Archive for the ‘Trump’s generals’ category

The Kerfuffle Before the Storm

October 8, 2017

The Kerfuffle Before the Storm, PJ MediaClaudia Rosett, October 7, 2017

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump, center, poses for a group photo with Senior Military leaders and spouses in the State Dining Room of the White House on Oct. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The first priority for any president inheriting this virulent global mess should be to try as far as possible to reclaim America’s credibility; to persuade America’s enemies  that the bargain sale on U.S. interests is over, and America will, if necessary, wield its full military might to defend itself, its allies and interests. That is vital to deterrence, which — if genuinely effective — is vastly preferable to war.

The conundrum is how America can regain the credibility needed for deterrence, without having to resort to war in order to prove the point. For instance, unless Kim Jong Un truly believes that the U.S. might actually attack North Korea despite the potential horrific cost, why should he back down? Why should he worry about U.S. warships and submarines in the region? It’s an impressive show of military hardware, but is it a credible threat?

For an American president faced with this problem, one move worth attempting would be to gather America’s top military commanders for a meeting at the White House, followed by a dinner with their spouses, and invite the press to come witness and report on this conclave. If, in the midst of this genial scene, the president mentions that this is the calm before the storm, it may be baffling and frustrating to reporters — whose job includes nailing down details. But in capitals such as Moscow, Beijing, Tehran and Pyongyang, it might just help prompt a rethink about the assumption — gleaned from their success in rogue ventures during the tenure of Obama — that America is a hamstrung giant.

There’s always the possibility that it was more than a broad warning — that perhaps Trump is indeed about to launch a specific military action. But to whatever extent this cliffhanger helps concentrate minds in Moscow, Beijing, Tehran and Pyongyang on just how unpleasant it could be to provoke an American storm,  it was an important message. Quite possibly a bid to avert a war, rather than start one. Worth the kerfuffle in the press.

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With the phrase “the calm before the storm,” President Trump on Thursday evening kicked off one of the biggest media kerfuffles since his late-night tweet in May about “the constant negative press covfefe.” That mysterious locution produced a spate of stories speculating sardonically on what the president meant. We’re now hearing a similar round of mockery. But this was no late-night typo in a tweet, and while offended members of the media default to derision, it’s worth considering that the president quite likely sent a useful message to an audience that extends way beyond the White House press corps.

The setting was a dinner for top U.S. military commanders and their spouses, hosted by Trump in the White House State Dining Room. Trump invited reporters in for a brief photo-op. Flanked by military officials who have dedicated themselves to defending America and winning its wars, all gathered with their spouses under a big portrait of President Lincoln. Trump asked the reporters, “You guys know what this represents?”

“Tell us, sir,” said one of the reporters.

“Maybe it’s the calm before the storm,” said Trump. A reporter asked, “What storm?” Trump gave the oblique reply, “We have the world’s greatest military people in this room, I will tell you that.” A reporter asked, again, “What storm?” Trump said, “You’ll find out.”

The entire exchange lasted about 30 seconds. The reporters were thanked and dismissed. The media were left to speculate on whether the “storm” referred to impending military action again North Korea, or maybe plans to back away from President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, or something else, or nothing at all. Asked again by reporters on Friday what he meant by “the calm before the storm,” Trump again declined to clarify, saying again, “You’ll find out.”

This has been playing as a crazy-Trump story. CNN came out with the headline: “Trump is treating a potential war like a reality show cliffhanger,” and warned, “This is no reality show… His words — whether he means them as a tease, a threat or something in between — can have very real consequences.” Esquire called Trump “Our Reality TV President” and asked, “Will the season finale involve nuclear war with North Korea?” The New York Times called Trump’s comment “ominous.” NBC called it “provocative.” Politico called it “unprompted.” The Huffington Post, in a headline, called it “Bizarre.”

