shirt
          Concealing blood and bowels in the dirt.
          Their crimes they seek to hide behind the troops:
          Those tools of conquerors and statesmen’s dupes

          The Taboo Troop shows up at sports events
          To bask in brief applause; no malcontents:
          Disgusted, wounded, angry, are allowed
          To give the middle finger to the crowd
          And so the wars, somewhere, go on and on
          Sold by the slave; promoted by the pawn

          Michael Murry,”The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2017

          And, No. “The Russians” didn’t trick me into writing the above through Facebook ads that I didn’t even see.

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          1. The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday recommended a set of sweeping steps for Congress, President Trump and social media companies to take to prevent Russian disinformation efforts from impairing the 2020 elections.

            In a bipartisan report, the panel said Congress should consider legislation to increase the transparency of political advertisements on social media. It also called on social media companies to improve efforts to notify users of exposure to disinformation, three years after Russian actors directed by the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

            “This challenge requires an integrated approach that brings together the public and private sectors,” the committee wrote. “This approach must be rooted in protecting democratic values, including freedom of speech and the right to privacy. The Federal government, civil society, and the private sector, including social media and technology companies, each have an important role to play in deterring and defending against foreign influence operations that target the United States.”

            The report is the second volume to be released as part of the committee’s two-year investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The first volume, released in July, focused on Russian efforts to interfere in U.S. voting infrastructure.

            The panel recommended Tuesday that the Trump administration “reinforce with the public the danger of attempted foreign interference in the 2020 election,” such as establishing an interagency task force to monitor foreign use of social media to spread disinformation.

            The committee’s recommendations come after months of intense partisan debate over how to address election security vulnerabilities, with the House passing multiple sweeping election security and reforms bills, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocking them in the Senate, citing concerns around federalizing elections.

            Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a statement in the wake of the report’s release, saying that the report “makes it crystal clear to everyone that Vladimir Putin exploited social media to spread false information in the 2016 elections and that the Senate must take action to ensure Americans know who is behind online political ads to help prevent it from happening again.”

            Schumer also criticized McConnell for “hindering a full response” to election vulnerabilities ahead of the 2020 elections, saying that McConnell “continues to block a full-throated U.S. response today by burying meaningful election security bills in his legislative graveyard.”

            The new report underscored many of the findings from former special counsel Robert Mueller that he detailed in his own report released earlier this year, including that Russian actors were directed by the Kremlin to help Trump win the 2016 election.

            The Senate report noted that agents of the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) “sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton’s chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin.”
            https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/464865-senate-intel-report-finds-kremlin-directed-russian-social-media-meddling-in

            – And that’s exactly what the Russians did, except they were mostly the creators and providers of “tech support”. The coordinators in the field were English speaking Hungarian diaspora and Orban’s intelligence agents who worked their butts off. They also recruited thousands of volunteer dupes from religious and conservative sites by telling them the Jews are behind every evil on the planet and that Christianity will soon be forbidden and only Trump can save them. A very neat military counterintelligence campaign, with targeted slander and rumours launched from the HQ at certain times and duly spread by all the foot soldiers.

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        2. OK, I tried a response but WP rejected. Anyway, the trash above is what my 1st boss refused to take: Political candidates & Government Agencies. He claimed doing so was “Disgraceful! To sell a candidate like a can of soup!” As for Gov’t Agencies, both NYC&Federal, he said: “It’s a disgrace to use US/NYC taxpayers money to promote something that can be decided at the ballot box: “yes or no”.
          My wonderful boss, who I mentioned in 1st post has been dead for many years, but thanks to insanity today, may be on a “Terrorist List”!

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          1. Yes, the aggressive militarism these right wing former and current military men cultivate on their sites is downright scary. For instance this comment on a veteran and rabid Trump supporter’s blog:

            USArmyRangerVet • 15 hours ago
            Go ahead Iran, start some shit with Turkey. This way, if you do, Article 9 of the NATO charter would be invoked and then you’d have all of NATO to deal with. Including the United States.

