The thing about Donald Trump that most famously distinguished him from the career politicians during his five years in the national spotlight was his willingness to publicly express what millions of others thought but were afraid to say. And few rants better exemplified that New York-style chutzpah than the 45th president vocalizing a sharp distinction between battlefield commanders and what he termed “the political generals,” the ones he depicted as little more than uniformed lapdogs for the Obama political machine. The Pentagon did not take kindly to such characterizations, and the political movers and shakers in the defense and military establishment were generously represented in the coordinated, multi-institutional effort to dethrone Trump in 2020.
On The Progressive Bandwagon
Little did Trump realize that the monster he would help create, the man he would appoint as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2018, would become the quintessential political general. As just the type of military politician Trump railed against during his 2016 presidential campaign, General Mark Milley turned on him in a heartbeat when racial unrest overtook the country in the summer of 2020, cowardly renouncing his own participation in Trump’s infamous walk across Lafayette Park amidst the rioting. Milley has shown a willingness to get down with whatever cause will keep him in good stead with both the Pentagon and the woke folk, defending the controversial introduction of a broad range of woke ideas to the military, including critical race theory.
He called January 6 “a Reichstag moment,” comparing it to Nazis storming the German parliament. He referred to Trump’s statements about electoral fraud as “the gospel of the Führer.” And by most accounts, including the one in the latest tell-all volume by Bob Woodward claiming that Milley single-handedly took secret unilateral action to limit Trump’s power post-January 6, the Joint Chiefs chairman actually believed Trump was planning a coup d’etat.
But all of that was before Milley would be held to account for actual military decisions. In avoiding responsibility for anything but the successful parts of the evacuation, while refusing to utter the m-word (mistake), he quickly became, along with Joe Biden and Antony Blinken, one of the three faces of Eve standing atop the rack and ruin of Afghanistan.
The Ever-Evading Blinken
For his part, Secretary of State Blinken has proven effective at one thing in which mealy-mouthed, Washington establishment types are well-versed: evading pointed questions with clever non-answers. Bringing fresh meaning to the expression deer in the headlights, the secretary of state appeared as if in a hostage video, repeatedly, uncomfortably, nervously dodging loaded questions before Congress this week, succeeding only in – what else – blaming Trump. As first among equals in Biden’s cabinet and chief foreign policy advisor, he must answer, like General Milley, for his own role in either planning or signing off on the ultimate blueprint calling for the withdrawal of our military before evacuating everyone else.
Would that decision by itself not represent grounds for removal? Could any other outcome have resulted from abandoning Americans and allies in the dark of night? Could any of the trio involved in this debacle be trusted to make the right moves in more significant relationships with China, North Korea, Russia, and Iran, not to mention our NATO allies infuriated at Biden’s actions, and the worldwide terrorist movement in its many forms, freshly emboldened by this president’s display of weakness and futility?
If the president cannot realistically be held accountable for his actions eight months after his election, then how about the co-authors of the truly ignominious episode? Should they not be removed solely on account of the collapsing confidence of the American people in their ability to handle international affairs?
But not a single person has thought fit to resign or been fired in the wake of the most scandalous military exercise in decades. One would have at least expected the usual torpedoing of underlings paying the price for carrying out the decisions of their superiors. But we have not witnessed even that. If Milley and Blinken don’t step down, they will be irretrievably tarnished and discredited by historians, their names forever linked in tandem with Joe Biden to the ignominy of arguably the most failed and humiliating mission in American history. If either does resign, they would at least forever etch some measure of honor into their tarnished legacies. But most times in Washington, when power collides with honor, you know what wins.
Nevertheless, this book is hardly closed. Many more chapters remain to be written as the ruinous aftermath of this capitulation continues to be unmasked, day after sorry day, certain to make the awful story about Milley and Blinken only worse. This duo’s de facto defense of the withdrawal operation, by virtue of their refusal to step down, assume responsibility, or even admit mistakes, means their performance will be under scrupulous review. They are just as responsible as the president for not just the dangerously incompetent withdrawal and the 13 Marines who died unnecessarily, but for betraying the most fundamental tenet of the American creed: Leave no one behind.
Read more from Tim Donner.
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