Approximately, one month ago, President Trump tasked the Pentagon with delivering him a plan to defeat the Islamic State or IS. What Trump failed to understand was the same people he tasked to solve the IS problem, were the same people that in a very large way created it. His trusted circle of advisors not only are all products of an institution with a heavily flawed system of promotion, but collectively failed to deliver a winning strategy when they were in combatant command roles. What kind of “solution” to IS does President Trump honestly think he will get from a group of institutionalized generals? Does anyone want to bet it will be a “solution” that requires more war? President Trump is literally asking “the swamp” to create his war policy and this is a fool’s errand. Based on a 100% failure rate of our Generals this century, this is unfortunately another juncture where it is very easy to assess with high certainty that the “solutions” President Trump will be presented will turn into another policy disaster. Both Presidents Bush and Obama suffered this hard lesson. President Trump needs to trash these recommendations and look at completely different ways of soliciting policy if he is to defeat IS and make America great again. This article is my attempt to speak truth to power and warn President Trump of the mistake he is making before it destroys his presidency.
Seriously, what is President Trump’s senior staff thinking? I honestly want President Trump to succeed so I am screaming as loud as I can through my articles not to trust the generals. Why in the world would someone so adamant about “draining the swamp” voluntarily drown himself with the swamp? This is a question all Americans need to be asking. The top military brass constitutes a huge portion of that swamp and are already steering him in the wrong direction. We already have proof. Take for a second President Trump’s February speech to the military in Florida. The major takeaways were that he was going to boost spending and cut checks for whatever the Pentagon asked for. The military-industrial complex loves this kind of braindead logic, which actually hurts, not helps the military. It hurts because it paints over having to deal with the real problems while lining the pockets of the global elites. The problem why the US is getting repeatedly defeated in war after war is not because of a lack of training or equipment or spending. The US military is getting strategically crushed because it has a critical lack of leadership at the strategic level. For example, the US has defeated the Taliban again and again in tactical engagements much like the US did in the Vietnam War against the Vietcong. The equipment and training of the US military is better than any military in the history of man and far better than any contemporary force. However, the semi-illiterate Taliban, with their AKs hammered out of bumper steel are still strategically whipping the US and all of NATO. This is exceedingly embarrassing, yet no general has taken the fall for the totally absent strategic plan for winning the war in Afghanistan. Even someone of modest intellect can understand that the problem isn’t gear or money spent. In short, the military’s problem is not the gear and equipment; it is the subpar general staff where intellectual dereliction and failure to achieve victory is repeatedly awarded with another star.
Many people are quick to jump to the defense of the generals like Mattis. He is the “warrior monk” they say. My personal interaction with the man in Iraq would suggest he is a closet weirdo, which will probably be a big story soon enough in the media, but that is for another time. In fact, I could care less about his J. Edgar Hoover proclivities if he could win a war, but he utterly failed when in charge of CENTCOM. For those that don’t understand the organization of the military, wars are fought by combatant commanders, not the Secretary of Defense. In fact, the combatant commander in many ways is far more powerful than the Secretary of Defense. As the former CENTCOM commander, General Mattis completely failed to develop a new or novel strategy and continued with the status quo of slowly bleeding our military to death in Iraq and Afghanistan. The man, when put in charge, did not achieve strategic (or even operational) victory, which is the job of a general. No excuses Marines; General Mattis failed. General Flynn also failed and per my previous articles, lacked the integrity and moral courage to stand up to policies he knew were disastrous until after he was no longer in line for promotion and safely drawing his pension. Rounding out the inner circle, General McMaster, President Trump’s pick to replace General Flynn, doesn’t get a by either. The man has a solid military record, but as Mattis’ deputy at CENTCOM, didn’t stand up with any objections or profess a different way to do business. In fact he carried out the same failing policies. All of these generals failed America.