I’d call it smart. We don’t know precisely what the president had in mind. But we do know — or we ought to know — this: In world politics, there is a gathering storm that threatens America and our allies. There is a rising network of tyrannies hostile to American interests and values, including most prominently Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. The U.S. superpower can face down any one of these actors if it must, but the disturbing trajectory is that for years now — whatever their differences — they have effectively been making common cause against America and the requirements of a free and peaceful world order. They do illicit business together; they often back each other diplomatically, and they learn from each other just how much it is possible to get away with. Russia and China have been carrying out joint military maneuvers. North Korea, longtime weapons dealer to Iran, is cultivating an arsenal of nuclear missiles. The threats compound.

This trend accelerated dramatically during the years of America’s policies of retreat, appeasement, and surrender under President Obama. China, as part of its military buildup, sped up its construction of artificial islands topped with military bases clearly designed to threaten freedom of navigation along vital shipping routes in Southeast Asia. Russia snatched Crimea from Ukraine, and got away with it. Terrorist-sponsoring Iran extended its reach in the Middle East, and is currently benefitting from a rotten nuclear deal that paves its way to the bomb, accessorized with ballistic missiles. Syria disintegrated into war, which opened the way for both the rise of ISIS and military inroads by Vladimir Putin’s Russia into the Middle East. Libya, with America leading-from-behind, disintegrated into terrorist-infested chaos.

And North Korea, which had carried out one nuclear test in 2006 on the watch of President Bush, conducted four more tests during the tenure of Obama, along with scores of ballistic missile tests, while Kim Jong Un consolidated his hold on the totalitarian throne inherited in 2011 from his father. Taking advantage of Obama’s “strategic patience” to ramp up a rogue nuclear program, Kim Jong Un’s regime was ready to greet the Trump administration with an arsenal that by now appears quite convincingly to include long-range missiles, miniaturized warheads and the hydrogen bomb.

None of this is a figment of Trump’s imagination. Neither is it a prop on some reality TV show. It is real.

This is not of Trump’s making. But given the rate at which the threats and crises have been compounding, it falls to him to cope with a greatly emboldened group of increasingly well armed and predatory powers. This has been made all the more difficult by the enormous amount of U.S. credibility that was squandered by Obama — who gutted the U.S. military, bore passive “witness” to upheaval in Iran, erased his own red line over chemical weapons in Syria, threw away the hard-won progress in Iraq, bungled Afghanistan and Libya, promised (and delivered) flexibility to Putin, deferred to China, embraced Cuba, shrugged off the rising nuclear threat of North Korea, and assured the American public that the tide of war was receding.

The first priority for any president inheriting this virulent global mess should be to try as far as possible to reclaim America’s credibility; to persuade America’s enemies  that the bargain sale on U.S. interests is over, and America will, if necessary, wield its full military might to defend itself, its allies and interests. That is vital to deterrence, which — if genuinely effective — is vastly preferable to war.

The conundrum is how America can regain the credibility needed for deterrence, without having to resort to war in order to prove the point. For instance, unless Kim Jong Un truly believes that the U.S. might actually attack North Korea despite the potential horrific cost, why should he back down? Why should he worry about U.S. warships and submarines in the region? It’s an impressive show of military hardware, but is it a credible threat?

For an American president faced with this problem, one move worth attempting would be to gather America’s top military commanders for a meeting at the White House, followed by a dinner with their spouses, and invite the press to come witness and report on this conclave. If, in the midst of this genial scene, the president mentions that this is the calm before the storm, it may be baffling and frustrating to reporters — whose job includes nailing down details. But in capitals such as Moscow, Beijing, Tehran and Pyongyang, it might just help prompt a rethink about the assumption — gleaned from their success in rogue ventures during the tenure of Obama — that America is a hamstrung giant.

Whether that was Trump’s intention, I don’t know. It sure looked that way. In the phrase that so alarmed CNN and Esquire, there was a useful ambiguity. Trump didn’t guarantee a storm; he merely suggested it could happen. Surrounded by his top military commanders, in the seat of American power that is the White House, the commander-in-chief prefaced his statement about “the calm before the storm” with “maybe.” It was, in a genteel and peaceful setting, a warning not to mess with America.