            I’m dreaming of a white …. nuked Tehran….
            5
            •Reply•Share ›
            https://txarmyvet.blogspot.com/2019/10/turkish-troops-cross-into-syria-iran.html

            Liked by 1 person

    2. Police officers don’t have it too safe, either, depending on where they serve. I chose that example of a risky occupation specifically because the “war on crime” (which I’m not defending, don’t get me started) never ends, but there is still a measurable benefit to law enforcement in society. The issue with endless foreign wars, however, is that it’s a risk with no reward for any but the individual (combat pay is double normal pay, if I remember correctly). There is no benefit to the country, because these soldiers are not fighting for the interests of the nation as a whole, but rather the interests of the Military Industrial Complex.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. A Trumpian tweet for the day:

    The United States has spent EIGHT TRILLION DOLLARS fighting and policing in the Middle East. Thousands of our Great Soldiers have died or been badly wounded. Millions of people have died on the other side. GOING INTO THE MIDDLE EAST IS THE WORST DECISION EVER MADE IN THE HISTORY OF OUR COUNTRY! We went to war under a false & now disproven premise, WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. There were NONE! Now we are slowly & carefully bringing our great soldiers & military home. Our focus is on the BIG PICTURE! THE USA IS GREATER THAN EVER BEFORE!

    But as one person reminded him, isn’t the US sending more troops to Saudi Arabia?

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  6. As Tom Waits sings in “Step Right Up” (a song well-worth checking out for pure enjoyment purposes), “the large print giveth and the small print taketh away.”
    You have to have some give and take, that way everybody wins. Besides, we aren’t at war with the Saudis, they’re our friends and “they pay cash.” Again: win-win.
    And anyway: you can’t just bring troops home. What do you do with them? It’s not like there are jobs waiting for them.

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    1. The pimped-out deployment of U.S. war-workers abroad amounts to nothing more than Warfare Welfare and Make-work Militarism which principally benefits ticket-punching generals and admirals and weapons-producing corporate stockholders (pardon the redundancy). As wards of the state already, these prostituted personnel can do government-paid work in the U.S. as well as — and more cheaply than — government paid mayhem abroad. The bloodshed and maiming averted by not inflicting these abused and misled persons on other countries also amounts to a significant savings for everyone.

      Our returned (or un-deployed) war-workers can begin their readjustment by staffing a new Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Projects Administration such as the FDR administration created back in the Great Depression. My maternal grandfather got his first real job with a steady pay check thanks the WPA when he previously wandered from town to town looking for spotty employment, jumping freight trains, and sleeping at night in “hobo jungles” with other desperate unemployed men while only returning home occasionally.

      In short, the U.S. government can make all the jobs it needs to make for its unemployed citizens. If the “private sector” doesn’t like that, then the private sector can compete for these workers by offering them higher wages. America doesn’t need an Army or Marine Corps and could do with half the Navy and a third of the Air Force. The U.S. doesn’t need a ridiculous “Space Force” either. The long overdue demobilization from WWII needs to get underway as soon as possible. The Empire has struck out.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Well, a revival of the old CCC and WPA – who built my high school – came to mind, but then I remembered something my rabid, enlistee nephew (he’s at The Citadel) said to me about the various exercises he and his kind run “to hone and maintain (their) natural hunter/killer instincts” and realized The Pentagon would never go for such a scheme. Can’t afford to have those instincts blunted by spreading asphalt and clearing culverts, especially with Ivan and Mao’s Masses still walking the Earth (the Cold War is still on, only the names have changed). No, we’ll just have to find new places to establish a military presence. It’s a big world.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. – And it doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that Trump’s friend, Hungarian premier Viktor Orban’s acts are similar to those of Trump’s. Hungary, the great “defender of Christian and traditionalist values”, is not concerned at all about the potential wave of refugees caused by Turkey’s incursion in Syria and is blocking an EU resolution on that subject – though at home Fidesz is campaigning militaristic style like Trump and assuring its voters that “Hungary will not become a country of immigrants”. Hypocrisy much ? –

    Hungary as obstacle
    But ambassadors in the EU’s Political and Security Committee have had difficulty hammering out a common position on the US withdrawal from the area concerned and the Turkish invasion. In the end, a declaration was made in the name of high representative for foreign policy Federica Mogherini.

    EU foreign ministers will meet on Monday in Luxembourg to try again.

    Hungary is reported to have blocked unanimity on a common declaration, citing its desire not to upset Turkey at this time. Frustrated diplomats say that Budapest’s position is part of a pattern of obstructionism on attempts by the EU to take common positions on foreign issues, which Hungary resents.

    EU interior ministers at their meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday expressed concerns the invasion might provoke a new wave of refugees to Europe. And they warned the eastern Mediterranean route from Turkey to Greece has once again become the main channel for asylum seekers reaching Europe.

    There are concerns that refugees currently housed in camps in Turkey may decide that it is worth risking the sea crossing to Greece rather than face compulsory repatriation to northern Syria.
    https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/eu-condemns-turkey-s-incursion-into-syria-amid-refugee-fears-1.4045490

    Liked by 1 person

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