None of these generals spoke out against the way any of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were being fought, but instead quietly fought hard to lose them. What is even more ethically disgusting is their disingenuous blame game. Apparently, their failures are now the result of political pressure from the White House. However, not a single one of the generals ever stood up to this claimed secret White House policy to apparently loose. Not one resigned in protest. It is worth pointing out that the US military’s success rate in war fared no better under Bush than it did under Obama. Are we to believe both administrations prevented the military from providing a viable strategy to decisively achieve victory? I am certain that both Obama and Bush, irrespective of political affiliation, would have been ecstatic to be presented with a real plan to win and end the wars. The truth is both presidents were misled by the military. Further, war is politics by other means. They are inseparable and any general that doesn’t understand that is a poor general. In fact, there hasn’t been a great general yet that didn’t have to find a way to balance his strategy against the political winds of their time. Washington, Grant, and Eisenhower all had to make it work to win and that is why they are great. If President Trump thinks that he, a man that never served in the military or fought in a war or knew what the Nuclear Triad was, is going to be someone immune from the same lies the generals sold Presidents Bush and Obama, he is wrong. President Trump must seek out completely fresh perspectives and this will require him to dive far deeper into the Rolodex than what “the swamp” has pushed in front of him.
Diving deeper into President Trump’s psyche is dangerous, but I really feel that he has an inferiority complex that most likely is derived from the fact he dodged the draft. While he lied and claimed to be too physically inept to go to Vietnam after playing NCAA sports in college, country boys and urban youth far less physically capable than the young Donald Trump were getting shipped off to die in rice patties. I think this has weighed on President Trump’s conscience and it should. Again, I want Trump to succeed, but to deny that he was a draft dodger is the epitome of cognitive dissonance. Knowing this, it is hard to look at how President Trump has surrounded himself with senior generals and not wonder if this is the way he is dealing with some deep set guilt. Although the generals are certainly better than the people that previously held those positions, President Trump needs to know that it is a combined team of diplomatic, intelligence, military, economic, etc. experts that create policy solutions…not the Pentagon and the big defense contractors whose fortunes rely on perpetual war. America has let go of Vietnam. President Trump can too.
Finally, President Trump’s appointment of generals to his inner circle is going to cause a lot of friction. Contrary to what many may believe, generals don’t play well with others and especially these generals. General Mattis and Flynn were known for their caustic attitudes. General Mattis in particular was effectively fired as the commander of Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) because he was unable to learn the necessary people skills to work as an integrator across the services. Disturbingly, his current role as Secretary of Defense is very similar to his mission at JFCOM, where he failed spectacularly. In fact, he screwed it up so badly, the then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates disbanded the entire command. I don’t know how many of you have previously worked with generals, but the term prima donna comes to mind. These aren’t the approachable types that like to be told they are wrong for starters and that is a very dangerous thing. If not bad enough, these are people that have been brought up their entire professional lives to defend and grow their “rice bowl.” They are rewarded for growing bureaucracy and protecting budgets. They also are bred to view their peers as competitors literally from their first day at Officer Candidate School where they continuously compete against each other for class rankings and assignments. This has a place in warfare, but doesn’t mesh well with a tightknit team. They simply do not know efficiency and how to operate as a team. Having worked with my share of generals, I think it is fair to posture a guess that the fractures within the inner circle will quickly grow into full scale canyons.
In conclusion, if I could speak directly to President Trump or anyone within his inner circle, I would tell him that as a multi-tour combat veteran that did resign in disgust, I appreciate what he is doing for the military, but that the best thing he can do for it is to be hard on it. The military doesn’t need money. The military needs leadership. If he wants to build morale, don’t give me another rifle; give me a leader that will decisively win a damn war at least once in my lifetime. The very best thing he can do for the military is to fire a minimum of 10% of the general staff. This isn’t hyperbole. The military desperately needs a decimation of its general officer corps. President Trump should retain some military advisors and staff, but he needs to look to those that actually resigned and left in disgust. Those are the people that had the sense to see through the lies, propaganda, and special interest cronyism. There are very good strategies and plans out there to actually win, but IT WILL NOT COME FROM THE SENIOR GENERAL STAFF. These generals are the swamp and we expect you to drain. As always, I won’t just point out the failures and problems; I will offer to solve them. If there is anyone with some sense at the top listening, now is the time to reach out before President Trump is taken down by those he gave misplaced trust. CPAC is happening this weekend so it would be a great time to get the message out to America’s new leadership that we don’t trust the senior brass at the Pentagon any more than the media.
By Guiles Hendrik,
February 24, 2017