There’s always the possibility that it was more than a broad warning — that perhaps Trump is indeed about to launch a specific military action. But to whatever extent this cliffhanger helps concentrate minds in Moscow, Beijing, Tehran and Pyongyang on just how unpleasant it could be to provoke an American storm,  it was an important message. Quite possibly a bid to avert a war, rather than start one. Worth the kerfuffle in the press.

An Ideological Coup against Trump?

August 30, 2017

An Ideological Coup against Trump? American ThinkerShoula Romano Horing, August 30, 2017

(If President Trump won’t defend himself and his policies from the ideological coup waged by his appointees, who will? Who can? — DM)

As replacements for those fired, McMaster appointed individuals who are friendly with Obama-era ideologues who blame Israel for Palestinian terror, encourage negotiations with Hamas and are obsessed with the plan for Palestinian statehood. 

In addition, just before Trump’s visit to Israel, McMaster erroneously publicly claimed  that the President would recognize “Palestinian Self-determination“ and refused to state that the Western Wall,  one the holiest Jewish sites,  and the last remnant of the walls around the Second Jewish Temple, is in Israel and insisted that Netanyahu could not accompany Trump to the site after failing to convince the President not to visit there.

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See also: Bolton and Gorka both say they are locked out of the White House

As an Israeli who supports Trump and attended Trump’s inauguration to celebrate his win, I read with a heavy heart the reports leaking out of the White House that Sebastian Gorka did not resign but was forced out of his position as a security advisor to the President by General H.R. McMaster and General John Kelly.

Mr. Gorka is the seventh Trump loyalist McMaster has forced out in recent months from the President’s National Security Team.  All have been attempting to carry out President Trump’s campaign promises to combat Iranian and radical Islamist terrorist threats, and to support Israel and the U.S.-Israel alliance.

Gorka was the third Trump loyalist forced out since General John F. Kelly, an old military colleague of McMaster, was appointed to be the chief of staff and reportedly encouraged McMaster to make any staffing changes he deems necessary.

If it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it is a duck.  Maybe it does not sound yet like a “purge” and an ideological coup, but it is starting to look like one, engineered by Generals McMaster and Kelly. It is designed to eliminate President Trump’s national security agenda of support to Israel, opposition to the Iran deal, and determination to name and combat radical Islamist terrorism.

On Friday, in a letter reported by the Federalist, Sebastian Gorka’s explained his “resignation” by expressing his unhappiness with the direction that the Trump administration’s foreign policy has taken as signaled by the President’s recent speech on Afghanistan. Gorka stated:

“Regrettably, outside of yourself (President Trump), the individuals who most embodied and represented the policies that will ‘Make America Great Again’ have been internally countered, systematically removed, or undermined in recent months. This was made patently obvious as I read the text of your speech on Afghanistan…. The fact that those who drafted and approved the speech removed any mention of Radical Islam or radical Islamic terrorism proves that a critical element of your presidential campaign has been lost.”

On Sunday, in an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Gorka offered harsh criticism of McMaster’s stance towards Islamists saying:

“McMaster sees the threat of Islam through an Obama administration lens, meaning that religion has nothing to do with the war we are in.… He believes and he told me in his office that these people are just criminals.”

A source close to the White House said that after Bannon was forced out, anti-Bannon factions began erecting bureaucratic roadblocks to undermine Gorka internally.

Yahoo News reported that Kelly revoked Gorka’s security clearance, making it difficult if not impossible for him to continue his job. Other news outlets reported that Kelly has been restricting access to Trump as McMaster’s detractors are trying to reach the president.

In his short term at the National Security Council (NSC), General McMaster has fired or forced out from the National Security Team, including the NSC, strong pro-Israel and anti-Iran officials such as Steve Bannon, K.T. McFarland, Adam Lovinger, Rich Higgins, Derek Harvey, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, and now Sebastian Gorka.

General McMaster quickly removed Bannon, the engineer of much of President Trump’s pro-Israel, anti-Islamist terrorism agenda, from the Principals Committee of the NSC. McMaster also removed K.T. McFarland, a veteran pro-Israel national security professional in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations and a key member of the team of Iran deal opponents originally gathered by Trump. Lovinger, a pro-Israel national security strategist from the Pentagon, was returned to the Pentagon with his security clearance revoked.

McMaster also fired Iran “hawk” Rich Higgins, the NSC’s director of strategic planning, after Higgins wrote a memo about personnel opposed to President Trump’s foreign policy agenda in the NSC.  McMaster also fired Derek Harvey, a senior director and expert on the Middle East and one of the best intelligence analysts on Iraq, after Harvey prepared a list of NSC Obama-era holdovers to be fired for leaking national security information to the press.  Instead, other conservatives were fired, such as Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a strong opponent of the Iran deal, who tried to intensify efforts to counter Iran in the Middle East and controlled officials opposed to the president’s policies.

As replacements for those fired, McMaster appointed individuals who are friendly with Obama-era ideologues who blame Israel for Palestinian terror, encourage negotiations with Hamas and are obsessed with the plan for Palestinian statehood.

As David Steinberg from PJ Media wrote, “Indeed, one is hard-pressed to identify a member of the NSC brought in by McMaster with a history of aligning with President Trump on Iran or with his Mideast policy or by his willingness to treat Islamic doctrine as the root cause of terror and related Mideast strife.”

But such nominations are not surprising if one understands McMaster’s own beliefs. He advised the president to certify that Iran is in compliance with the Iran deal, saying that Iran is merely violating the Iran deal’s “spirit” despite German intelligence reports that Iran is cheating and Trump’s promise to tear up or strictly enforce the Iran deal and punish violations.  Iran has refused to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors into the Parchin nuclear facility or to interview Iran’s nuclear scientists, and has repeatedly tested intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Following the Obama administration’s practices, McMaster opposes using the term “radical Islamic terrorism” saying that the term isn’t helpful for U.S. goals because it does not help the U.S. in working with allies to defeat terrorist groups.“

Moreover, the general said that Jihadists terrorists aren’t true to their religion and terrorist organizations like ISIS represent a perversion of Islam and are thus un-Islamic

In addition, just before Trump’s visit to Israel, McMaster erroneously publicly claimed  that the President would recognize “Palestinian Self-determination“ and refused to state that the Western Wall,  one the holiest Jewish sites,  and the last remnant of the walls around the Second Jewish Temple, is in Israel and insisted that Netanyahu could not accompany Trump to the site after failing to convince the President not to visit there.

President Trump must wake up and realize the damage that Generals Kelly and McMaster are inflicting on his policies and on those who have been loyal to his ideology. President Trump should know that Israeli history is littered with heroic generals on the battlefield who were weak appeasers in national security when they became prime ministers, such as Israeli chiefs of staff Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak.  He should realize that just because they are generals they are not necessarily the right advisors to implement Trump’s tough-minded agenda.

Shoula Romano Horing is an Israeli born and raised attorney. Her blog: www.shoularomanohoring.com      

 

Trump and his generals

June 22, 2017

Trump and his generals, Washington TimesVictor Davis Hanson, June 21, 2017

President Donald Trump speaks during a rally, Wednesday, June 21, 2017, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

[T]he three generals are beholden to Mr. Trump for a historic opportunity to shape America’s security posture in ways impossible during the last half-century.

On the other hand, Mr. Trump must recognize that such generals lend credibility to his role as commander in chief and signal that he is wise enough to value merit over politics.

At least for now, it is a win-win-win solution for Mr. Trump, the generals — and the country.

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Donald Trump earned respect from the Washington establishment for appointing three of the nation’s most accomplished generals to direct his national security policy: James Mattis (secretary of defense), H.R. McMaster (national security adviser) and John Kelly (secretary of homeland security).

In the first five months of the Trump administration, the three generals — along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil CEO — have already recalibrated America’s defenses.

At home, illegal immigration is down by some 70 percent. Abroad, a new policy of principled realism seeks to re-establish deterrence through credible threats of retaliation. The generals are repairing old friendships with allies and neutrals while warning traditional enemies not to press their luck.

President Trump has turned over most of the details of military operations to his generals. According to his critics, Mr. Trump is improperly outsourcing to his generals both strategic decision-making and its tactical implementation.

But is Mr. Trump really doing that?

In his campaign, Mr. Trump vowed to avoid new ground wars while not losing those he inherited. He pledged to wipe out ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism without invading Middle Eastern countries to turn them into democracies.

Those are wide but nonetheless unmistakable parameters.

Within them, the U.S. military can drop a huge bomb on the Taliban, strike the chemical weapons depots of Syria’s Bashar Assad, or choose the sort of ships it will use to deter North Korean aggression — without Mr. Trump poring over a map, or hectoring Gen. Mattis or Gen. McMaster about what particular move is politically appropriate or might poll well.

Other presidents have done the same.

A wartime President Lincoln — up for re-election in 1864 — wanted the tottering Confederacy invaded and humiliated. But he had no idea that Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman would interpret that vague wish as nearly destroying Atlanta, and then cutting his supply lines to march across Georgia to the sea at Savannah.

When Sherman pulled off the March to the Sea, Lincoln confessed that he had been wrongly skeptical of, totally surprised and utterly delighted with Sherman’s victories. He then left it to Sherman and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant to plan the final campaign of the war.

Had Sherman lost his army in the wilds of Georgia, no doubt Lincoln would have relieved him, as he did so many of his other failed generals.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt demanded a cross-channel invasion of France by mid-1944. He did not worry much about how it was to be implemented.

The generals and admirals of his Joint Chiefs handled Roosevelt’s wish by delegating the job to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and his Anglo-American staff.

Had Eisenhower failed on the Normandy beaches, Roosevelt likely would have fired him and others.

Other critics complain that decorated heroes such as Gens. Mattis, McMaster and Kelly should not stoop to work for a firebrand like Mr. Trump.

The very opposite is true.

Anti-New Dealers such as Republicans Henry Stimson and Frank Knox served in the Roosevelt administration to ensure national unity and expertise during World War II — in much the same manner that old George W. Bush hand Robert Gates stayed on as secretary of defense to advise foreign policy novice Barack Obama.

Mr. Trump entered office with no formal political or military experience. That does not mean his business skills and innate cunning are not critical in setting national security policy — only that he benefits from the wise counsel of veterans.

The patriotic duty for men the caliber of these three generals was to step forward and serve their commander in chief — and thereby ensure that the country would have proven professionals carrying out the president’s recalibrations.

Of course, there must be tensions between the Trump administration, its Democratic opponents and the largely apolitical Gens. Mattis, McMaster and Kelly, who have enjoyed high commands under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Liberals want the generals to leak to the press and hint that Mr. Trump is a dunce whose blunders force wise men like themselves to clean up the mess.

Republicans prefer the three to get on board the Trump team and appoint only conservatives who will resonate administration values.

In truth, Mr. Trump and his generals share a quid pro quo relationship that so far has worked.

Gens. Mattis, McMaster and Kelly must know that few other presidents would have taken the heat to entrust three military men to guide national security policy. And even if another president did, he might not empower them with anything like their president latitude.

In that regard, the three generals are beholden to Mr. Trump for a historic opportunity to shape America’s security posture in ways impossible during the last half-century.

On the other hand, Mr. Trump must recognize that such generals lend credibility to his role as commander in chief and signal that he is wise enough to value merit over politics.

At least for now, it is a win-win-win solution for Mr. Trump, the generals — and the country.